luxury clothes care: tips for a
well-heeled wardrobe

What good is a pair of pink Prada linen mules after a bus splashes them with gutter grunge? A cashmere sweater after a waiter spills a glass of red wine on it? 

They're as good a new if you know the luxury clothes care tips for each garment investment in your closet.

After all, one of the most important aspects of fashion is caring for all those precious garments after you get them home.

Today's trend toward more relaxed workplaces and lifestyles has led to more fabrics and blends actually designed to be cared for at home. Yet this comfy trend begets a tough dilemma that demands sorting out: How does one care for today's fabrics and blends without ruining the whole bunch?

Here's how to tackle some of the toughest stains you're likely to encounter on delicate, luxurious clothes.

The Challenge of Luxury Clothes Care

Luxury clothes care can get downright confusing, with all of today's fabric mixes: There's Lycra interwoven with nylon, cotton, or acrylic. Rayon-cotton combinations. Cotton-polyelastane blends. Spandex mingled with nylon.

Polyester pumped up with rayon. And just plain hemp. (Some find the look intoxicating, apparently).

Considering the average load of laundry is valued at about $750, and that an average family sends eight to 10 loads of laundry for a spin in the washing machine each week, the answer is as important for your wallet as it is for your wardrobe. 

Here are a few tips and tidbits for luxury clothes care to keep you looking good.

Luxury Clothes Care for Basic Blends

Here's one fashion rule you won't want to break:

  • With any fabric blend, tailor your laundry routine to the most delicate component of the garment. If either the fiber, trim or binding requires hand washing, dry cleaning, or low temperature washing and drying, this will determine the garment's cleaning care.
  • When in doubt, wash or dry clean according to the primary fiber in the blend.

General Tips

  • Dry by weight: Dry lightweight clothes first, separately, to help prevent damage and shrinking. Lightweight, delicate fabrics such as lingerie are sensitive to heat and should be dried while the machine is cool. Average-weight garments like pants and dress shirts should be dried next followed by heavyweights like towels and jeans, which can handle the hot drum.
  • Dry fuzzy stuff separately: Separate lint-shedders, such as fuzzy sweatshirts, chenille robes, flannels and towels, from lint-keepers, such as knits, corduroys and permanent press and synthetic fabrics.

Luxury Clothes Care: Seasonal Storage Tips

  • Hang in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight: Lycra, nylon, polyester, rayon, spandex, acetate blends and silk. 
  • Dry thoroughly: Cotton is sensitive to mildew and acid. Dry thoroughly then store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight.
  • Lay flat in cedar chest or with cedar chips and mothballs: Cashmere and wool.
  • Hang in old dry cleaning bags: Hemp and linen. It prevents wrinkling in storage. 

Caring for Fine and Funky Fabrics

  • Cashmere: Got a red wine spill? Wash on the delicate cycle - or by hand - in cold water. Don't wring cashmere - you'll damage the fibers. Reshape and lay flat to dry away from direct heat or sunlight. To remove excess water after washing, gently roll in a towel.
  • Hemp: Hemp is a natural fabric whose popularity has grown over the past decade. On the bright side: It washes well because it is stronger wet than dry. Machine wash in warm or cool water, on the permanent press or casual cycle. It dries quickly - hanging dry is sufficient. Dry cleaning is not recommended.
  • Pashmina: Don't be afraid to wash this silk and cashmere blend. It spent 30 to 60 minutes in water just below the boiling point followed by two washes during the dying process that made it so lustrous-looking. Wash in warm water with a gentle laundry detergent or baby shampoo. Lay flat to dry. Machine drying can damage fibers.
  • Beaded blue jeans: Turn inside out and wash in cool water, use the hand wash cycle. Dry flat or on a dryer rack - not in the dryer. 
  • Linen: Linen washes well because it is stronger wet than dry. A 60-degree Celsius wash is most effective, as that temperature smoothes the surface of the flax fibers, allowing laundry stains to be released easily. Don't pack the washing machine to capacity when washing linen; the highly absorbent fiber can absorb twice its weight in water. 
  • Linen should always be ironed damp, first on the wrong side to eliminate creases and then on the other side to enhance the fabric's natural sheen.
  • Machine-washing is the preferred manner for cleaning Lycra. If other fibers in the garment are machine washable, this is the recommended method for cleaning. Thorough washing and rinsing bring out the best in Lycra.

How to Care for Shoes and Bags

Consider protecting your shoes in the future by giving them a quick spritz of a Scotchguard-type fabric protector before the first wearing. Reapply every few weeks. 

Your handbag and shoes investment is worth a bit of extra care to keep it looking sharp.

To keep shoes looking like new, store them in the shoe boxes they came in or in clear plastic shoe bags. Even if you don't venture out in them regularly, your shoes can become stained and damaged by simply hanging out in your closet gathering dust. Dust causes some of the worst damage to shoes. So keep your shoes covered. 

  • Vinyl or patent leather can be revived with a spritz of Pledge furniture polish directly on the handbag or shoes. Or, spray the furniture cleaner onto a lint-free cloth and buff away.
  • Linen mules or handbags may be sponged-clean with warm water and mild soap, such as Dove, dissolved in warm water. Leave heavy soils to a handbag or shoe repair shop or specialty dry cleaner to prevent discoloration.
  • On leather, skip the hair spray. It's sticky and dulling and simply doesn't do the job. Vinegar, however, does. Simply blot a bit of household white vinegar on a soft rag and place it on the shoe's stain marks. Allow it to soak into the leather a few minutes, then rub the cloth on the area to gently remove the stain. Allow to dry before wearing.

Does "Dry Clean" Mean "Dry Clean Only"?

If the label says "Dry Clean" instead of "Dry Clean Only", it may be hand washable. But with most garments, be sure to follow the manufacturer's care instructions as these take into account all parts of the garment, including linings, trimmings, and special finishes.

› Taking Care of Luxury Clothes