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Caring for fabric and clothes
3rd August 2019

If you love fabric and clothes as much as I do you'll want to look after them. However excessive washing is often unnecessary and can mean your clothes wear out sooner.

Here are some alternative suggestions to washing your clothes.

Airing - by simply hanging out clothes in the fresh air or by an open window. This works especially well for woollen fabrics and clothing, the natural oil in wool repels the moisture that can carry bad smells.

Essential Oils - when clothing looses that just washed smell try adding a few drops of Lavender, lemon or sage essential oil to a water spray and spritz your garment before airing.

Baking or Bicarbonate of Soda - this is brilliant for musty smells especially if you buy vintage clothing or fabric and even works on suede and leather. Place the item in a carrier bag with a cup of soda and shake, leave over night, then shake out your item and brush off any soda.

Coffee grains - I haven't tried this but I understand it can work in the same way as baking soda.

Vodka - mix two-thirds vodka to one-third water spray on and then leave to dry. The vodka kills bacteria, removing the smell and dries odourless.

Freeze your clothes - take a tip from denim aficionados, place your jeans in a canvas bag and leave in the freezer overnight. This kills the bacteria. This also works for cashmere and other wools and is excellent for moth prevention. Place your sweaters in a plastic bag and freeze for 48 hours; this kills the moth larvae.

When you do wash your clothes try lowering the temperature and use a non-biological detergent.

When I buy fabric, if it is washable, I always wash before making it up.

If you are not sure a fabric is washable, cut a 20cm square and place it in your next 30-degree wash. Then when it’s washed and dried re-measure to check shrinkage and also to review the handle of the fabric. If you don’t like the result, make sure you only dry-clean the garment you are going to make.

Before washing lengths of fabric, unfold them and iron out any creases. Loosely load into your machine and use a liquid detergent. These steps should avoid any unevenness in the colour fading especially with indigo and pigment dyed denim or coloured linens.

The reason for pre-washing fabric is that during the manufacturing process, fabrics are often ‘stentered’. This is when they are pulled into a uniform width and length and a finishing chemical applied. The problem with this is, that when the fabric is subsequently washed, it ‘relaxes’ back or shrinks. So by washing it before making, you can make sure what you make doesn’t shrink.