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Clean Your Delicates

What are “delicate” clothes, really? Well, they’re items of clothing that you don’t want to risk damaging in a regular wash cycle. Think padded bike shorts, bras, silk shirts or ties, your favorite scarf; you know, the clothes that are often the most expensive in your wardrobe.

Naturally, you want delicates to last for a long time so you can enjoy them for years, not to mention get your money’s worth. To do so, however, you have to care for them properly. That means learning how to wash clothing by hand. Check out the following steps for the basics of handwashing clothes, as well as some tips on drying clothes by hand.

Step 1: Read the label

Some delicates will have very specific instructions on handwashing, including what type of detergent and what temperature of water to use. If your delicate items do have care instruction tags, follow the directions word for word so that you don’t unintentionally damage your favorite clothes.

For clothes with no labels, the rule of thumb is to use a very mild detergent or dishwashing liquid. You’ll also want to hand-wash these clothes in water that is cool or at room temperature.

Pro tip: Brightly colored items—such as garments made of dyed silk—may bleed as you wash them. Because of this, you want to keep them separate when handwashing clothes. Additionally, try to keep washing to a minimum so the colors don’t fade.

Step 2: Hand-wash your delicates

Fill up a plugged sink or a small basin with water. You’ll add about a measuring teaspoon of detergent to this. Feel free to add a little more if you think you don’t have enough. Place your delicates in the soapy water and gently swirl them around with your hands for about two minutes.

Keep in mind that while handwashing clothes, it’s important not to scrub, twist or bunch them. You could possibly damage the fabric. After all, these clothes are called delicates for a reason.

Step 3: Rinse and repeat

Fill a second bucket or sink with clean water, or drain the first container and refill it with fresh water. This should be the same temperature as the water you used to hand-wash the clothes. Dip clothes in and out of this water until the soap has been rinsed away completely. You may need to repeat this a few times to make sure all of the detergent has been washed out of your delicates.

Step 4: Prepare for drying clothes by hand

Remove your delicates from the basin or sink and gently squeeze the water out of the fabric. Make sure you’re not twisting or wringing garments, as this can tear or damage delicate materials like silk.

Next, blot as much of the remaining water as possible by placing your clothes on a clean, lint-free towel. You’ll want to softly press down on the garments so that the towel absorbs any liquids they hold. Remember, if you’re handwashing clothes that are bright and colorful, some of the dye may run. Make sure you use towels that you don’t mind ruining.

Step 5: Dry your delicates

Some of your delicates—like bras or padded bike shorts—might need to be reshaped before you start drying clothes by hand. To keep your clothes looking nice for a long time, be sure to take this step.

After you’ve reshaped your garments, you have two options for hand-drying clothes. First, you can lay them flat on a clean, dry towel. You’ll need to flip them over regularly so that they dry evenly. Additionally, you may need to switch out towels a few times as clothes dry.

Alternatively, you can drape delicates over a drying rack. Place items that might bleed dyes on lower tiers so that they don’t drip onto other garments, resulting in spotty stains. You’ll also want to place a towel under the drying rack to protect floors and carpets.

If you don’t have a drying rack, you can DIY one by hanging your clothes over a shower curtain rod. Before doing so, however, you’ll want to push the curtain to the side and make sure the rod is clean. Take care of doing this if you have metal shower rings or rods, as you could possibly get rust stains on your delicates.

When you find an article of clothing you really like, you want to keep it around forever. Learning how to wash clothing by hand helps you increase the lifespan of your favorite wardrobe items, so you can enjoy them as long as possible.