Skip the dry cleaner: How to spot treat, carefully clean and press your delicate clothes

Some tips, sprays and solutions to keep your finest threads sharp.

Some tips, sprays and solutions to keep your finest threads sharp.

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A common mantra when it comes to building a wardrobe is 'quality over quantity'. But sometimes those better pieces in your closet come with tags that read: dry clean only, low-iron, handle with care. If labels like these have you worried about washing, you'll be happy to know there are ways to care for your clothes that are not much fussier than a regular wash 'n' dry cycle.  Here are some at home hacks and tools to help rid yourself of dry cleaning indefinitely.

Spot Treat

"Pitz Spritz"

This is a brilliant at-home hack that safely and effectively removes any body odour that clings to jackets, shirts, sneakers or other clothing. Fill a small spray bottle with vodka, spritz onto the affected area and, presto, the odour disappears! The alcohol in the vodka kills bacteria, thus removing the unpleasant smell. The clothing or footwear can be worn again as soon as the vodka evaporates. I keep a bottle in my armoire ready to spritz after wear - particularly if things get a little 'heated' in the underarm department.

Safe to spray

If a wool sweater or jacket doesn't require cleaning but still needs freshening in between washes, consider using a natural cashmere spray like The Laundress' Wool & Cashmere Spray ($12.53 at The Laundress) to lift any bacteria causing odour and freshen. By avoiding the use of toxic dry cleaning you can preserve these pieces for a longer life cycle (thus saving you on new clothes down the road and protecting your investment).

Stubborn stain solution DIY...

Instead of the harsh chemicals and cleaning agents used by dry-cleaners to remove stubborn stains like sweat marks, grass, wine and ketchup, mix up a batch of this basic baking soda scrubber. First soak or moisten the stain with cool or room-temperature water. Second, prepare a paste with the baking soda and warm water (3 parts baking soda 1 part water). Now, mix and apply a thick layer of paste to cover the stain. Finally, scrub the paste into the area (use a toothbrush to really get at all the fibres). You should start to see the stains disappear. Your welcome!

...Or buy

If you can't be bothered to make your own stain solution, Buncha Farmers Stain Remover (just $3.99 at Well.ca) is an all-natural stain stick that has saved my favourite articles of clothing on multiple occasions. Proudly made in Canada, this little miracle worker can remove stains caused by makeup (goodbye foundation marks on your good white dress shirt!!), salt marks, grease oil and even red wine, stains that would normally send you running for the dry cleaner!! Just dampen the area to be treated and rub the stick on the affected area until a small lather forms. Rinse or wash and voila!!

Carefully Clean

Best sweater forward

Wool is a closet staple for the cooler months, but often thought to be "dry clean only". The good news is that with careful care and the right products, you won't need to save those sweaters and suits for special occasions only to avoid excessive dry cleaning bills. Delicate wool and/or cashmere suits, knits, overcoats and scarves can be treated at home with a pH-neutral fabric wash like The Laundress' Wool & Cashmere Shampoo ($28.95 at KolKid) that is gentle on these unique types of fibres. Note that they do recommend hand-washing for best results.

Fine details

Use Ecover's Delicate Wash for Fine Fabrics ($6.29 at Well.ca) on your silks, linens or anything else that would usually have you running to your local dry cleaner. The plant based ingredients in this product ensure delicate handling of your special care fabrics while still protecting their colour. This can be used in any washing machine on the delicate cycle and will save you countless dollars in dry cleaning bills.

Pressing On

Iron or...

Many of us are guilty of sending piles of dress shirts and trousers to the dry-cleaner week after week, wear after wear. You might be surprised to know that these articles of clothing are more often laundered, as opposed to actually "dry-cleaned". That means that a washing machine and quality home-use iron like Rowenta's Steam Force Iron ($140.09 at Amazon.ca) could help you cut out that weekly bill. Keep your khakis looking crisp and your shirts looking sharp by washing them on cold setting and either hanging them to dry or dry on "delicate". Then, while still slightly damp, start your ironing routine. Just be sure to follow the fabric settings on the dial.

...Steam away

A visit to any high-end boutique will likely reveal this essential tool-of-the-trade. I like the professional grade steaming power in Rowenta's Precision Valet Steamer ($151.99 at The Bay), plus it comes easy to assemble and store away. Steamers are especially useful for items like that frilled blouse whose layers only sit properly when draped as they would be on you...on the hanger. Steaming not only helps to reduce odour by killing the germs and bacteria that cause it, but it also gives your clothing the crisp look of being professionally cared for by the dry-cleaner.