You ask. We answer.
To dry clean or not to dry clean, that is the question. Sometimes it really isn’t clear whether you should be hand-washing an item or sending it to the cleaners. Luckily we’ve got some fabric care experts ‒ Soak Founder Jacqueline Sava and Linley McConnell of Gibson’s Cleaners ‒ on hand to answer your most pressing cleaning conundrums.
Q: Can I Soak a wool suit? (new or vintage)
A: First, feel the item. If it has structure, sizing and interfacing, it needs to be dry cleaned. Most suits fall in this category, especially wool ones. The weave (the structural material that holds the shape of the suit) may not be designed to get wet because water opens up the fibers in wool, and can shrink or stretch the material, ruining the piece.
Dry cleaning solvent, on the other hand, doesn’t open up fibers: it simply releases topical dirt. Plus, it’s a lot lighter than water, so it won’t cause stretching. For wool suits, dry cleaning is the safer option.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to send your suit out every time you get a little grease stain or splotch of mustard on it: Soak is great for spot-cleaning. Put a little Soak on a cotton swab, rub it into the fabric to release the stain, then wet the other end of the swab with water and dab.
Q: How should I clean a silk-fill duvet?
A: There are all kinds of cleaning recommendations out there for silk duvets: spot treat and sun-dry, dry clean only, machine wash on delicate. What’s right? First off, remember this: fabric care labels are there to protect the manufacturer, not the consumer. Cleaning at home is possible, it’s really about how much work you’re willing to do. Before you decide, ask yourself these questions:
Is your machine large enough to accommodate a duvet?
● Is the delicate cycle delicate enough to go easy on silk? (Spin cycle is bad for silk filling: it puts too much pressure on the fibers.)
● Do you have enough space to lay it flat to dry? (You definitely don’t want to put silk in the dryer.)
If your answers are no, or you’re just not willing to put in the work, we recommend taking it to a professional dry cleaner to assess.
Q: How do you clean a sports jersey autographed with a Sharpie?
A: If you’re planning to wear an autographed jersey, you’re going to have to be able to wash it. So if the signature is really important to you, you may want to retire it and put it in a keepsake box. To make it look nice in a frame, dry-clean using a steam tunnel to naturally remove creases (as opposed to pressing it).
If you DO decide to wear it, the Sharpie will naturally fade over time with use and washing. It’s not likely to bleed or disappear after the first wash. But there are a few things you can do to make the signature last longer:
Set the ink with an iron: place a clean white cotton cloth over the signature and iron at the highest possible temperature for the fabric. Keep the iron over the signature for one minute. Don’t rub back and forth (this can smear the ink), but lift the iron up and down to prevent scorching.
● You can also toss the signed shirt in the dryer for 15 minutes at the highest recommended temp.
● Don’t use a commercial fabric protector: it can make the ink run.
● Hand-wash the garment: it’s much gentler than machine washing.
● Turn the shirt inside out when you wash it, using cold water and a small amount of Soak.
Q: I was never 100% sure how to use Soak in my HE washer. So what I do is select a Delicates cycle, stop at about 5 minutes, let it work for 15 minutes, then resume the cycle, with low spin. Is that correct?
A: When using Soak in a washing machine, we always recommend to follow manufacturer’s instructions, as machines vary – from how much detergent to use to which cycle to select. The primary difference between HE and regular detergent is the amount of suds created. As Soak is a low-suds formula, it safe for HE machine-washing. We suggest 1 teaspoon per gallon of your machine’s capacity.
Soak can be used with any cycle of a washing machine, and the appropriate cycle should be selected according to the nature of the item(s) – hand-wash or delicate for items that need to be washed gently, regular wash for more robust items, etc. If you have a hand-wash cycle on your machine, this cycle is designed to mimic the way clothes are washed in the sink, with periods of gentle tumbling and soaking in cold water. This cycle is the closest to washing with Soak by hand. The delicate cycle on a machine is a short, cold wash with slow tumbling and spinning, and can also be used effectively with Soak.
In regards to the soaking aspect of Soak, you have a few options with HE (front-loading) machine-washing. If you would like to have a true Soak (sitting in water), either select the handwash cycle on your machine or, if you do not have a hand-wash cycle, follow the instructions found here. With the notable exception that Soak just requires a 15-minute Soak. You can also just choose a wash cycle and wash your items this way, without doing an actual Soak. As the wash cycle for HE washers run longer than 15 minutes, it is not always necessary to do a still (i.e. no-agitation) soak. If you choose this option, you can just run the machine on your chosen cycle, and omit the extra-rinse if it is normally included.
Q: How is dry cleaning different from wet cleaning?
A: Dry cleaning uses a solvent or alternative cleaning solution...no water. But don’t worry, you don’t have to specify which kind of cleaning you want, a professional will know what method will work best for your garment.
Q: What can I hand-wash or machine-wash at home?
A: The care label is always the best place to start. If it says the item is safe for hand- or machine-washing, you can Soak it ‒ assuming you’ve got space for a basic and a proper drying setup. If it says machine washing is okay, pay attention to the setting it specifies.
If you have a top-loading washer, avoid using it to wash fragile fabrics: the agitator can snag fabric. Consider wet/dry cleaning for items that are particularly delicate, vintage, beaded/embellished or too large for hand-washing at home.
If it says “dry clean only,” you may still be able to wash it yourself – with precautions like removing trim, etc. Not sure? Check the manufacturer’s website for washing instructions or contact the company directly.