A few weeks ago I wrote a post on 2 Easy Tips for Transforming your Wardrobe from Summer to Fall… remember? I love taking my summer underlayers, and throwing on a sweater to warm me during the brisk early autumn mornings of September and October. Most of my sweaters have been sitting in my bottom drawer, or in a plastic bin in my basement since summer, so at the start of the fall season, I like to freshen up my woolie cardigan collection by giving them a nice hand wash and line dry. As I pulled out my collection of cardigans, I noticed a theme.
Yep, I have 5 hot pink cardigan sweaters (and three of those ruffled shirts and three of those exact jeans... but who's counting!). I like what I like.
And double YEP. I HAND WASH and LINE DRY my very special, very delicate, quite expensive (if they were new… but of course mine are all thrifted) DRY CLEAN ONLY wool sweaters.
I don’t dry clean. And here’s why:
1. It’s pricey. 2. Believe it or not, we don’t even have a dry cleaner in my town anymore! And even when we did, something always got in the way of my drop off/pick up routine. I either couldn’t find parking, didn’t have a quarter for the meter, or more common… I forgot the item I wanted to have dry cleaned on the kitchen counter. 3. And most importantly… IT’S GROSS. Here’s what Wikipedia says about Dry Cleaning:
"Dry cleaning is any cleaning process for clothing and textiles using a chemical solvent other than water. The solvent used is typically tetrachloroethylene(perchloroethylene), which the industry calls "perc" or "PERC". Hydrocarbon is also one of the upcoming solvents used for dry-cleaning as it is safe, less flammable and has less smell. It is used to clean delicate fabrics that cannot withstand the rough and tumble of a washing machine and clothes dryer; it can also eliminate labor-intensive hand washing."
TETRA-what?? Solvents? The article uses the word “hazardous waste” and “carcinogenic” more times than I care to count. And really… “labor-intensive hand washing”? In other words… we dry clean wool sweaters using a toxic soup of solvents that pollute our bodies, our air and our water because hand-washing is too “labor-intensive”?
For most of my life, I avoided any and all garments with a DRY CLEAN ONLY tag. I didn’t want to deal with the hassle, the cost, or the chemicals! But then I went thrifting, and found the most lovely J.Crew cashmere sweater for only $4, I decided to take a $4 risk and wash the dry-clean-only sweater in my kitchen sink. And I am sooo glad I did!!
My technique has improved since the olden days, when my sweaters would come out clean and smelling fresh, BUT a little bit misshapen and a big bit droopy. Since then, I’ve improved my technique and now implement a special move I like to call THE ROLL + SQUEEZE.
Here are my 5 easy handwashing steps:
1. Fill a sink or basin with cool water and Woolite* (follow product directions for correct dosage) and submerge into the water. Let your sweater soak for 5 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the sweater “bleeds” into the water. Totally normal. (*To be honest, I NEVER use Woolite. Instead I end up using a gentle detergent I already have kicking around, like Baby Z’s baby shampoo. Works like a charm.)
2. Swoosh your sweater around in the sudsy water, drain, refill with cool water, swoosh some more, drain and refill - and so on - until the sweater is suds-free.
3. Squeeze water from the sweater, starting at the top and working your way down - DO NOT WRING!
4. Place a thick, clean, dry towel on a flat surface, lay your sweater on the towel, then roll your sweater up into the towel while performing a squeezing-like motion as you roll, thereby removing any excess water trapped in the fibers. This, my friends, is THE ROLL + SQUEEZE, and is the most important step of the entire process! The sweater should feel almost dry after THE ROLL AND SQUEEZE. If your sweater is heavy and wet when you hang it on the clothes drying rack or lay it on a flat surface to dry (Step 5), one of two things will happen: It will either get droopy from the extra water weight, or it will take days to dry and will get stinky. Both - no good.
5. Place the sweater on a drying rack or lay it on a flat sunny surface to dry, being careful to maintain the sweater’s natural shape. Do not stretch and pull and yank. Your sweater will look funny if you do, and you’ll need to start over.
Voila! Clean fresh smelling sweater that looks like new! No tetrachloroethylene. No additional cost to you. No pick-up/drop-off routine to worry about! And really... the entire process took only minutes! Labor intensive??? I think not.
So, for all you eco-conscious, woolie loving gals out there, forward this post to a friend and help keep the tetrablahblahblah out of our bodies, soil and waterways! And if you feel inspired, leave a comment and let me know how you make out!!
Lots of Eco-Love, Stasia
PS. I hand wash all of my DRY CLEAN ONLY dresses too. And pants. And shirts. And couch cushions. And I've never ruined anything. I haven't tried hand washing something like leather though, so try that at your own risk. In fact, this is a total try-at-your-own-risk tutorial. Since I thrift, my financial risk is never greater than $5. Your risk may be more substantial.