How Should I Wash My Delicates? : Advice for Washing Clothes

Taking care of your delicate items of clothing (wool, silk & linen) is easy when you know how. Find out how to hand wash and machine wash delicates here.

Updated 26 April 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

machine wash delicates

People sometimes avoid buying delicate items of clothing because they are concerned about being able to wash them correctly. However, it’s actually very simple to keep fragile items looking their best, and you can even use a washing machine if you want! Read on for more tips on washing clothes and dealing with delicate items of clothing.

When you are washing delicate clothing, it’s best to use a mild laundry detergent that is specially designed for delicates. Always read the directions on a product to check if it is suitable for the type of material you want to wash before you begin.

What Items are Delicate?

While towels and even some bedding materials are strong and sturdy and can handle quite vigorous washing, there are some materials to look out for. Delicate items include linen, silk, wool, and embroidered or embellished garments. Soft cottons and thin linens can become damaged through high heats and active spinning in a washing machine, and silk and woolens could fray or shrink if they are not taken care of properly. If you own any embroidered items, it’s also a good idea to keep these separate from the main wash, to ensure the needlework doesn’t unravel.

Should I Wash Delicate Items by Hand?

Hand washing is by far the best way to keep delicate or fragile clothes looking their best. Being in control of the entire washing process – including the exact water temperature and how much you handle the garment – is hugely beneficial, and hand washing means you can stop at any point. However, it’s not necessary to hand wash all the time, and many washing machines include a delicate cycle that can be used for such fragile or delicate garments.

How Do I Hand Wash Delicate Items?

It’s always best to check the wash care symbols on each individual items before washing your clothes to make sure they’re being treated in a suitable manner. Here are some general considerations to make when washing delicate items.

  • First, gather items of the same material together; this reduces the chance of different materials becoming loose and tangling with the delicate fibres.

  • Fill a basin with lukewarm water and a detergent intended for delicate items. A mild detergent will be gentle on your clothes as well as your skin.

  • Gently swirl the garments in the basin, paying special attention to any stains or spots.

  • Leave to air dry, either hanging from a rail, or – for items that are prone to stretching, such as woolens – leave the garment lying flat on a towel.

How Do I Machine Wash Delicate Items?

Washing machines are great at washing clothes, but some settings can be too harsh for delicates. Use the machine’s delicate cycle, or, if your machine doesn’t have this option, follow these simple rules:

  • As with hand washing, gather items of the same material together for a wash instead of mixing different fibres.

  • Only fill the machine halfway – this will help prevent fibres becoming tangled. If your machine has a half load option, it’s best to use it here, as it will reduce the amount of water used, conserving water and saving money.

  • Use a cool or lukewarm temperature setting, and a slow spin cycle. High temperatures can shrink some materials, while vigorous spinning can damage materials.

  • Use a cold rinse. Some people worry that cold washes won’t get their clothes clean, but as long as you’re using a good quality detergent, there’s no need to be concerned.

  • If you have a dryer, don’t be tempted to dry your delicate pieces of clothing in the machine. Instead, allow the delicate items to dry naturally, and away from direct sunlight to prevent bleaching.

  • Ideally you should hand wash delicate items using warm water.

  • However, you can let the washing machine do the hard work for you, but be sure to use the delicate cycle, and a cool, or lukewarm temperate setting.

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