Updated on July 25, 2022 by Sarina

What are delicate fabrics?
All fragile fabrics like hand-knitted or crocheted fabrics and laces of course. You can also include spandex, lycra, thin knits, silk, woolen, and nylon fabrics among the delicate fabrics. Then there are clothes with sequins and embroidery and ribbon work. Your underwear especially the bras are to be counted as delicates too.  

If you have a feeling that the fabric of a particular garment you have is delicate and will be ruined after a regular cycle in the washing machine, trust your instincts; it most probably is.

Shrinkage, tearing of fibers, distortion, fading colors are some of the problems in maintaining delicate clothes. Imagine your horror after a regular cycle in the wash your most expensive dress comes out with a big hole in the bodice. How can anyone bear this horror?

washing delicate fabrics

How to maintain your delicate clothes ?

It is better if you do not wash the delicate fabrics too frequently. After wearing the garment, if it is not soiled, just hang them outside for sometime for the sun to dry out any moisture (sweat) present in the cloth. But do not hang them in strong sunlight as this can damage the cloth. Let it dry out in shade.
If there is any dust or dirt, a fine firm bristled brush can be used to brush the clothes. This is a necessary step to maintain Jackets and pantsuits.

Hang them to store in a fresh and cool atmosphere. Do not think you can cram all of the clothes together and still maintain their quality well. Hang them with the proper hardware. Padded hangers are great for hanging delicate shawls, tailored jackets, and tailored dresses and suit jackets.
When storing knit wear it is better not to hang them. They are best stored folded flat.

Before a wash, check, if any of the sequins or lace insert has a loose seam or stitch. If it has, sew them back on before attempting to wash them. However gentle you are while washing, they will pop off with a little agitation. Most store bought sequins fabric have sequins/beads attached with a single line of thread- if you pop one, all the other come off. 

How to launder your delicate clothes?

Laundering this type of fabrics is a major question in everybody’s mind. I know many who spend a fortune in dry cleaners to clean their costly clothes made of delicate fabrics. Sometimes even more than what they spend on the cloth itself.

But this is an unnecessary expense and with a little care and work these delicate clothes can be maintained at your own home to perfection.

Reading the care label in your clothes is a good start. But the clothes which are marked as “Dryclean” on its label can also be washed at home.

Exceptions are extra fine silk, suede, leather, feathers, and fur. They should be taken to the professionals to clean. They can be maintained in high form with dry cleaning and nothing else.

The way they come out of the dry cleaners cannot be imitated by all your care. A too soiled garment should be taken to the dry cleaners of course.

Another type of fabric that may need a dry clean is rayon. It may bleed, shrink, or lose its crispness if washed in a washing machine.

Also, clothes with bright prints that you suspect may bleed should be dry cleaned for at least the first few washes. Other exceptions are clothes with special insertions like delicate laces, pleats, or a particular finish.

Checkout this post on washing your fine bras and lingerie for more details on maintaining this type of delicate clothes. 

From my experience, I will tell you never to use detergent powder on your delicate clothes. The soap powder will kill your delicate cloth. Instead, you can use any ph neutral liquid detergent.

There are many available in the market. But I find that they all are rather expensive. What I have always been doing is – buy any brand baby shampoo in large quantities when there is a sale. This liquid soap has the right consistency and strength to clean delicate fabrics. If it is right for a baby your delicate clothing can bear it.

But if you want to use detergent, make sure it is a no-chlorine one.

wash delicate clothes

Another important thing you can do is to try not to put any of your delicate clothing on the washing machine. Hand washing is the right thing to do. If you find you do not have time to hand wash, put it on the delicate cycle in the washing machine.

Always separate the clothing according to colour. Do not soak colored clothes with white atleast.

Do not use Hot water for washing this kind of clothes. Hot water can shrink clothes and also cause colour fading.

Do not over soak. A 15 minute soak will remove all the dirt but more than that may remove more than dirt. 

wash delicate underwear

A mesh laundry bag is a lifesaver when washing the bras in the washing machine. Here is a tutorial to make a lingerie wash bag for washing.

No stretching of the elastic or shrinkage or tangles around other clothes. A delicate cycle in the washing machine inside the laundry bag and a tumble dry will keep all the bras clean and good.

Of course, hanging them to air dry is the way to go but it may not always be possible especially during the rains.

If you really value your lingerie hand wash.

caring for clothes

After you have hand washed the clothes it could still be ruined by you being overzealous in wringing out the water from them. DO NOT.

Press the water out of them by pressing them against the walls of the bucket or squeeze them gently with both hands. Wringing the delicate clothes with too much force could cause more damage than anything else.  

If you have embroidery work or sequins or lacework on your cloth that you do not want to ruin in the wash, you should turn the garment inside out. Also, these kinds of clothes do not want major rubbing or scrubbing. Just swirling them in buckets filled with clean cold water should do the work. 

It is better to not use the dryer with delicate clothes. Hang to air dry – that is what you have to do. The delicate fibers of these fabrics will not bear the spinning in the dryer. Knitwear should be laid flat to dry. Very fragile clothes can be laid flat on a clean towel or microfiber mats to dry so that it will maintain their shape.

Before air drying shakes the garment gently to remove the wrinkles it has gathered in the wash. This will maintain its shape as well when dry

Never stuff the washing machine with too many clothes at once. Lesser load is always better for cleaner and well maintained clothes.

Sometimes you find a little stain in your expensive but fragile garment and it may seem tempting to take out the bottle of bleach and soak the whole cloth in it. Never do that. Bleach is very strong and can destroy your precious clothing. A spray of a good quality diluted stain remover to the spot will take care of the stains on your delicate clothes.The best thing to do is to treat the stain as soon as you get it (or as soon as you get home)

Wool garments – An easy pressing alternative for wool garments is to let them hang in a steam filled room. The steam will remove the wrinkles and make them look fresh.

If you are giving the clothes to a dry cleaner, choose a reputed one. Also, remove the clothes from the drycleaning bag as soon as it arrives. The moisture trapped inside the plastic bag will ruin your clothes if kept in it for too long.

Always refer to the care labeling on your clothes. This is a must. The manufacturer knows the best way to care for the garment he has made.Check out the post on the laundry care labels and their meanings – about 40+ different ones

An easy care routine of a few minutes can maintain your costly and delicate clothes in pristine condition. They will stay looking great forever without burning holes in your pocket

Of course do not hesitate to turn for help from the dry cleaners, if you feel in your gut that you will ruin particular expensive clothing by washing at home or if the label in your clothing says “Dryclean only”

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