Although garment care labels are sometimes too cautious, there are some guidelines you can follow to avoid being overly cautious.
A Saturday morning trip to dry-cleaner is a win for me. It’s a great way to kick off the weekend by trading your dirty clothes for clean, freshly pressed clothes.
However, I am not sure everyone is as enthusiastic. Dry-cleaning can be both tedious and costly for many people. You may be one of these people. However, it is possible to handwash garments that are labelled “dry clean only”.
Many factors can influence how a garment reacts to water. These factors are not always included on the care label.
Labelling can be a problem
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s .mandatory standards say care labels must provide instructions adequate enough to prevent clothes from being damaged if they are followed correctly. If the garment can be safely cared for in another manner, the guidelines state that dry-cleaning only is not acceptable.
However, this doesn’t stop brands from making guesses about the care instructions if the manufacturer hasn’t provided enough information or time to test their fabrics, Howard Duffy, technical officer at Drycleaning Institute of Australia (DIA), said.
To determine if a garment that is dry-cleaned can be washed with water, you need more information than the manufacturer of the garment.
You will need to know the fiber composition and structure in order to make an accurate assessment. The type of dye used. Chemical finishes are applied to the fabric to give it a sheen. How the fabric was preshrunk. How water might affect buttons, zips, and other hardware. How the lining reacts to water differently than the main fabric.
Although a retailer or brand might be transparent and diligent enough to share the information, this disclosure is far more than standard practice.
Pay close attention to texture
You should be able to wash anything made of cotton, linen, or a blend of polyester and linen by hand, except if it has been treated chemically to make it stiffer or feel different. Duffy notes that these finishes can sometimes dissolve in water, so washing the fabric may result in a loss of body or feel.
Spencer Systems’ managing director Daniel Hays says that if the fabric loses its body and texture, it may be difficult to recover. He recommends professional equipment and training.
Silk can also be hand washed but it may affect the fabric’s lustre or drape. You should dry-clean silk garments made from delicate silks, such as chiffon and georgette. These fabrics are more susceptible to water damage.
Lined clothes should be treated with care
It is worth remembering that any fabric you wash with water will shrink slightly. Fabrics are often labeled dry-clean because they haven’t been preshrunk. They might shrink dramatically if they come in contact with water.
Mark Ryan, DIA’s director of communications, says that you should be especially cautious when a garment contains linings. You might end up with a misshapen jacket or skirt that has a lining that extends to the bottom of your hem if the outer and inner fabrics react differently to water.
If you plan to wash a cashmere or wool jumper that is dry-cleaned only, be aware that the washing machine may cause felting reactions in the fibres. These garments should be washed by hand with a wool-specific, pH neutral detergent.
Pay attention to the dye
The dye used and the fibre content will affect the garment’s colour fastness. Although porous fabrics such as silk, cotton, and linen can take natural dyes well, Ryan says that these dyes are not solvent-resistant and dry-cleaning them would cause a colour change or fade.
He warns that dyes can “bleed in water”. Washing a garment made from black and white fabric can cause it to turn grey. If the embroidery is made with bright threads, this type of leakage should also be considered.
Hays states that vibrant, deep colours are more susceptible to changing or bleeding in the water. He says that red pigment is intrinsically unstable, while pastels won’t be affected as much.
It can be difficult to know the dye used on a garment. If you are concerned about a blouse, dress, or print fading, follow the care label.
If you follow the care instructions and the garment still has problems after washing or drying it, you can file a complaint.