Plus, the right way to clean these tricky items.
Woman Doing Laundry at Home

Whether it's a favorite silk blouse or the coziest wool sweater, almost everyone has a few go-to garments they simply can't live without. When it comes to caring for the items we love most, there's a certain level of, well, care required. Depending on the item in question, that might mean avoiding the washing machine-after all, tossing certain delicates in with the rest of your dirty laundry can result in serious damage to the items you love most. To help keep your wardrobe essentials looking their best, we asked clothing care experts Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd of The Laundress to explain which garments should never be cleaned in the washing machine and how they should be laundered instead. Plus, the duo shared their best advice for getting a little more wear out of your clothes.

Cashmere and Wool

Putting your favorite pullovers and cardigans in the washer can be risky-sneaky snags and shrinkage are common outcomes when cashmere and wool are washed this way. While you can ensure they'll be in good hands at the dry cleaners, both Whiting and Boyd recommend washing these items by hand to avoid tears, snags, and misshaping. To wash, fill your sink, tub, or a basin with water and add a gentle cleanser (like The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo). Submerge your item, swirl it around in the water, and leave it to soak for up to half an hour; then, drain and rinse until water runs clear. Avoid ringing, as this can disfigure the item. Lay your items flat to dry.


When it comes to your favorite silk items, there's a good chance the care tags all say "dry clean only." However, it is possible to launder these items at home. The preferred method? You guessed it: handwashing. "This is the best and safest method to avoid the risk of shrinking, snagging, and other damage," say Whiting and Boyd. To do so, use cool water and gentle detergent. Hang your items to dry, but avoid leaving them in sunny spots as this can cause color fading.


Not only can bra hooks risk snag on your other clothing, but the straps and band may stretch out and lose their shape when spinning with the rest of your load. If you can, wash these items by hand and steer clear of the dryer. You'll want to lay them flat to dry as hanging can also cause your bras to stretch.

Structured Garments

Though the fabric of the item in question may be washer-friendly, throwing your favorite fitted pantsuit or a pretty pleated skirt into the wash is not ideal. "Structured items, like suits and jackets with shoulder pads, can become distorted in the washing machine," warn Whiting and Boyd. They recommend taking these wardrobe staples to your trusted dry cleaner instead.

Clothing with Embellishments

From sewn-on sequins to intricately beaded embroidery, items that sport a lovely embellishment rarely look their best after the emerge from the wash cycle. In fact, there's a good chance they end up snagging other items in the machine and possibly the machine itself. Instead, leave these pieces for your dry cleaner to handle or wash them at home by hand in a bit of lukewarm water and mild detergent. Swirl the items around until soapy and let sit for 20 minutes before draining, rinsing (but never wringing), and laying flat to dry.


Unless you've got a really good reason to wash your leather items, both Whiting and Boyd advise to steer clear of doing so…ever. "Genuine leather can shrink as a reaction to water," they tell us. If you're looking to spot clean, consider gently doing so with a baby wipe. If that leather bomber you adore is in need of a bit more TLC, consider consulting a leather care specialist to make sure it gets the best treatment.

Expert Tip: Whatever You're Washing, Be Sure to Avoid Overdoing It

Unless your clothing is sporting a serious stain or has endured a rather sweaty summer day, the Laundress ladies remind us that washing an item more times than necessary can actually cause wear and tear without you even realizing it. "To keep clothes fresh in between washing, consider using our Fabric Fresh," suggest Whiting and Boyd. "It is strong enough to remove unwanted odors and adds scent, making it wearable before having to wash it again."


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