Sometimes washing a new garment can be nerve wracking – especially when you look at the tag and see a series of hieroglyphic-like symbols telling you what you need to do. But getting laundry right really only comes down to three things: the detergent you use, the wash cycle you choose and how you dry the garment.
To help take the mystery out of the process, we’ve put together the below guide, which outlines how to handle some of the most common fabrics. Next time you’re confused about caring for a particular item of clothing, just refer to this list and find the answers you need.
Before getting started
While clothing tags can look like they’re written in secret code, it is important to check the manufacturer’s care instructions before washing any new garment. These brief instructions or symbols let you know if products like bleach can be applied to the clothing, how hot or cold the wash should be and if the garment needs to be dried in a certain way to avoid altering its shape.
Here’s a quick guide explaining what each laundry symbol means:
How to pre-treat stains
What you need: White King Colours Stain Remover.
How to do it: Deep-set stains from things like grass, food, make-up and oil often don’t come out in a typical wash unless they’re pre-treated with a stain remover first. That’s why it’s best to keep a bleach-free stain remover in your laundry so that it can be safely applied to both colours and whites. Just spray it directly onto the stain, work it in with your fingers or a soft brush, and allow it to sit on the fabric for about fifteen minutes before adding the item to your washing machine.
Choosing the right cycle: Machine wash as usual (or handwash if this is recommended). If the stain is mild you might not need to wash the item at all. Instead spray the stain, rinse it clean with cold water and then dab it dry.
Words of caution: It’s always a good idea to do a patch test before using stain remover on a new item of clothing. Try applying the stain remover to an inconspicuous patch, like inside the collar. Avoid using stain remover in conjunction with fabric softener.
Drying off: Air dry your item in case it needs further treatment, or otherwise the heat from the dryer could set the stain.
How to wash white clothes
What you need: White King Premium Bleach.
How to do it: White clothing tends to lose its brightness over time, but if it’s made from cotton, rayon or linen, you can revitalise it with bleach. If the garment’s tag specifics that it needs to be handwashed, add a fifth of a cup of bleach into half a bucket of water. Gently submerge and agitate your item (make sure you’re wearing gloves and that the room is well ventilated), then rinse thoroughly. If the garment can be washed in your machine, toss it in and start your cycle. Dilute four-fifths a cup of bleach with one litre of water and add this solution at the end of the fill cycle. Then let the wash run as normal.
To remove a nasty stain, it’s best to soak the item in a solution of bleach and cold water for five minutes before rinsing it off and washing it as usual in the machine.
Choosing the right cycle: Bleach works best in hot water when it’s in the washing machine, but check that your clothing can handle this before setting the temperature. It’s also worth doing an extra rinse cycle to completely remove the scent of bleach from your clothes.
Words of caution: Don’t apply bleach to silk, wool, viscose, rayon, Tencel, leather, acetates or drip-dry fabrics. Sodium hypochlorite, the main ingredient in bleach, will strip or damage the colour from these fabrics. If your stain is acidic – for example, it’s from fruit juice – skip the bleach and treat it with dishwashing liquid instead. Bleach reacts with acids, whereas the oil in the dishwashing liquid will lift the stain.
Drying off: Make sure your stain has been completely removed before adding your garment to the dryer, because the heat could set the stain. Not all items can be placed in the dryer, so double check the label and air dry when in doubt.
How to wash wool
What you need: Softly Wool Wash.
How to do it: Wool is a delicate fabric that requires a mild and specifically formulated detergent. Handwashing or machine washing wool items with wool wash will keep them soft and prevent shrinkage.
Choosing the right cycle: If your wool item can be washed in the washing machine, add a cap of wool wash and run it through a delicate or wool cycle with cold water, because warm water can make the fabric shrink.
If it needs to be handwashed, add half a cap of wool wash into a basin of cold water, then turn the garment inside out and submerge it. Don’t rub the fabric or leave it to soak, but gently agitate the item so that the detergent can sink into the fibres. Rinse it off briskly, without wringing the garment.
Words of caution: If you are machine washing a wool garment, place it in a mesh bag to prevent it from being agitated too much. Wool fabrics like cashmere and merino lose their soft texture over time when they experience too much movement. Handwashing is always the best option when it comes to wool.
Drying off: Roll your item up in a clean, dry towel to remove excess water, and then pull it back into shape. Due to the absorbent nature of woollen fabrics, they can lose their shape quite easily, so you should always air dry your garment on a flat surface out of direct sunlight.
How to wash delicates
What you need: Softly Delicates Fabric Solution.
How to do it: Baby clothes and lingerie made from synthetics, cotton, wool, linen and washable silks need to be washed with special detergent because they are easily damaged. Detergents like Softly Delicates Fabric Solution are designed to gently clean and soften these fabrics. Add half a cap of the solution to lukewarm water when handwashing, or a cap full when washing in a top or front loader washing machine.
Choosing the right cycle: Put your delicates in a mesh bag to prevent them from suffering too much agitation in the machine and use a short, gentle cycle so that they aren’t in the water for long.
Words of caution: Baby clothing should be washed with fragrance-free, pH Neutral detergent that is gentle on infants’ sensitive skin. Always look for this on the bottle before selecting your product.
Drying off: These fabrics are best air dried on the line or flat in the shade depending on the garment.
How to soften clothes
What you need: Huggie® Fabric Softener.
How to do it: If you’d like to make your clothes and linens extra downy, you can add fabric softener to your load of washing. Not only does fabric softener refresh your clothing with a lovely fragrance, but it also reduces wrinkles and prevents static electricity.
Choosing the right cycle: Most modern washing machines will have a fabric softener dispenser inside the detergent drawer. Add the fabric softener the same time you add your washing detergent and then wash your clothes on a normal cycle. If you don’t have a drawer, add the fabric softener to your laundry just before the rinse cycle starts.
Words of caution: Fabric softener can be used on most everyday clothes, though it’s especially effective on sheets, towels and shirts, and best avoided on absorbent clothing like activewear and delicate items like baby clothing.
Drying off: Dry your items as normal. If you’re in rush, throw a clean bath towel in with the garments while they’re in the dryer. It will absorb the excess moisture, making everything dry faster.