Tips For Garment Care: Never Pay For Dry Cleaning Again!

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Living in the dorms my freshman year of college might have been one of my best personal growth experiences of all time.  I lived in a 10x10 cinder block-lined room with a person that I despised with no AC.  Oh yes, I was living the dream.

I know what you’re thinking…

”Jess, are you sure you were at college and not in prison?” 

I can’t be certain, but if the drunk girls across the hall were any indication, I am pretty sure it was college.  (Full disclosure: I may have been that drunk girl across the hall from time to time, so no judgement.)

College was surely filled with new experiences and, like many students, it was the first time I ever had to do my own laundry.  I lived in a large dorm tower and the laundry room was in this awful dark and dingy basement. There was one sad table and chair in the corner for the pathetic sap who subjected him or herself to simultaneously studying and doing laundry on a Sunday afternoon. #sad

Laundry back then was more of a measure of desperation than an exercise in care of my wardrobe.  Part of it was my hate for that dingy laundry room, the other part was that I was a poor student and laundry was damn expensive! $2.00 per load for each wash and dry…. COME ON!

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My laundry mentality in college was something along the lines of “shove everything I can into one load so I don’t have to get more quarters”.  It was brilliant and that way I could spend that extra money on my next house party $5 solo cup.  Win-win!

I’m past this stage of my life, and if you are reading this, my guess is so are you (if not, go out and get down with your badass self!)  We all move on from this lifestyle but funny enough, so many people don’t move past their college-aged laundry habits.

After college I slowly began working to build my professional wardrobe and this is when my passion for personal style began. I started taking notice in garment construction, materials and learning that not only do those items cost more typically, but the care for them costs more too.

A few years ago I hit my breaking point.  I went to the eco-friendly drycleaner with eight silk blouses and they wanted to charge me $130 to launder them.  WHAT?!?!  Are you shitting me?!

It was then that I decided I wasn’t going to take it and I wanted to learn how to take care of my higher quality items on my own.  Over the past few years I have spent a lot of time laundering and here are the best tips that I have found for caring for clothes at home:

Find a brand that works for you

A few years ago I started experimenting with different detergents and have used a brand called The Laundress ever since.  I love their products because they are free of all the yucky stuff you will likely find in your grocery-store brands.  They are also not tested on animals and free of allergens.  Can we say “YAY?!”

The products are also more highly concentrated so you need less of it which means less packaging and less negative environmental impact.  The Laundress signature detergent is 32 oz and I can usually get about 30 normal to large loads out of that.  Alternatively, a standard jug of Tide detergent is 40 oz and, per their packaging, equates to about 20 loads. 

Photo courtesy of The Laundress

Photo courtesy of The Laundress

Wash less, refresh more

It’s a bit like washing your hair….the more you wash it the more you strip it of its natural oils and beauty!  Same is true with fabrics: when you wash them, you are slowly breaking down the fibers over time.  This happens even more quickly with a lesser quality detergent.  Things like gym clothes clearly only get one wear before they need a wash, but other items like jeans, sweaters and blouses are typically more in the 5-10 wears range for me, especially if I am just wearing them to work to sit at my desk.  There is a balance here though…for example, if something has a stain and you don’t wash it in quickly enough, it may set and become nearly impossible to extract on your own. 

Instead of washing, refresh your fabrics.  Use a fabric spray or a small sachet of something like lavender in your dresser drawers to keep things smelling delicious!

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Dryer less, air dry more

The dryer is so incredibly harsh on fabrics.  I use the dryer for towels and sheets (usually on low-medium heat and NEVER on high), maybe some socks and underwear….but pretty much everything else is going on a drying rack.  We have a couple of them and they are pretty much always loaded up with clean clothes.  Air drying clothes (in particular, nice technical fabrics and workout clothes from places like Lululemon and elsewhere) has given them so much more life and therefore I don’t have to replace them nearly as often.

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When the tag says dry clean only, take it with a grain of salt

When you see a “dry clean only” tag on a piece of clothing at the store do you throw it down and run for the hills? If you’ve ever been stuck with a $130 dry-cleaning bill like I have in the past, I don’t blame you one bit! 

Luckily, there is a better way.

I will say, it can be a little bit tedious, but hand washing delicate fabric items is a game changer.  Typically, a few times a year I set aside a couple of hours and do a bulk of items at once so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.  Quick videos on hand washing items can be found here for wools/cashmeres and here for silks/delicates

By taking better care of your fabrics you may find it easier to invest in higher end pieces knowing that you won’t have to spend a fortune caring for them in the long run.

If you found these tips useful, I would love to hear from you!  Make sure to share the good word with your laundry-loving, money-saving friends by clicking the social media links below!