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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You Can Wash It?!?!

I've long maintained that dry cleaning is a money drain in the budget of a frum family. Personally, I avoid clothing that really needs to be dry cleaned like the plague. Not only do I want to avoid the extra expense, but I prefer to avoid the trouble of adding an extra errand to my schedule. Plus, I prefer comfort.

Notice I used the word really in reference to dry cleaning. I can't speak for men's clothing (I do dry clean my husband's suits, but he fortunately only wears a suit once a week), but at least when it comes to women's clothing the recommendation to dry clean often has little to do with what must be done and more to do with protecting the clothing manufacture.

Yes, much of what you might be dry cleaning would do perfectly fine going through a delicate cycle in your own washer (not necessarily some washer in the laundry mat) and then hung up to dry.

What prompted this post? Well, we are in the 3 weeks, so I'm going to be sticking more to money saving tips posts so we don't cause needless controversy. But, the real impetus was that we went to a wedding last week. I decided to wear a suit that I haven't worn in at least 2 years. When I took the suit off the hanger and removed the dry cleaner's tag I noticed the navy blue lining was a discolored purple. I had to have the suit dry cleaned because 2 years ago I had no access to a personal washing machine. For the 5 years prior to that, I had always washed the suit on the hand wash and/or delicate cycle and there was never any discoloration.

I don't know what the average dry cleaning bill runs for your average frum family, but when 4-6 year old are having their dresses dry cleaned, I know it has got to be a pretty penny. Next time, try the hand wash cycle or perhaps hand wash with Woolite if you are less daring. It might help bolster the family budget in a tough economy.

Now, has anyone had good or bad experiences with self-dry cleaning kits for men's suits? Has anyone ever stuck a men's suit in the wash on delicate? Add your comments please.

20 comments:

miriamp said...

On women's clothing, my theory goes something like this: At some point, once I had babies and/or toddlers that got my clothing just as messy as their own, I couldn't be bothered to dry clean my stuff. If I throw it in the wash (not even delicate, and certainly not hang to dry -- no where to put it) and it survives, then we're good. If it doesn't, well, I wasn't going to dry clean it anyway, so I would have been out that skirt, jumper, etc. But it would have to be a really good sale to get me to buy it with the express intention of washing it and seeing if it survives.

Everything I make myself, of course, is washable. I prewash my fabrics on HOT, so I can do whatever I want to them afterwards.

My husband has used the home dry cleaning kits on his tallis and suit jackets, and he hasn't complained, and he hasn't insisted on taking them to a real dry cleaners, so I guess that's a vote for them.

tdr said...

For the first time my daughter's uniform will consist of pleated skirts. New, these babies are $50/each new!

On top of that, don't you have to dry-clean pleated skirts to preserve the pleats? I think ironing them out after washing them will not be the same. Plus it is timeconsuming. I was going to get 2 skirts for my daughter, but if I have to dry-clean them I'm going to need more than 2 I think (she's in 3rd grade).

BTW-- the way to make felt is to wash wool. So real 100% wool really should not be washed or you will end up with a felt garment.

I ruined a beautiful wool skirt once this way.

I'm not sure how washable wool is made washable.

Anonymous said...

I wear (women's) suits to work every day, and rarely dry clean. What I have found works really well is to spray things down with Febreze fabric refresher. A bottle costs anywhere from $3-5, and lasts for months. I usually let the suit air dry after that, since I wear them on something close to a 6 business day rotation. But sometimes, if I am in a hurry, or I feel it needs to get "cleaner," I will put them through a dryer cycle on cool/low for 10-15 min.
My colleague who used to work at a dept. store said she once sat through a presentation by Pendleton (women's wool suit brand) on how to care for suits, and they said to dry clean as infrequently as possible, as it wears the wool down and leads to fading and discoloration.

For men's suits, I would be really reluctant to put it in the washer, as wool shrinks very very easily. However, since men wear shirts underneath, they probably do not need to be cleaned more often than every 5-6 wearings, if even that often(or so say my attorney colleagues). And the Febreze/dryer method will work just as well on them. I personally would probably not take a men's suit to the cleaners unless it was really noticeably dirty or stained.

tesyaa said...

