One of my style resolutions for the year is to learn more about and spend more time on caring for and maintaining my wardrobe. For now, I am focusing on laundry and ways to avoid dry-cleaning whenever possible. The vast majority of my clothes are suitable for a business-casual wardrobe: a lot of lined pencil skirts, sheath dresses, cardigans, and the like. I also have a particular fondness for silk clothing. All in all, I have ended up with a lot of items that are labeled as "dry-clean only," but dry-cleaning in NYC is hardly cheap and it ends up being a disincentive to wearing a lot of my clothes. Some items also languish for weeks after a few wears until I can get the items to and from the dry cleaner.
I have previously grown accustomed to hand-washing my sweaters and cardigans (I wear too many for dry-cleaning to be practical) and a few of my more casual silk tops. The method I have been using is alright, but I am not entirely satisfied with it. In particular, I have been reading that Woolite might not be the ideal detergent for hand-washing delicate items. My general practice so far is to follow the method described here on the Martha Stewart website and I use Woolite for detergent.
The general idea is right, I think, though it might not be the most efficient procedure. (At the same time, it doesn't take too long and isn't too difficult to keep up with if I set aside time for hand-washing a few items about once every week or two.) My main problems are that I have not figured out how to deal with residue from deodorant in the armpits of my sweaters. Also, I feel like the Woolite sometimes doesn't rinse out cleanly enough, even after two full soaks in clean water. Finally, using this process and Woolite with my bras doesn't seem to work well over time, nude-colored bras start to get dingy, the bras don't feel that clean, etc.
There is going to be a bit of a learning curve. I decided to purchase some of the products from The Laundress, namely the Wool and Cashmere Shampoo and the Delicate Wash. It was a bit expensive when compared to any laundry detergent I have ever purchased in the past. I had read about some cheaper alternatives such as using baby shampoo, Eucalan, or diluted Dr. Bonner's castille soap, and perhaps I will look to those alternatives in the future. For now, I was comparing the cost of the Laundress products to the alternative and higher costs of dry-cleaning more regularly.
My hope is that I will stop taking most of my sweaters and silk items to the dry cleaner and that I can eventually get comfortable with using the Laundress products to machine wash some of my delicate and wool items as they recommend in their handy "Can I be Washed" chart. In theory, I feel like I should only have to take special items like my suits, coats, and special occasion dresses to the dry cleaner. That the suits go to a dry cleaner might not even be a given. Presently, however. I am still leery of machine-washing wool sweaters after one of mine shrank very noticeably after being put in a washing machine one time (in cold water only and in a mesh bag) even though I line dried it. Attempts to stretch out that particular sweater to its original shape during subsequent hand-washings have been to no avail.
I will write in the future if I learn anything substantial about hand or machine-washing clothes that were previously destined for the dry cleaner. Any tips about how to care for and hand-wash (or machine-wash) more difficult items are, of course, very much appreciated!