Cleaning Hacks

How to Wash Your Delicate Sweaters *Without* Dry Cleaning (Which Is the Worst)

Allie Flinn

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Photo: Photo: Stocksy/BonninStudio

As a child/teen, I didn’t have many clothes that were “dry clean only” or delicates. In fact, my family made a pointed effort not to buy anything for me that had complicated washing instructions. Now, as an adult, I am allowed to buy whatever I want—bring on the delicates and dry clean onlys. The issue: I wash my clothes via a coin-op washing machine that I trust with my delicate sweaters about as much as I trust a guy on a dating app who says he is sapiosexual. That is, exactly zero percent.

So my options are to take it to the dry cleaners, which would be terrible for the environment, never wash it, which would be terrible for my dating life, or hand wash it in my 1940s-era little yellow bathtub, which would be terrible for my dignity. (Though, of course, I have done the last one.) I talked to a few experts to get their take on how to wash delicate sweaters without dry cleaning.

“Most garments labeled for dry cleaning can be cleaned at home,” says Marilee Nelson, co-founder of Branch Basics. (That’s right, “dry clean only” is a myth.) “We recommend washing in cold water with a gentle cleaning solution, just gently swish the garment through the solution to loosen soil and lift stains.” She cautions to be especially careful with anything silk or super delicate—meaning don’t twist, wring, scrub, or otherwise agitate the fibers. “Lay flat to dry preferably on a drying rack that permits airflow,” she says.

Nelson says to hand wash your delicate sweaters in water. “Press and squeeze solution through the sweater to lift soil and stains,” she says. Shape your sweater and lay it flat to dry on a surface with air flow. Important: don’t stretch your sweater!

Andrea Arndt, marketing at ZUM Bar Soap, also recommends washing sweaters by hand. She says you can wash your sweaters about every three to four wears. “We recommend adding a light layer underneath to extend the length of time between washes,” she adds.

If there are no stains to address, Nelson says you can literally just put your sweater out in the sun for a few hours and it helps remove odors. If it’s gloomy outside and there’s no sun, you can spritz it with inexpensive vodka, full strength. (Perhaps the only time a vodka shot is a good idea.) “Before doing this, always test any solution you’re using on an inconspicuous part of the clothing such as the inside of a hem,” she says.

So I guess it isn’t really all that embarrassing to wash some of my clothes in the bathtub. Cool.

If you hate doing laundry (*raises hand*), this $7 dry shampoo for clothes is about to be your new best friend. And for those times where a wash is necessary, these are the best ultra-clean laundry detergents.

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