If you’re like most people, you have a few delicate items in your laundry pile that need a little extra attention. Whether it’s a wool sweater, silk blouse, or cashmere scarf, these clothes can easily be damaged if washed incorrectly. Some delicate items are machine-washable on the delicate cycle, but others require a trip to your local ZIPS.

Need some guidance? Below we’ll dive into our 8 tips to wash your delicates (with zero worries) using your washing machine’s gentle cycle. But first, there are a few delicate matters we should discuss.

The Delicate Cycle: What Makes It Different?

Have you ever wondered what makes your washing machine’s delicate cycle, well, delicate? It’s a shorter wash cycle with lower water levels and more gentle agitation. Some machines automatically use cold water on the delicate cycle. If your machine’s delicate cycle gives you a temperature option, you should always select cold to protect delicate fabrics from shrinking, bleeding, or losing shape.

Machine Wash Delicate vs Hand Washing

A delicate cycle is an excellent option for your garments labeled “machine wash delicate,” but what about your “hand wash only” items? Washing machine manufacturers want you to think of the delicate cycle as a convenient alternative to hand washing, but your best bet is to keep your hand-wash-only items out of the washing machine altogether to avoid stretching, snagging, or loss of shape.

On the flip side, some items labeled “machine wash delicate” can be safely hand washed. Hand washing is a time-honored method of gently cleaning your more fragile clothing items. But, it’s tedious, time-consuming, and often requires special drying methods to avoid shrinkage or damage. For example, “lay flat” drying takes FOREVER; let’s face it, free flat space can be hard to come by in a busy home. Then there’s hang drying. While it’s great for the environment, it can take a while and requires private outdoor space (which not everyone has access to).

Here’s the good news, most “hand wash only” items can be dry cleaned. Why? Because dry cleaning is the safest way to clean your delicate fabrics. Dry Cleaners use gentle, water-free cleaning solvents that keep your clothing looking new even after many washes. In fact, clothing that frequents the dry cleaners tends to go out of style well before it reaches the end of its useful life!

Our Top Tips for How to Wash Delicates

With a little extra care, you can keep your delicate clothing looking great for years to come. Here are our top 8 tips for how to handle your delicates:

1. Check the Care Label

First things first, all garments have a care label with instructions on how to wash, dry, and iron them. Your best bet is to follow these instructions closely to avoid damaging your duds. Just because you can get away with dry cleaning many hand-wash only items, doesn’t mean you should try hand washing or using the delicate cycle for your “dry clean only” clothing. There’s no wiggle room with “dry clean only,” and using water to clean them will likely have drier results.

Dry Clean Only Items You Should Never Wash Yourself:

  • Silk
  • Wool
  • Velvet
  • Suede
  • Rayon
  • Taffeta
  • Acetate

2. Sort your laundry

Sorting your laundry is essential to help the longevity of your clothes. When it comes to keeping your wardrobe looking its best, separating lights and darks is always your safest bet. Why? Some fabric dyes tend to bleed no matter what, even in cold loads. Additionally, your sturdier gear (like jeans and coats) can accelerate wear and tear on your delicate items when they’re all washed in the same load, so it’s a good idea to keep them separated come laundry day.

3. Treat Stains Immediately

The longer a stain sets, the harder it is to remove, so it’s important to treat your clothing without delay when spills or stains threaten your favorite garments. Gently blot the stained area with a clean, dry cloth to remove as much of the offending substance as possible. Do not rub or wipe as this can damage the surface fibers of delicate fabric. Be wary of stain treatment products for your delicates. Instead, follow the next step.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Presoak

If your delicates are stained or looking a little worse for wear grime-wise, don’t hesitate to give them a presoak before washing. Add your mild detergent to a tub or sink and let your garments soak for 15-30 minutes. This will help loosen any dirt or grime before you wash them.

5. Use a Mesh Laundry Bag

Want to go the extra mile protecting your delicates in the wash? A mesh bag is your affordable insurance policy to prevent tangling, snagging, and stretching while minimizing the general wear and tear machine washing causes over time.

6. Choose a Mild Detergent

For machine washing, choose a mild liquid laundry detergent specially designed for delicate fabrics. What’s the difference? Delicate detergents have fewer harsh chemicals and fragrances that can damage delicate fibers.

7. Skip the Dryer

Hang drying on a clothesline is always best for delicate items, but if you’re in a pinch, the low-heat delicate cycle on your dryer is your safest option. Just be sure to remove your garments from the dryer while they’re still damp because over-drying can make delicate fibers brittle and lead to shrinkage.

8. Iron With Care

If your item is wrinkle-prone, use the lowest heat setting on your iron and use a pressing cloth.

When In Doubt, ZIPS Cleaners Has You Covered

When it comes to caring for your most delicate garments, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. So if you’re unsure whether an item is machine washable or if you don’t have time for hand washing, bring it to your local ZIPS Cleaners. We’ll take care of it for you and have it back to you in no time, good as new.