How to Launder Delicate Clothing

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Cashmere, silk and like materials require delicate laundering to minimize color fading and extend the life of your garments. Even if your washing machine has a gentle cycle, you can't just toss all of your fine fabrics into the washer and dryer and expect them to come out like new. You need to take time and care to give them the proper cleaning they deserve.

Start by reading the label. If your favorite sweater says "dry clean only" you may be able to hand-wash it at home, depending on the fabric. Manufacturers are only required to put one washing method on the label, and the one they cite is usually the least likely to damage your clothing.

If the label says "hand wash only," don't use the washing machine's gentle cycle. The agitation could cause the fabric to shrink. You need to roll up your sleeves and clean your sink. Fill it with water and add some detergent such as Woolite, which is generally safe for all fine washables. You might want to test the washing detergent on an inconspicuous piece of your clothing to make sure it's color-fast. Swish your garment around in the water for about five minutes. Next, drain the water and rinse out the soap. Squeeze out the extra water without wringing the fabric.

Place a clean towel on a table, neatly lay your garment on it and roll it in the towel. Squeeze out any excess water. Then lay your garment on another dry towel and lay it across a clothing rack. After one side dries, turn it over so the other side can dry. This is more work than turning on the washing machine but it's worth it. Martha Stewart would be proud.