- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Q:One of my favorite sweaters stretched and lost its shape. Is there anything I can

do to bring it back to its original form?

A: If the sweater is made of wool, steam blocking can help shrink it. Cotton can be washed and dried flat to make it smaller. Acrylic, however, is synthetic and heat-sensitive and, therefore, not always correctable.

Q: During our holiday dinner, candle wax dripped onto my tablecloth. How can I get this off without ruining the fabric?

A: Candle wax contains stearin, a fatty substance that can cause permanent discoloration in the form of a stain. If the wax is still soft, place ice in a bag and put the bag on the wax to freeze it.

To remove hardened wax, peel gently with a butter knife or your fingernails. (Be careful with lace tablecloths). Apply blotting paper or a brown paper bag over the wax and iron it on a light setting, changing the paper or bag as it absorbs the wax. Then wash the item or get it professionally cleaned.

Q: Can you provide some tips for getting rid of some everyday stains, such as those left by hairspray and deodorant?

A: The best tip is to keep stain sources, including perfume, hairspray and lotions, from coming into contact with your clothing. For instance, if you spray your hair after you’re dressed, wrap a towel around your shoulders first to protect your clothes.

Should a spill occur, however, the key to avoiding a stain is to act quickly because time and heat set stains, making them harder — if not impossible — to remove. Acidic solutions, including perspiration, antiperspirant and juice drinks, can discolor fabrics, but the stain may not show up until the item has been worn numerous times.

Treat a stain by blotting the area. Do not rub it. Rubbing can spread the stain and grind it into the clothing fibers. Rewash an item if stains have not disappeared after a first washing. Stains that are allowed to dry can set permanently. If it is a “dry clean only” garment, or if you see discoloration, take the garment to your dry cleaner immediately so he or she can try to neutralize the discoloration.

Q: I have a stain on my suede jacket. Is there any way to get rid of it?

A: There are a few steps you can take if the light soil is not too bad: Rub suede with a clean, dry towel — always rub suede in one direction — try to remove the stains or marks by gently rubbing them with a pencil eraser; brush your suede with a suede brush, which has soft bristles with wire inserts. (Most stores sell this type of brush in the shoe area for suede shoes.).

It is recommended that suede be cleaned professionally at least every two years.

Q: Where is the best place to store my wedding gown?

A: First, be sure your gown is properly packaged to prevent air, dust and light from getting in, as these can cause your gown to yellow over time. Then store your gown in a cool, dry place. Beneath your bed or in the back of a closet are two good places. Avoid attics or basements for storage. Attics tend to get too hot in the summer, which can cause discoloration of the fabric; basements tend to carry too much moisture in the air, which can create mildew problems. Also, be sure to store shoes and accessories separately.

William E. Fisher is a board member of the FabriCare Foundation and is chief executive of the International Fabricare Institute in Laurel.

Chris Allsbrooks is an affiliate board member and spokeswoman for the FabriCare Foundation. She has 13 years’ experience as a textile analyst.

Send questions to: info@yourclothingcare.com.

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