Take It to the Cleaners.
This one should seem standard. Most suits you’ll find have a pretty clear indicator tag that says “Hey! Don’t even think about it, pal” (or something like that) next to a big picture of a crossed-out washing machine. And for good reason! Many suit jackets, vests, and slacks you’ll find are most often made with a least a little bit of something that doesn’t take kindly to at-home washing (like wool). Not only will dry cleaning keep your getup looking crisp and fresh when you get it back – dry cleaning will add years to its life. Now break out those dancin’ shoes, slick!
2. Fragile or synthetic materials
Sometimes you’ll find clothing that has a No Machine-Wash tag on it, but are indicated as being safe to hand-wash. Usually, these garments have fragile synthetic fibers woven into them, like rayon and chiffon. These miracle fibers of science are great, but they’re also known to shrink. Don’t risk it at home – leave your delicate synthetics in the hands of a pro!
3. Anything with a lining
Most suit jackets you’ll find have a smooth or silky inner-lining – but don’t forget about dresses, skirts, and sports jackets that have the same. Those inner-lining seams can take a real beating from at-home washing, and sometimes even water alone can be enough to cause those linings to come unstuck or deteriorate.
4. Leather, suede and furs
Don’t risk it with these. While some leather articles of clothing say they’re okay to handle at home, at-home washing can really put a crease in things. Literally. Avoid the cracks and creases, and get it in the hands of a dry cleaner. Leather’s a timeless look, just like suede. Make sure your clothes stand the test of time.
And while we know the subject of wearing furs is a hotly-debated one today, if you’ve got any clothing, coats, or stoles with real fur take it to the professionals. Your grandmother’s heirloom mink coat will thank you.
5. Anything with pleats
Pleat—er, um, Please take us up on this one. There’s nothing worse than having your favorite pair of office slacks lose their character and charm because they’ve gone all flat in the front from misuse. Not only can the professional preserve your folds and pleats, most (like Williams Cleaners!) have re-pleating machines that can rescue any receding ones when necessary.
6. Dark-colored silks
Even though a lot of silks you’ll find will come with hand-wash instructions, some are safer outside of your in-home spot treatment station. While a lot of light silk fabrics really are fine in your own hands – you should always test your darker-shaded silk items before digging in yourself. Try wetting a small patch of the silk and blotting it dry with a white paper towel; if it leaves any color behind, take it to the cleaners.
What’s Okay to Fudge.
1. Durable synthetic fibers
When it comes to cleaning stronger synthetic knits such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon, hand washing—or on the delicate cycle (with cold water) in the washing machine—will work wonderfully. Just remember to lay flat or hang dry to avoid permanent wrinkling.
2. Linen and cotton
As long as they aren’t embellished, these fabrics can be washed in the washing machine. However we suggest using either warm or cool water when doing so, since heat can cause colors to fade quicker. We also suggest bringing linens and cotton items to a cleaners anyway, especially batch loads – extending the life of all your clothes saves you money in the long run!
3. Light-colored silks
Assuming they don’t bleed (see how to test above) most light-colored silks can be hand-washed at home in the sink. However as always when you’re unsure, leave it up to the professionals.