To Heck with "Dry Clean Only" (again)

Since I'm broke from Christmas and my wardrobe updates, I ignored the "dry clean only" tags on 4 items (3 of which had been sitting in my laundry tub for a couple of months) and washed them by hand. Now I start to see why designers, via the label, recommend that big dresses made of synthetic fibers should be sent off to the cleaners, but that doesn't mean I'll follow directions. What I had to do was to find a way to deal with the problems created by my stubborness.

The first thing I washed was a dress made with a considerable amount of fairly stiff synthetic fiber fabric (no tags on the composition). Though I can understand why it shouldn't go into the washing machine (the ribbon trim may get destroyed), I saw no reason (e.g., shrinkage) why a dress made from synthetic polymers shouldn't be dunked into water. Into the tub it went. Water turned red--no biggie, the dye comes out from a lot of things. But when I was done, the dress was a beast to handle. It was really heavy! Water clung to the fabric and simply didn't let go even after rigorous wringing. I hung it up on the showerhead to drip dry a little bit, but it became apparent that it wasn't feasible; the dress was so heavy that it might rip the showerhead off, and the shoulders of the dress might get misshapened by the hanger. Since it was too drippy and heavy to move onto my drying rack, I decided to bust out my blowdryer to help shed some of the excess weight. Took about 15 minutes, but it worked! So there you have it--a new use for your blowdryer. People who don't want to deal with the aforementioned hassles may want to take dresses like this to the cleaner, but I'm more willing to put in the time than pulling out my wallet. I think I might use the same procedure to clean my a poofy party dress. However, I will not wash my suits at home because they're just too expensive to risk it.

You may recall that in my post on washing cashmere sweaters, I had a caveat on washing silks. Well, I threw caution out to the wind this time. The next 3 items were silk, and I washed the 2 matching items (top and skirt) at once to save time. In retrospect, that was a mistake--I should have washed the one that can afford to be shrunken first in order to test it out. I used a couple of drops of baby shampoo and very cold water. Back in the day when I was working toward the common good as a techie, I had to do all my protein work in the 4 degree Celsius cold room because the cold keeps the proteins from denaturing. Since silk is a protein, I applied the same principles to prevent shrinkage. The colder the water, the better--other than a few good twirls, your hands won't be in the water for long anyway. When I was done washing, the top was really heavy, and the skirt was worse. For both pieces, I gently squeezed out just enough water so that the top/skirt stops dripping; don't wring because silk chiffon wrinkles very easily. Then, I laid it on a towel for a blot-drying session. The remaining water came out very easily, then I laid it on the rack to air dry. Both pieces dried without incident or wrinkles, and neither shrunk.

Washing the last piece was an interesting experience. It's a 12th Street by Cynthia Vincent long cami/tunic that I got from the FIDM Scholarship Store for $10 yesterday (amazing price and worth breaking my New Year's Resolution for, isn't it?). No problems with shrinkage, but I didn't wash it for long because I saw a lot of glitter coming off. Moral of the story? Pay attention to the embellishments. If the piece is fairly small, really thin, and have no stains, a quick wash and rinse (less than 5 minutes) should get the sweat and dust off without taking off much glitter. However, if the piece is very glitz and glam, pretty sizable and/or if there are big stains, you might be better off to just pony up to the dry cleaning bill. Silks are generally pricey and you want to protect your investments.

No comments: