Unglamorous Fashion: Caring for your Clothes

Razz looks at 8 key fashion pieces/ fabrics that most people have in their wardrobes, and how to avoid day-before disasters like accidentally shrinking your favourite jumper or washing the colour out of your work uniform. We’ve tried to pick a range of garments from the everyday to special occasion, all of which are equally important to look after. Don’t worry, even though we haven’t covered everything there are a few helpful links just below if you’re still unsure. Also please check the labels on your clothes if you’re worried, there are always exemptions to the rules – we don’t want to ruin your brand new pair of Converse!

For more comprehensive advice check out these articles on Which? These are particularly good if you’re not sure about which temperature you need or you need help to interpret the mysterious symbols on the care label of your new jacket:

1. Denim
(Jeans, jackets, shirts and skirts)
denim jacket.jpg

Some types of denim, like your raw denim Levi jeans should not be washed for at least 6 months after buying. This type of denim needs to be worn in and adjust to your own body and will last longer if you don’t wash it. If you still want to freshen your jeans, try freezing them overnight or hanging them outside on a windy day or you could even turn them inside out and soak in cold water with a very mild soap before hanging to dry. However, most denim can be machine washed every few weeks. Turn your jeans or jacket inside out and wash at 30°C or 40°C, avoid the tumble dryer as this can damage the fabric.  The lower the temperature of the machine, the less likely it is to cause fading or damage. Hand wash if the label recommends this. If the jeans are really stretched and have lost their shape then you can tumble dry them on a half cycle, keeping them inside out and hanging them to dry afterwards if they are still damp.

2. Wool
(Jumpers and cardigans as well as some dresses and coats)

woollen jumper

Wool comes under the list of delicate fabrics which are damaged by hot temperatures. It can make the dyes run and damage the wool fibres. If the label says that the garment is suitable for machine washing, select a low temperature like 30°C and choose a gentle wash cycle. Many machines have a specific cycle for wool or more generally, delicate fabrics. Types of wool like angora and mohair cannot be put in the tumble drier, nor twisted and wrung out as it can stretch and distort the shape of the garment, instead press with a dry towel to absorb some of the excess water. Other types of wool might be able to be put in the tumble dryer on a low spin cycle. If it’s not fully dry, keep out of direct sunlight or sources of heat like radiators, turn it inside out and place flat on a towel to make sure it dries in its original shape without becoming discoloured.

3. Cotton (T-Shirts)


Most everyday items made out of cotton can be washed at 40°C, or 30°C if you want to save a bit of money and reduce your carbon footprint, and then either hung outside on a washing line or put in the tumble dryer. A 30°C wash might help to preserve the colour of the T-Shirt if it is brightly coloured, but some washing detergents can help with this too. Be careful with T-shirts that have other fabrics embellished onto them or plastic-y logos, always check if these can be washed alongside other everyday items. If it does have something printed or stitched on, remember to iron it inside out or only on the back of the garment. Clothing that is made from 100% cotton can sometimes shrink, particularly in the drying process. Select a lower temperature or hand wash if this is the case and hang to dry naturally.

4. Underwear
(Bras and pants ranging from cotton to silk)

wash bag

For Underwear, the temperature varies depending on what the garment is made from. Delicate silks are sometimes hand wash only or 30°C or cooler. It is also recommended to put items like bras in small netted laundry bags or failing that, inside a pillow case of a similar colour. This is to ensure that if the wire comes out of the bra, it is less likely to damage your washing machine. It also prevents your bra getting damaged. For pants, any regular cotton based fabrics are fine to be washed at 40°C and above. The NHS recommends washing cotton undergarments at 60°C, however, even a small temperature increase can increase the running cost by more than half that of a 40°C wash. Using an effective washing detergent should combat any fears you might have about choosing 40°C instead of 60°C as it has not been proven that a 60°C wash can actually kill all types of bacteria.

5. Towels and bedding

beddingIf your bedding is made from a conventional cotton blend then you should be fine washing it at 40°C and above. Unless you’ve been ill or got a stain on it, a 40°C will do the trick perfectly. But if you are particularly worried about killing off any germs or getting a stain out you could put your bedding in at 60°C and use a good brand of washing detergent proven to tackle stains or bacteria. It is often said that unless you’re setting the machine to a 90°C setting, the increased temperature will not actually help to get rid of any germs. It is really important that you get a decent pack of wash tablets or liquid. If you’re still worried using a tumble dryer or pegging the washing outside may provide extra reassurance.

6. Suede
(Skirts, tops and jackets)


Suede is a fabric which is very delicate and often limited to Dry Cleaning. If you do decide to wash Suede in your washing machine, choose a cool wash cycle like 30°C and select a gentle cycle for delicate fabrics. Avoid using normal detergent and fabric softener and instead use a detergent specially designed for Suede or delicate fabrics. It might also be worth selecting a cycle without the spinning function and wringing the excess water out before laying it flat on a towel to dry gradually. Avoid hanging the garment to dry or using the tumble dryer. Whilst this is an option, suede is a very fragile material so if you’d rather not risk any damage, Dry Cleaning is probably your best option, but even that shouldn’t be too frequently.

7. Ball/Prom Dress


A lot of dresses, especially the kind that you might wear to a prom or ball will have sequins, jewels and other decorations on, or be made of fabrics like silk which make washing the dress very difficult. Look out used_washing-symbols-part-2-361404for the cross through the washing instructions indicating the dress is unsuitable for a washing machine. If the dress is hand wash only, check for a hand wash setting on your machine (usually less than 40°C) but only use a very mild detergent that won’t damage the fabric. You can also wash the garment by hand in a large sink or a bath and hang to dry. Finally, your dress might have a Dry Cleaning symbol on the label; if it’s an empty circle, the item can be Dry Cleaned, but an empty circle with a cross through means it’s not suitable for Dry Cleaning. Each dress is different though so make sure you take extra care with such delicate items.

8. Shoes – Trainers


Whilst not all shoes can be washed, many trainers can be put in the washing machine and some even in the tumble dryer. To try to prevent fading and damage you can put most pairs of trainers into a mesh laundry bag, remove any laces or attachments from the shoes and put these in the bag too and wash on a lower temperature like 30°C. Word of warning; don’t shove your trainers in the machine if they are caked in mud or grass, wash them down outside with a hose pipe or hit them against something until you can get the debris off. Whilst the washing machine will clean them, all of the grass and dirt will sit in the drum of your machine afterwards and you’ll have to run a 90°C empty service wash to try to clean it. Always check on your shoes or the packaging to see if they can be machine washed or tumble dried, otherwise there are alternate ways of cleaning shoes: http://www.wikihow.com/Wash-Shoes .

Featured photo credit.

-Lucy Lincoln



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