Anyone who’s thrown their pretty lingerie or nightie into the washing machine with the rest of the laundry has soon found out delicates don’t stand up to a regular cycle like their favorite pair of blue jeans. Caring for them takes just a bit more time and is well worth the effort.
Dictionary.com defines something delicate as:
1. exquisite, fine, or subtle in quality, character, construction, etc.
2. having a soft or fragile beauty
What are delicates?
Lingerie ~ lacey bras and panties, silky nighties, stockings, and delicate slips or camisoles are all considered lingerie
Fine linens ~ like silk throws and table runners
Vintage fabrics ~ heirloom table linens, hankies, vintage nightgowns and robes
Sweaters ~ Cashmere, wool or silk blend
Pretty Scarves ~ silk, pashmina, cashmere
Best Detergents for Your Delicates
A special soap like Seventh Generation is gentle enough for the finest of fabrics. It is also biodegradable, hypoallergenic and phosphate free. For delicates, and especially when hand washing, you want something that rinses easily from your garments and is effective in cool water.
As with any type of laundry, sort your delicates by color. Red is red whether the silk of a bra or the cotton of a sport sock, and it will bleed into other fabrics. You also need to determine the washing instructions on the label.
To ensure you are caring properly for your delicates, always refer to the care label instructions on the garment. Visit Apparel Search for specific symbols and what they mean.
The Difference ~ Hand Wash or Machine Wash?
Hand washing is usually the safest way to launder your delicates. Fill a basin with cool water, add the appropriate amount of detergent, agitate to disperse and immerse your delicates so they are completely covered with water. Once immersed, allow the items to soak for 20-30 minutes depending on how badly they’re soiled. Spot treating with detergent is fine for tougher stains.
Once washed, don’t wring out your delicates. Gently squeeze as much excess water as possible then place between 2 towels and compress to release any remaining moisture by rolling, then lying flat to finish drying.
Pretty bras should be dried cup side up on a towel with rolled up socks in the cups to absorb excess moisture.
Using the Washing Machine
For sturdier items it is fine to use a mesh garment bag and the delicate cycle on your washing machine. Prior to placing delicates in the garment bag, connect eyelets or hooks (especially on bras) to prevent damaging anything during the wash.
As with hand washing it is always best to hang your items to dry, except sweaters should dry lying flat as hanging can cause them to lose their shape.
A quick steam may be necessary to help release wrinkles or creases in some fabrics.
If you’re going to take the extra care and attention to wash your delicates then you should consider proper ways to store them. Drawers and shelves should be lined with pretty paper to keep small splinters from damaging your delicates, but try to avoid scented liners.
A lined drawer dedicated to your lingerie is a good idea. Consider the displays at your favorite lingerie store, you can fold and place your panties similarly. Ideally, bras should lay flat, one inside of another is fine. Nighties can hang up or be folded neatly in a lined drawer.
Have a sweater drawer or hang them in your closet. Linens can be folded neatly in a cupboard with lined shelves and tablecloths or other vintage fabrics can be hung on hangers. With a little extra care and attention your delicates will last and continue to look beautiful every time you enjoy them.