How to Clean Your Clothing - dummies

By Gill Chilton

Before you clean any of your clothes, you must first discover what materials it’s made from. Ideally, check when you’re in the shop, before you buy, not standing in your home in front of the washing machine!

There’s no shame in knowing that you’ll never bother to hand wash delicate silk and begrudge the money to take it regularly to a dry cleaners. But it’s a major waste to buy a silk shirt then leave it in the wardrobe because you can’t hack the attention it needs.

Modern technology means that the clothes and textiles in your home are made from scores of combinations of natural and synthetic fibres. It’s not enough anymore to know how to wash cotton, polyester, and wool. You also need to know whether your item can withstand the heat and tumbling of the drier and whether to fold it or hang it in the wardrobe (closet).

Fortunately, this isn’t knowledge you need to learn by heart. Thanks to care labels attached to clothes and household textiles, the basic care instructions are written down for you as symbols. Each gives the maximum water temperature and the degree of spin speed – fast, medium, slow – that can be safely used.

In the UK the law states that all fabric items must have care instructions. So look for the label when you buy. Formulated by an international panel, these symbols should be the same no matter where the clothing is made or sold. So these symbols hold good for items you pick up on holiday on the Continent, in the US, or in Asia.