Style: Care For Delicate Fabrics

Pink Skirt Photo: Urban Thrift

Pink Skirt
Photo: Urban Thrift

Thrift stores are a great place to find unique and high quality fabrics at great prices. But how should you store, clean and care for your favourite delicate fabrics? We have tons of experience cleaning and restyling vintage garments, and this post will give you a rundown of our best tips on caring for delicate fabrics. The exact boundaries of the “delicate fabrics” category can blur, but we use it to designnate silks, lightweight fabrics, as well as garments with beading, lace. We can also classify items as “delicate” if their dyes are prone to running when washed in certain temperatures, or if they are prone to absorbing the colours they are washed with. If your latest thrifting find fits into this category, follow tips and you can be sure that your new garment will be in great shape for many years to come.
First of all, when you need to treat spot problems such as accidental marks or stains, very gentle remedies such as baking soda or mild detergents should be tried before you reach for the heavier solutions. This helps avoid degrading the fabric or replacing a stain or slight darkening with more permanent discolouration.
Open Weave Sweater Photo: Urban Thrift

Open Weave Sweater
Photo: Urban Thrift

If your goal is to preserve the colour of white or pastel garments, the same gentleness applies. Bleaching products should be used as sparingly as possible. If you feel that you absolutely need to use bleaches in order to keep your whites shining brightly, do not use a machine. Instead, dilute the detergent in a pail of water and submerse the garment in it. Wearing gloves, agitate it occasionally. This process takes longer than a machine wash cycle, but you will be certain that the colour of your garment will remain uniform and that you have not unduly distressed the fabric.

For general washing of delicate items, it is usually acceptable to use a machine, as long as you make sure to use the correct setting and temperature (consult the tag of the garment to be sure). Just remember to group them with other delicate items, and take appropriate precautions to avoid snagging. Items made of crepe and lace are especially susceptible to snagging on other items when machine dried, so it is best to wash them only with other items of the same kind. If you do opt for handwashing, to stay on the safe side, remember that you don’t have to simply let the clothes soak. To get your clothes clean properly, you should submerge and rinse the garment, scrubbing it against the side of a basin or pail.
Drying delicate clothes can also come with certain hurdles, like bunches, shrinking, or snagging.  If the weather permits or if you have the space indoors, you can avoid most of these by hanging your garments to dry. However, if you’re working with super-delicate knits, this can cause unwanted stretching. Because of this, some go as far as laying the clothing out (on top of a tarp laid across a patio set or backyard picnic table) rather than hanging. If you are also concerned that your garments will bleach in the sun over time, be sure to let it dry in a shady place, away from peak sun hours. You could even avoid the risk of damaging your garments altogether by hanging them across a clotheshorse indoors.
Finally, once your garment is washed and ready to go, you might think of running it under the iron to get it looking crisp and neat. However, remember to consult the tag of a delicate item before any kind of ironing. To stay on the safe side, using a lower heat setting or a mat are both good options. If, after reading this, you’re still a little uncertain about how to care for a vintage find, opt to have it cleaned professionally if possible. If you have any concerns about how to care for an item purchased in one of our stores, don’t hesitate to ask us.


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