Okay I’m going to admit something that I’m not terribly proud of, but in honor of full disclosure, you should know that I didn’t start doing my own laundry until I was 18. And even now, I still bring a suitcase of laundry home to my mom every chance I get. Judge me all you want, but you’d do the same if someone was gladly willing to wash, fold and put your clothes away for you. But at 23, I know it’s time for things to change after all, I am a “real” grown-up now. So I took it upon myself to do a little research on everything I should know about cleaning clothes, from dry-cleaning to green cleaning. And lucky for you, I’ve laid them all out for you below. You’re welcome. Now get to cleaning!
What you should know about dry cleaning vs. green cleaning
Dry cleaning is definitely the safest of all your garment cleaning options. But do you really know what it means when your tags say “dry clean only?” Basically, since manufacturers are only required to put one cleaning option on clothing, they will obviously list the safest option. While this may be the safest option for your clothes, it’s not the safest for you or the environment. The majority of cleaners use a toxic chemical called PERC (perchloroethylene), which, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is a human carcinogen. Don’t worry, there are alternatives. Some cleaners have begun offering wetcleaning, which uses water instead of PERC. Go to greenearthcleaning.com to find cleaners near you that use perc-free cleaning methods.
Dry Cleaning alternatives
Apart from the environmental issue, constantly having to take your clothes to the cleaners can get very expensive very fast. There are certain items, like your nicer coats or really special pieces, that you don’t want to mess with yourself. But for things like blouses or knits, there are less-expensive options out there.
- Dryel is the cheapest and simplest alternative. Put up to four garments in a dryel fabric protection bag with a dryel cleaning cloth. Don’t crowd the bag you want to make sure the garments have room to breathe and toss around. Tumble in dryer on medium heat for 30 minutes, in order to activate the steam inside the bag. When you remove the garments they should be a little damp, so hang immediately to dry and remove wrinkles. The best part is the bag can be reused 25 times. Dryel, $8.99, at walgreens
- Check those labels. Unless you’re dealing with fabrics like silk or wool, you can think of that dry clean only tag as more of a suggestion than a must. The delicate cycle on the washer has become my best friend in this new world of DIY laundry. To dry, you can either tumble on low or hang dry. I’ve seen my mom do this on numerous occasions and she has yet to ruin anything I own. But at the end of the day, most of my “dry-clean only” clothes are the ones I got really cheap at my local vintage store anyway. The total cost is probably significantly less than one trip to the cleaners.
Laundry 411: The DO’s and DONT’s
Nothing beats the good old fashioned washer and dryer method of cleaning your clothes. But this is also where the most mistakes can be made. So here are some helpful DO’s and DONT’s to help protect your favorite clothes.
- DO separate lights and darks. I know it seems like the easy way out to just wash all of your clothes in one big load I’m guilty of it myself. But if you don’t want to end up with a ruined load of pink whites, then just take the extra five minutes to wash like colors together.
- DONT leave things in your pockets. I’m speaking from experience here. I have left everything from Kleenex to gum in the pockets of my jeans, and let me tell you, the result isn’t pretty. I’ve actually had to throw out ruined garments. You’ve been warned!
- DONT overload your dryer. You may think you’re saving time by stuffing as much as you can into your dryer, but you’re just prolonging the drying process. The more you jam in there, the longer your clothes will take to dry.
- DO be aware of your water temperature. For maximum stain removal, use hot water for your whites. Warm water should be your go-to temperature to prevent fading especially for denim. Cold water is the safest option for washing your delicates. You risk the least amount of damage, but it’s not the most effective for removing stains.
- DO pre-treat for stains. A pre-treat spray is a definite must for getting rid of those hopeless spots that only mom can get out. I’ve been using Tide Stain Release Pre-Treat Spray and it actually works wonders. Just spray it on clothes before putting them into the wash, and it will lift those stains like magic. Tide Stain Release Pre-Treat Spray, $5.99, at drugstore.com
Ways to keep your garments fresh between cleaning
If you live in a city like New York and you don’t have the privilege of having your own washer and dryer, then you know that doing laundry every few days is NOT an option. There’s no way I’m lugging all my dirty clothes to the laundromat any more often than I need to. So the key is to maximize the amount of time between washes by keeping your clothes fresh. My go to items are Febreze and a lint roller they both go a long way to keep clothes smelling great and looking clean. For some added freshness, I suggest taking a hot shower and hanging your clothes in the bathroom while you do. The steam acts as the perfect laundry fake me out.