How To Take Care Of Every Delicate Fabric And Stain This Holiday

And beyond

Illustrated by Jihyang Lim

There's no way around it: Holidays can get messy—and we mean that quite literally. Whether you're attending tightly packed parties where people drink a few too many and full-on bump into you with their drinks, or you've loaded too much on your spoon only to end up with mashed potatoes on your lap at Christmas dinner, spills happen. Instead of instantly throwing our clothing into an ever-growing "to take to the dry cleaners" pile or resort to donating our shoes because of that stubborn stain we didn't attend to until a month post-fact, we thought it was time to crack down on our 2016 resolution—you know, the one that we made immediately following that last NYE party—to learn how to salvage our favorite pieces at home.

With that in mind, we caught up with Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd—founders of The Laundressan eco-friendly line of detergent, fabric care, and home cleaning products with a flagship in Manhattan's SoHoand David Mesquita—owner of Leather Spa, the premiere accessory repair and care shops with several Manhattan locations—to get their tips on how to take care of spills that threaten to ruin the trickiest of holiday fabrics (think: faux fur, leather, velvet) this season sans, most times, a trip to the cleaners. Ahead, their advice.

Read the labels:
Make sure to read your clothing's labels before attempting to spot treat or wash any of your clothing. Most delicate fabrics that aren't machine-friendly can be hand-washed at home—that is unless they explicitly read "dry clean only." "We don’t typically encourage dry cleaning. However, there are a handful of fabrics with which dry cleaning is the safest option. Trust us—we’ve experimented!" say Whiting and Boyd. According to them, some of these include viscose, polyamide, items with manufactured pleating, structured items, suede, and leather labeled “not washable.”

To determine if you can spot treat an item, they advise the following:

    • Wet a corner of the Wash & Stain Bar (for oil-based blemishes) and use it to clean a small area of the item, or, dab a small, inconspicuous area with a lint-free cloth and a small amount of Stain Solution (for wine or juice) onto the mark.
    • Do not use paper towels and certain types of sponges because they may leave lint or residue behind. Instead, they suggest using their Lint-Free Cleaning Cloth or similar fabric cloth.
    • Do not continue cleaning if you observe any discoloration, marks, or if fabric begins to ripple and take to professionals.

How to hand-wash:
Once you've treated a stain, it's time to wash the item. Throw the entire piece in the machine if the label allows it, or prepare to hand-wash the item at home. If you are unsure of how to properly attend to the item by hand, the folks behind The Laundress suggest the following steps for best results:

  • Turn the item inside out.
  • Fill a wash basin or sink with water (water temperature will vary depending on the fabrication of the item you are washing). Whiting and Boyd recommend tepid water for silk, cool water for wool. 
  • Add detergent and mix to prepare a bath.
  • Submerge the item and use your hands to agitate the water and detergent.
  • Soak delicate items for up to 30 minutes.
  • Rinse well.
  • Do not wring the item; instead, press the water out of the item against the sink or basin.

Once the item has been laundered, Whiting and Boyd recommend laying it flat to dry on a drying rack. "This will preserve the item’s original shape."