Most of us had had this experience – you take your precious dress or suit to the dry-cleaners and it comes back with the same stain on the elbow, or it has shrunk or it simply doesn't seem that much cleaner. All this for upwards of £6 per garment. It is frustrating, but we feel as though we have no choice. If it says dry-clean on the label, then that is what we should do – isn't it?
Consumer organisation Which, recently conducted a survey where they sent 48 items to different dry-cleaners all with an identical red wine stain. Just 4 dry-cleaners returned the skirt in a clean condition and only 10 of the shops which failed to remove the stain actually owned up to the fact. Other garments came back having been shrunk or with entirely new stains.
So how do we go about dry-cleaning our own clothes and avoid paying for what could be a shoddy service at best?
Store bought cleaning systems
Most supermarkets will now sell packs of special cleaning sheets which are placed in a tumble dryer with your garment. Instructions usually advise to use a damp cloth to remove as much of the stain as possible, place the garment in the bag provided with the special cloth and tumble dry on hot for 20 minutes, then hang to avoid creasing. This is very simple and comes in at around £1 per wash or less. Obviously it is important to read the instructions carefully first.
Place 1 kilo of unprocessed wheat bran into a bowl and stir in white vinegar one drop at a time. It will begin to clump together in small lumps. The mix should be still dry when done. Place this mix in an old pillow case with your garment. Tie the top and shake. The bran is an abrasive, while the vinegar will break down fats and oils. When finished shake out the garment and it is done. No wetting and definitely no shrinkage.
Getting out specific stains
- Mould: 3-4 drops of oil of cloves in a litre of water. Dampen a cloth with the mixture and use only on the area of the stain.
- Blood: Always wash on a cold setting or use cornflour to absorb as much as possible before rinsing in cold water.
- Chocolate: Clean with soap and cold water, then wash again in warm water.
- Silk clothes: wash with cheap shampoo and blood heat water. Be careful to rinse in the same heat water until it is completely clear of shampoo.
Many of these old remedies would have been used by our parents and grandparents to keep their clothes in the best possible condition. In the days when most people had maybe two suits and a couple of special dresses, it was important to know how to care for your clothes. These days we have lost the art and have a carefree attitude to clothes, which we often wear and throw away.
What could be better than getting a revived and cleaned dry-clean only item out of your cupboard knowing that you did it yourself and saved money in the process. You certainly won't have to think twice every time you choose to wear it.