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Does Dry Clean Only Really Mean Dry Clean Only?

We don't need to dry clean as often as we might think

By Cora Hilts

Some of our designer’s pieces suggest dry cleaning for their after-care, so we often reccomend ethical dry cleaning where possible for our products. But we know that this can be virtually impossible for some of our community. Plus dry cleaning is expensive and a bit of a task – it can all add up very quickly. To be honest I don’t even do it most of the time even though I have a great eco dry cleaner not too far down the road. (See Blanc cleaners if you are in London!).

 

I wanted to share my tips to avoid dry cleaning when possible because it is a process that is filled with toxic chemicals, and inevitably your clothing comes out in layers of unnecessary plastic every time. From a sustainability point of view, it’s really a bit shit. Some of these come from research, honestly some of them come from my mother, but I hope you find them as useful as I do!

 

 

Dry Clean Mainly Means Recommended, Not Necessary

For the most part, so long as you have a bathroom sink you are capable of washing your delicates by hand. To be honest, sometimes I even find this process really cathartic as it’s a moment to do something quite tranquil and tangible. I am going to go through the process for each sort of fabric we deal with here at Rêve En Vert. There are only a couple of cardinal rules I have found, which include never putting delicates into the dryer, keeping water temperatures relatively low and getting the right sort of soaps, all of which I will go into further detail about.

Cashmere & Wool. You might be surprised to learn that knits actually last longer if they are washed by hand – as natural fibres they respond much better to being washed infrequently and then as gently as possible. Chemicals don’t bode that well for them so truly these sorts of pieces should avoid the dry cleaners where possible.

 

The best advice for a quick cleaning fix is to just let them hang outside or take them into the bathroom with you when you are showering in order to expose them to fresh air. This will naturally air out and clean the garment. If it’s the end of a season or you’ve encountered a stain, then simply make sure you use cold water in your cleaning process to avoid shrinking the fibres. For soap, we always use the eco-friendly line from The Laundress and the products are amazing. Simply leave your piece in the cold, soapy water for 30 minutes, then dry on a flat surface.

The nastiest of dry cleaning chemicals can cause menstrual irregularities, fertility problems, and spontaneous abortions among women who work in the dry cleaning industry

Silk. The only thing you really need to be aware of when it comes to washing silks is the possibility of colour bleeding. You don’t want the colours running from the garment once it’s put in water. To test if you need to take it to a special cleaners, simply wet a white paper towel and dab the silk – if the paper towel comes away with colour on it, better to be safe than sorry and have it dry cleaned.

 

To start, soak the silk in a bowl of lukewarm water mixed with several drops of soap (something gentle like Lana Bambini olive oil silk detergent) for about five minutes. Drain that water from the bowl and refill with cool water and an optional ¼ cup of white vinegar, which will help remove any excess soap and alkalinity. You can also add several drops of conditioner to the bowl to leave the silk soft. Drain and add in fresh water to rinse. Once you have fully cleansed the silk,  simply lay it flat on a white towel and let it dry naturally .

Cotton and Linen. Much like wools, cotton and linens can last longer if they are washed by hand. You want to use warm water with these materials, too hot and it can affect the quality of your fibres. Simply place them in a sink or tub and let them soak as long as needed to have any dirt come out – you may want to run warm water through them several times to make sure to get it all. Use a simple laundry detergent like Ecover, or a more specialist soap that I love is The Simply Co, created by Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers. No plastic container, no chemicals whatsoever – your skin and your clothes will thank you for using it.

 

Linen is just slightly trickier than cotton so there are a few things to be aware of. When hand washing linen clothes, only use a gentle swishing motion – never wring, twist or scrub the fabric. Hand washing is recommended for clothes that is not heavily soiled, or for linen fabric with a loose weave, which might be damaged during a wash in a washing machine. Also always try to dry your linen clothes flat – hangers or clothespins can cause marks on the fabric and also cause deformation of the garment.

 

Finally, if there is a need for ironing, iron these materials whilst slightly damp to protect them from the heat. Or even better, invest in a steamer. Along with killing bacteria, steaming also removes allergens that attract dust mites—and since it steaming only uses water and no detergents or other chemicals, it won’t pollute the air.

We at REV do realise dry cleaning still needs to be a reality – there are still a few pieces I have that I don’t want to attempt cleaning at home. For instance a vintage jacket from my godmother with beading that just seems to delicate to risk at my own hands. However, there are a few things you can consider when choosing a dry cleaner that will help cut down on the toxicity and footprint of your dry cleaning when necessary.

 

For example, many cleaners now have a policy of solvent recycling, plastic bag recycling, and hanger recycling. This can help protect the environment by reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills so look out for those cleaners and definitely inquire about these policies. Some dry cleaners also have also upgraded to “third generation” machines that are more efficient at minimizing the amount of harmful chemicals used during the cleaning process, which is a huge step forward.

P.S. you can always email me personally at Cora@revenvert.com in order to ask me about care instructions for any item we are selling on site!