You don't have to dry clean the typical uniform skirts. They are machine washable, and the pleats should hold for quite a while. If you are very picky you can get the pleats re-pressed (without dry cleaning) at the cleaners every six months or so. I'm not picky so I don't have to worry.

BTW, school uniforms are a mother's best friend for SO many reasons. You can probably order the same skirts cheaper online, but beware: I once used a school where ALL the uniforms had to be ordered from the school's vendor. Happily, that's not my situation anymore.

I am with SL on this post because I rarely dry clean my clothes, and everyone says I dress very fashionably. (Hint: I buy all my clothes on ebay -- fodder for another post). I am careful not to spill and I don't wear silk or acetate around my kids. Wool suits are the only problem but since I rarely get to shul in winter I don't have too much trouble.

Lands' End used to make women's washable suits, but as I am slave to fashion (sigh -- my vice) I don't wear these.

Miriam said...

as apt dwellers without our own laundry machine, my husband and i use the machines in the basement of our building.
the cost of a load of laundry has gone up from 1.50 to 1.75 for a regular cycle and from 1.75 to 2.00 for a cycle with an extra rinse and spin.
Dryer prices have increased by the same amount.
however, even at 1.15 a shirt at the fluff and fold, its cheaper for us to wash my husbands shirts and hang them up to dry or spray them with wrinkle release than get them professionally done.
as for the suit and other dry cleanables- i'm careful as i can be with my clothes (i imagine this will change when we have a child) but collect all the dry cleaning in a large bag and take it in once a season. its usually around 30-50 bucks. my husband's suit gets dry cleaned more often in the summer than the winter- shabbatot here are sweaty in the summer especially with a tallis on top.
had dryel, used it once, wasnt so happy. it neither cleans or removes stains, but it does remove wrinkles. but so does a quick run through the dryer and a hang up after.

frumhouse said...

Does anyone have any good web sites/stores where you can buy reasonably priced tznius school uniform skirts? I can get the shirts almost anywhere, but the skirts from our local vendor are also around $50!

eem said...

I machine wash the pants of my husband's suits ( they are not 100% wool) about once in 5-6 wearings and hang dry with very good results. I am actually more careful with the cheaper ones because they don't stand up to it as well- I send those and the jackets to the dry cleaners.

Ezzie said...

Men's suits really can't be put into a wash, but they don't need to be dry cleaned more than every 5-6 wearings as noted above, if that, assuming a person takes reasonable care of their suit. (I actually always try to wear a suit that probably could use dry cleaning anyway when I go to weddings, so as not to "waste" a suit.)

Anonymous said...

Your poor husband. I bet you cut his hair as well. Wonder why he keeps getting passed over for all those promotions?

SephardiLady said...

Anonymous, I don't know who you are addressing, but you obviously trying to be very rude to someone, so cut it out.

Anonymous said...

What about frenchtoast.com for the school uniforms?

As for men's suits---isn't most of dry cleaning the pressing of the suit? I'm all for saving money, but I can't imagine one of these home dry-cleaning kits would accomplish pressing the suit.

For womens' clothes---I agree you can likely wash yourself and just not buy dry-clean only.

By the way, I once saw a 0-3 month baby dress that was dry clean only. Talk about a waste of money!

Anonymous said...

i think that is worth the extra $ for wrinkle free pants and shirts, and i won't buy any other pants.

i personally don't invest in the shirts because for my sake, as long as i take it out of the wash and hang dry right away it will look fine. but then again, thank god i don't generally have to look presentable (although that might change soon), so real pressed clothing that would require dry cleaning is not an issue for me. i don't iron, so i'm not sure what would happen if i needed to wear pressed clothing on a regular basis.

i can't comment on washing suits. i own only one, which i wear maybe once a month (if that often). i figure a month is more than enough time for any bad odors to dissipate.

-Lion of Zion

ProfK said...

I've never found a product that can replace the professional cleaning/pressing a suit gets from a cleaner. My hubby has to wear suits to work and he does for Shabbos. Cleaning bills are built into the budget.

You can keep the suits looking better, and smelling better for longer, if they are hung up each night rather than tossed somewhere and if a man switches to an anti perspirant/deoderizing deoderant rather than just using a plain deoderant. Once a suit jacket is wet with perspiration no amount of just letting it sit and air out will rid the suit of the odor.

