x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Wash your hands of the dry-cleaners

Housewife superstar Tired of your clothes coming back from the laundry looking like rags? Try washing them at home.

Remember to keep whites separate and test garments for colour-fastness before washing them.
Remember to keep whites separate and test garments for colour-fastness before washing them.

Tired of your clothes coming back from the laundry looking like rags? Try washing them at home One of the first things I was told when I arrived in Abu Dhabi a year and a half ago was beware of the dry-cleaners. How bad can they be, I wondered, thinking this was just hysterical expat-Mummy hype. And then a friend's blouse came back from the cleaner looking like a rag - and I took it all back. The climate here is such that clothes need cleaning more frequently than in cooler northern climes. You can't fly your clothes home every couple of months so, short of ditching all your dry-clean-only articles, what can you do?

Well, you could try washing them yourself. Use your common sense on judging whether this is possible. In general, you should be able to wash cashmere, silks, lace and delicate items of underwear. If you think that the main body of a garment is washable, but the trimmings (such as leather or beadwork) are not, and you can sew, remove the trimmings, wash the garment and then stitch the trimmings back on.

Before washing, test for colour-fastness. Dip an inconspicuous corner of the garment into a solution of washing detergent and warm water. Press firmly between two pieces of white kitchen towel. If the colour comes off a patterned item, the colours are likely to run into each other, and there's nothing doing. With single-colour items, you can proceed with caution (making sure to keep that garment separate from whites or other colours).

Use a mild liquid detergent designed for washing wool and/or delicates. Water should be no more than lukewarm. Put the garment into the soapy water and leave to soak briefly (about 10 minutes) to loosen the dirt. Then wash it by squeezing it over and over with your hands. Be as gentle as possible. Do not rub too vigorously or wring it: you will damage the fibres and pull the garment out of shape. When you are satisfied that it's clean, squeeze out the excess water (do not wring).

Rinse at least three times, again using lukewarm water. Add a dash of fabric conditioner to the final rinse if you like. Squeeze out the water, lay the garment flat on a clean white towel and pull it gently into shape. Roll up the towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to start the drying process. Finish drying by laying it flat on a drying rack out of direct sunlight. Press, if necessary, on the reverse, using a cool iron.

Rachel Simhon is the author of The Housewife's Handbook (Bloomsbury). Available at www.amazon.com