We often think fine clothing must be dry cleaned, and for delicate and shrinkage-prone fabrics, alternatives are scarce.
Dry cleaning is notorious for its heavy use of chemicals and, over time, can rob wools and silks of the oils and proteins that naturally protect garments. Unless you have very soiled or stained items, put off visits to the dry cleaners by freshening clothing at home with these three easy steps.
Brush it up!
The valets and lady’s maids in period movies are always brushing clothing. In fact, it’s still a great way to remove surface soil. Go over the garment with a soft brush or a microfiber cloth before storing it.
Steam clothing with a home garment steamer (available in clothing, department or big box stores, starting around $25). They smooth rumples and wrinkles with ease and heat up the fabric, killing off microbial beasties. (Let garments cool and dry completely before wearing.)
Every costumer knows this trick: Fill a spray bottle with cheap vodka (not rubbing alcohol; it has additives). Spritz your garment, concentrating on areas where perspiration has collected. The alcohol kills the bacteria that cause odor, then dries quickly.
A Better Clean
For the sake of the environment and your clothing, choose a cleaner that uses the pressurized CO2 process; they usually advertise themselves as “green” or “organic” cleaners, but be sure to ask about their process because these labels are unregulated. Almost all others use perchloroethylene, a neurotoxin and respiratory, skin and eye irritant that the EPA deems a “probable human carcinogen.” Plus, according to the EPA, it breaks down into other chemicals that contaminate air and groundwater, and deplete the ozone layer.
Hand wash wool and silk sweaters and simple, unlined garments, but don’t clean structured garments (anything with a lining and shoulder pads) with water, as it may distort their shape.