ProfK said...

Sigh, deodorant, not deoderant.

Ariella said...

To add to what TDR pointed out, some rayon garments also suffer from washing as I learned when I ruined a skirt myself. Also there is the problem of colors running, which is why "a dip in cold water" that the saleswoman opined should be fine on the white with blue print top marked "dry clean only" left permanent blue streaks through the white. It may work to dry clean for the first time and then hand wash in cold. The cleaner's pressing may prevent future running.

But even wedding gowns can be washed, so long as they're not of a silk fabric that really requires dry cleaning.

tdr said...

I washed a wedding gown once (in my previous non-frum life). It was a beautiful Laura Ashley, comfortable cotton blend. While theoretically it was washable, given the type of fabric it was, washing it, and especially the roses on it, caused it to become hopelessly wrinkled.

BTW -- the shiny confetti stuff thrown at me during my *real* (frum) wedding, got caught all in the lace on my dress and really upped the price tag on the dry cleaning! People don't usually think about the post-nuptial dry-cleaning bill at the wedding, though.

Michaela said...

This won't be much help but I hope that it will get someone searching in the right direction. With regard to school uniforms, there is a store on the Lower East Side that sells French Toast Uniform clothes by the dozen. They also sell on ebay. Most of the skirts are too short for frum schools, but the jumpers have long enough skirts. (My girls think that the jumper tops are ugly, so they put on the jumper then their shirt. Ta Da--perfect length skirt and shirt outfit.) I got 12 jumpers for $72 dollars. They are machine washable and the pleats stay in no matter what my girls do to them. (I don't do ironing.)

ben-david said...

About suits:

The big trick is to select a tweed - a fabric whose threads contain a mix of fiber colors (This is sometimes called "heather" in women's wear). Even "worsted" fabrics - with a smooth, not-wooly finish - can incorporate a mix of fibers. These fabrics hide stains - and if you can partially life a stain, it virtually disappears. So you can go longer between cleanings.

Not so long ago, people used a clothes brush to freshen suits between dry cleanings. It is often possible to remove dust/dandruff/shmutz with a brush, as you raise the fabric's nap to avoid "shiny" spots of wear.

You could also use a small vacuum brush for this.

You can also "spot dry-clean" food stains using "upholstery cleaning" products - basically a bottle of cleaning fluid with a brush/sponge applicator cap. Apply to stain, then use a towel or cloth diaper to immediately absorb the cleaning fluid. A suit that has already been dry cleaned should not shed any color. You don't need much of this stuff.

There are also products you spray on, let dry, and brush off - and you can lift fresh food stains by applying homemade versions of these cleaners, using absorbers like cornstarch. The vacuum brush comes in handy here, too.

So a bit of maintenance before putting the suit away can go a long way.

There is nothing inherent in the manufacture of a suit that makes it unwashable. People wore tailored clothing long before dry cleaning was popular.

Most suits are "dry clean only" because clothing companies can't be bothered to pre-shrink all the fabric and padding layers. In addition, some of the cheaper suits use fusible polymers to bond inner and outer structural layers (similar to the product used to stiffen some shirt collars, which can cause wrinkling after repeated washings).

This means that you can easily spot-wash a stain in a less constructed area of the suit - the jacket below the shoulder padding, and the trousers. Blot instead of wringing to get the water out. If the stain is fresh you often don't even need soap.

It may be possible to hand wash a suit in cold water in a bath tub, with minimal agitation and no wringing. Roll the jacket in bath towels to get out as much water as possible, then tumble dry (with more towels to cushion it) on a very low setting.

You can't hang the jacket up wet - the weight of the waterlogged padding will stretch and deform it. Depending on your electric rates, you may get up to the cost of dry cleaning by the time the suit has lost enough water to be hung up without stretching.

Pigpen said...

This is all so silly. Just don't wash anything. That's the most economical way of doing things.

yaffa said...

I'm skeptical when it comes to bringing anything to a commercial dry cleaner. For some reason my husbands suits shrink and his shirts have creases pressed into them and many times buttons are broken or melted.