- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Repair, then store winter garments

Q: Spring is here and I’m getting ready to store my winter garments. Are there any storage guidelines for keeping my winter clothing looking its best season after season?

A: First, be sure to properly clean any garment before storing to minimize insect attack or degradation from staining. It is a good practice to inspect all clothing for missing buttons, broken zippers, or other structural problems and have them repaired before storing, so your garments will be ready to wear when taken out of storage.

If items are going into long-term storage, it is good practice to fold them to prevent excess stress and tension on the shoulder areas of blouses, jackets and dresses, or the waist area of pants. Knit items should always be folded to prevent stretching and distortion. Be sure to keep items away from areas that are damp to minimize fungus growth and avoid direct exposure to light to prevent fading of color.

If space is a problem, many professional cleaners offer seasonal storage for their customers.

Q: I recently bought two great dresses at a spring fashion sale. One is made from crepe and the other is a gorgeous silk dress. How do I keep them looking their best?

A: Due to its fiber composition, most crepe garments are dry-clean only. Crepe is extremely susceptible to shrinkage when exposed to moisture. If the care label says it is safe to wash the garment, you may want to take it to your local dry cleaner first to test the garment.

If washing is acceptable, use cool water to rinse thoroughly and air dry only. When caring for silk, make sure to read the label carefully. Do not dry-clean “washable” silk unless the care label specifies that dry-cleaning is acceptable. If the silk is washable, have all parts of your dress cleaned at the same time to maintain a uniform appearance. Also, beware of bleach. It permanently damages silk. Alkaline products such as facial soaps, shampoos, detergents and even toothpastes can cause discoloration in silk.

Q: I recently joined a gym. What is the proper way to care for active wear?

A: Today, many active wear garments contain spandex. Spandex, also known as Lycra, Clearspun, Numa, Elastoester and Glospan, is a synthetic fiber that has high elongation and recovery properties, which means it can be stretched from five to six times its original length. Although spandex can withstand repeated cleanings of all types, such as dry-cleaning and laundering, it can also experience a high degree of shrinkage if not cleaned properly.

Always follow the care instructions on the label; any amount of shrinkage can affect the appearance of the garment, resulting in wrinkling or puckering. If the care label indicates that laundering is an acceptable care process, avoid using chlorine bleach. Exposure to chlorine bleach can lead to discoloration, strength loss and eventually cause the spandex fiber to break. Finally, because high heat can melt spandex, avoid high temperatures during pressing.

Q: While on vacation, a pen exploded in my husband’s suitcase and now there are a series of ink stains along the sleeves of his shirt. How should I properly clean the shirt?

A: Ink stains can be tricky. I highly recommend you take your husband’s shirt to a professional dry cleaner. But, if you are pressed for time and the shirt is washable, the ink stains can be treated using the following procedure. Place several layers of paper towels under the stained area, and apply isopropyl alcohol or an ink removal pretreatment product. Blot with another layer of paper towels. Continue applying the product and blotting as long as the ink continues to bleed out.

When the ink no longer bleeds onto the paper towel, launder the item in the hottest water safe for the fabric. For best results, treat the stain as soon as you can and never dry or iron items with ink stains, as the heat may set the stain.

Keep in mind that before using any stain removal agent, test for colorfastness by applying a few drops onto an unexposed area. Cover with the corner of a white handkerchief or towel, and count to 10. If there is any color transfer, or if the color is affected, consult your professional cleaner.

Chris Allsbrooks is an affiliate board member and spokeswoman for the FabriCare Foundation. She has 13 years’ experience as a textile analyst in the International Textile Analysis Laboratory of the International Fabricare Institute in Laurel. Send questions to: infoyourclothingcare.com.

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