How to Launder Delicate Garments: Sorting and Washing Made Easy

How do you tell which clothes are delicates, sort them for laundry, and then wash them without something going wrong? This post is all about how to sort and wash delicate garments.

Women putting clothes into washer

What is a Delicate Fabric, Anyway?

Good question. These are fabrics that a little more fragile than cotton, denim and others we typically wear in outerwear. They require some special care.

These fabrics include silk, lace, chiffon, cashmere, and many more. The first step in effectively caring for delicate garments is to familiarize yourself with the different types of fabrics and their specific care requirements.

Let’s take a closer look at some common delicate fabrics:

  • Silk: A luxurious fabric known for its smooth and shiny texture. It can be damaged by heat and harsh chemicals.
  • Lace: An intricate fabric with delicate patterns created by intertwining threads. Without proper handling, it can snag and tear.
  • Chiffon: A lightweight and sheer fabric commonly used in dresses and blouses. It can easily snag or stretch if not handled with care.
  • Cashmere: A soft, warm fabric made from the wool of cashmere goats. It needs gentle washing to prevent shrinkage and damage.

Sorting Delicate Garments

Sorting your delicate garments before washing is crucial to prevent any potential damage. Here are some tips on how to effectively sort your delicate items:

  • Separate by color: Sort your delicate garments into light and dark colors to prevent color bleeding or fading.
  • Group similar fabrics: Sort your delicate garments according to fabric type. By doing that, you group together the fabrics that need the same care.
  • Check for embellishments: Take note of any delicate embellishments such as beads, sequins, or embroidery. These items may require extra attention or even handwashing to prevent damage.

Preparing for Washing

Before washing your delicate garments, it’s important to take some preparatory steps to ensure their safety. Follow these steps for a successful washing experience:

Read the care labels:

Care labels provide valuable information on how to properly wash and care for your delicate garments. Always check the labels before proceeding with any washing method.

That said, I have successfully washed items in the machine that the label said to wash by hand. Once you’ve been doing it a while, you get a feel for the fabrics and what they can handle.

Mend any damage:

Inspect your delicate garments for loose threads, small tears, or missing buttons. Repair any damage before washing to prevent further issues during the process.

You can just snip loose threads carefully sometimes without any further unraveling.

Empty pockets:

Remember to empty the pockets of your delicate garments to avoid  damage to the fabric or other items in the wash.

Handwashing Delicate Garments

Handwashing is often the safest method for cleaning delicate garments. You’ll never go wrong washing them all by hand.

Follow these steps for gentle and effective handwashing:

  1. Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water.
  2. Add a small amount of mild detergent specifically formulated for delicate fabrics.
  3. Gently agitate the water to create suds.
  4. Submerge the garment and swish it around in the water.
  5. Pay special attention to stained or soiled areas and gently rub them with your fingertips.
  6. Rinse the garment thoroughly under cool water until all soap residue is removed.
  7. Press the garment against the side of the basin to remove excess water, but avoid wringing or twisting it.
  8. Lay the garment flat on a clean towel and roll it up to absorb more moisture.
  9. Unroll the towel and reshape the garment if necessary.
  10. Lay it flat to air dry, away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

Machine Washing Delicate Garments

You can wash many delicates in the washing machine if you follow these instructions. Again, pay attention to the care label and do what it says unless you’re prepared to take the risk.

  1. Select the delicate cycle: Most washing machines have a delicate or gentle cycle specifically designed for delicate fabrics. Use this setting for your delicate garments.
  2. Use a mesh laundry bag: Place your delicate items in a mesh laundry bag to provide an extra layer of protection during the wash cycle.
  3. Opt for cold water: Washing delicate garments in cold water helps prevent shrinkage and color fading.
  4. Use a mild detergent: Choose a gentle detergent specifically formulated for delicate fabrics to avoid any harsh chemicals that could damage the fabric.
  5. Avoid overcrowding: Give your delicate garments enough space in the washing machine to move freely. Overcrowding can lead to tangling and potential damage.

Drying Delicate Garments

Proper drying techniques are essential to maintain the integrity of delicate garments. Follow these guidelines for safe and effective drying:

  • Air drying: It is generally recommended to air dry delicate garments to prevent shrinkage and damage from excessive heat. Lay them flat on a clean towel or drying rack, away from direct sunlight or heat sources.
  • Hanging: If hanging delicate garments, use padded or velvet hangers to prevent any stretching or marks on the fabric. Hang them in a well-ventilated area.
  • Ironing: Iron delicate garments on the lowest setting, preferably using a pressing cloth or a clean white cloth to protect the fabric. Be cautious with garments that have delicate embellishments.

Stain Removal for Delicate Garments

Accidents happen, and stains are an unfortunate reality. Here are some tips for safely removing stains from delicate garments:

  • Act quickly: Tackle stains as soon as possible to prevent them from setting into the fabric.
  • Blot, don’t rub: Gently blot the stain with a clean cloth or paper towel. Rubbing can push the stain further into the fabric or cause damage.
  • Test an inconspicuous area: Before attempting any stain removal method, test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the garment to ensure it doesn’t cause any discoloration or damage.
  • Use mild stain removers: Opt for mild stain removers specifically designed for delicate fabrics. Apply the product according to the instructions and gently blot or dab the stain.
  • Rinse thoroughly: After treating the stain, rinse the garment thoroughly to remove any remaining stain remover.

How to Store for Delicate Garments

How you store these garments matters, too. Follow these tips for storing your delicate items:

  • Clean before storing: Always make sure your delicate garments are clean and stain-free before storing them. Stains left untreated can become permanent over time.
  • Fold or hang: Consider the fabric type and space availability when deciding whether to fold or hang your delicate garments. Fold heavier fabrics like cashmere, while hanging lightweight fabrics like silk.
  • Use garment bags or acid-free tissue paper: Store your delicate garments in breathable garment bags or wrap them in acid-free tissue paper to protect them from dust, moisture, and potential damage.
  • Avoid plastic bags: Never store delicate garments in plastic bags, as they can trap moisture and cause the fabric to deteriorate.