Caring for delicate fabrics

Always read the manufacturer's label for instructions on how to wash lace, silk and linen


How do I care for delicate fabrics?

Fabrics such as lace, silk and linen can be beautiful and fashionable, but are not as easy to maintain as cotton or denim, which can usually be thrown into a washing machine.

Ms Linda Collins, 55, general manager of dry cleaner Jeeves Singapore, says the first thing to do when caring for delicate clothing is to read the manufacturer's label.

"The label will tell you what cleaning requirements the garment has, including whether or not it can be washed or if it must be dry cleaned. That is always the first step."

Here are more tips on how to care for lace, silk and linen.


Do not machine wash

Other pieces of clothing could snag the lace and stretch or damage it. You should always hand wash lace pieces.

Flat dry

After washing a lace piece, lay it out to dry. Hanging it while it is wet and heavy could stretch and distort the clothing.

Do not store in a plastic cover

This applies to other fabrics as well. The garment needs to breathe, otherwise mould could form or oxidisation may cause a light-coloured fabric to turn yellow. The plastic cover provided by the dry cleaner is just to protect the piece during transportation. At home, use a cotton bag or acid-free paper to cover the garment to protect it from dust.


Wash with cold water

As silk tends to bleed more, wash it separately and in cold water to prevent more bleeding. Use a mild detergent as well because that will be gentler on the fabric.

Do not wring dry

If you are hand washing the piece, do not wring or twist it. Silk becomes weaker when it is wet and might tear if you are too rough with it. Instead, after washing, blot and dab with a towel and lay it out flat to dry. Hanging it up will stretch the fabric.

Do not rub stains

Rubbing will cause a lighter patch in the fabric. If the piece can be washed, try washing it first to get rid of the stain. If the stain remains, take the piece to a professional cleaner.

Avoid contact with body sprays

Apply your deodorant, hair spray and perfume and let them dry before you wear silk. These sprays will degrade the fabric and cause stains or colour loss.


Know when to dry clean

Linen loses colour more easily than other fabrics. Light- or white-coloured linen can be washed at home, but dark- or vibrant- coloured ones should be dry cleaned to preserve the colour for longer.

Iron on the reverse

When ironing a linen piece, turn the garment inside out and iron it. This will prevent the fabric from having a shine. You can also put a clean white cloth over the piece before ironing it.

Remove jacket while driving

The fabric wrinkles easily, so linen jackets should be taken off while driving to prevent wrinkles from wearing a seat belt. The friction from the seat belt could also lead to colour loss.

Keep away from the sun

Folded linen should always be kept away from direct sunlight. The sun will cause the fabric to fade and discolour along the fold lines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline 'Caring for delicate fabrics'. Subscribe