Fabric Care

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How often should your clothes be cleaned?

Unlike oil changes and food freshness, clothes don’t come with instructions about how frequently they should be cleaned. Some people have a regular rotation, whereas others rely on the wrinkle or sniff test.

There’s no right answer. It varies with heat and activity during the garment’s use, how much someone perspires and whether the garment gets stained. The Dryclean & Laundry Institute offers helpful guidelines developed from a survey of consumers who were asked how often they wore specific garments before having them drycleaned.

Guidelines for Clothing Care

Outerwear Monthly during the season and then before storage
Dress Every third wearing
Skirt Every fourth wearing
Blouse Every other wearing
Laundered Shirts After every wearing; at the most every other wearing
Polo shirts After every wearing
Khakis or casual pants Every other wearing
Dress pants Every third wearing
Suit Every third wearing
Sport coat or blazer Every third wearing
Wool or cotton sweater Every third wearing
Silk sweater Every other wearing
Eveningwear, tuxedos After every wearing


Q. “A cotton blouse that I haven’t worn for a while has a mysterious tear. I don’t recall snagging it on anything. What could have happened to it?”

A. Mysterious holes sometimes develop in cellulose fabrics such as cotton, linen, rayon, acetate and blends of these fabrics. The damage may appear as a circular hole, tear, or weak, thin area with no particular shape. There are two basic causes: one is the result of the fabric coming in contact with a strong alkaline bleach such as chlorine. This can occur if clothing gets wet from swimming pool water, for example. Acidic substances can also cause damage, including fruit juices, soft drinks or foods like tomatoes or lemons. Sulfuric and hydrochloric acids can also cause damage. It’s important to clean clothing quickly after coming in contact with these substances.

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Coats, Outerwear

Q. “Can you offer some tips on how I can make my coats last longer and still look sharp?”

A coat is something that people see you wearing every day. Here are some practical precautions to keep your winter coat looking its best:

• Wear scarves to avoid soiling the collar–particularly for leather and suede coats.

• Avoid hanging the coat by its “neck” on a coat rack. Use sturdy hangers (not wire) and allow “breathing” space in the closet.

• Air-dry wet coats at room temperature. Never expose to heat unless directed by the care label.

• Treat stains immediately to keep them from setting.

• Clean the coat at least once during the season.

Q. “I was looking at my winter coats and wonder what you might suggest for taking care of them?”

A. There are some practical precautions to take with winter coats. Here are a few important ones:

* Wear scarves to avoid soiling the collar–particularly for leather and suede coats.

* Clean the coat whenever it is soiled and at least once during the season and once before storing in the spring.

* Air dry wet coats at room temperature. Never expose to heat unless directed by the care label.

* When cleaning, make sure you follow the care label instructions.

Many times, winter coats don’t fare too well. They get pushed to the back of the closet. We’ve even seen some left hanging on hooks where they get out of shape. Proper care depends on the fabric. Coats made of wool, leather, and suede may require more care than those made of other fibers. You can hang them on padded hangers (helps keep the shape) in a well-ventilated closet. But have them cleaned before putting them away. You want stains to be removed before setting. You may take a coat out the first time that cold weather hits, only to find a “hidden” stain. It wasn’t visible when you put the coat away, but time caused it to appear. Finally, never, never store coats (or any garments) in plastic bags. Doing so promotes light damage and mildew. It also dries out leather coats.

Q. “I picked up my all-weather jacket from the cleaners and the fabric looked blistered. The marks were all over the jacket. What happened?”

A. After the cleaning and/or steam finishing process, noticeable damage and loss of the smooth fabric shell surface appears on many all-weather coats and jackets. In some cases, the surface of the fabric shows small points of indentations or “blisters” that appear randomly throughout the garment. In other instances, there can be severe separation or loss of coating which causes waves, puckers, or bubbles of the shell fabric.

Did the drycleaner cause the problem? In most cases, the problem was caused by a coating or synthetic facing applied to the reverse side to aid in wind resistance, water-repellency, and to give body and shape. Some of these materials, or the bonding agents used for construction, are not resistant to drycleaning solvents or the heat of drying or pressing after cleaning or laundering. There is no way for the drycleaner to determine in advance if the suggested care process is appropriate for the particular fabric.

Q. “I’ve been disappointed in the water repellency of my winter raincoat; on rainy days my clothing has gotten wet. What do you suggest?”

A. Raincoats and most foul weather outerwear are water-repellent and not waterproof. Whereas, the fabric of waterproof clothing (such as GORETEX(r) and Conduit(tm)) is waterproof, a surface repellent is applied to most fabrics to create water repellency.

There are various qualities of repellent and different ways to apply them. The drycleaner may be able to repel the coat twice or make suggestions for improvement. There are also products available at hiking and ski stores that can be applied for further protection. Be sure to test a small area, if you try one. Spray on a small, concealed area and let it dry. Then put water on it to test for repellency.

If the rain is very heavy, it is unlikely that any water repellent coat will keep you completely dry. It’s still a good idea to carry an umbrella.

Q. “I have a lightweight jacket that really comes in handy for much of the year. I’ve had it over four years and it has remained in style. I was very disappointed when I got it back from my drycleaner with bubble-like wrinkles that I can’t smooth out. What can I do?”

A. It sounds as if the bonded foam inner layer has separated from the shell fabric during cleaning. Age is a factor in foam laminates because the foam itself has a limited life cycle and deteriorates over time. If your jacket had not exceeded its life expectancy, then the manufacturer should be held responsible; however it sounds as if it may be time to purchase a new one.

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Q. I have a dress with a sequin trim that I want to have cleaned. What do I need to know about cleaning this type of dress?

A. This is the season for sequins! The first step is to read the clothing care label. Some labels say, “spot clean only.” Some sequins are sensitive to heat and may curl or distort during the cleaning process.

However, the major problem is the possible loss of sequins if they are glued to the garment rather than sewn. If glued, the garment cannot be drycleaned since the glue can dissolve. In this case, it may be possible to wetclean the garment, depending on the particular type of cloth.

You should know that after cleaning, sequin trim might experience a color change. It may occur the first time the garment is cleaned or it may be progressive. It can occur whether it’s dry- or wet-cleaned.

In any case, your cleaner should test the garment before proceeding with cleaning.

Q. “While taking an appetizer at a cocktail party, I spilled my drink on my silk dress. Embarrassed, I quickly found some water and tried to rub it out. The spot only became worse and now the dress is ruined. What should I have done?”

A. If you are wearing a silk garment, blotting the stain with a dry cloth is the only safe choice. After blotting, have the garment dry cleaned as soon as possible–within 24 hours if possible. Be sure to point out the spot to the dry cleaner along with what was spilled.

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Fabric care

Q. “How can I tell the difference between real and imitation suede?”

A. Natural suede is made by the abrasion of leather to produce a napped, velvet-like surface. Imitation suede is made one of two ways–synthetic fibers in a non-woven construction or with a flocked pile adhered to a woven or knit base. The flocked pile type is easily recognized by the base fabric. The non-woven is often difficult to distinguish from the real thing. If both sides look alike, chances are it’s imitation since the real suede tends to have an uneven surface on the inside. Also, if the clothing care label indicates that the garment should be cleaned like any other fine fabric, it is probably imitation. Real suede should be cleaned by an acceptable leather-cleaning process. Imitation is usually labeled dry-cleanable.

Q. It’s that time of year to wear more wool garments. Do you have any suggestions for proper care?

A. After each wearing brush your garment with a soft but firm bristled brush to remove the dust that collects between the fibers. When hanging garments, be sure to empty pockets, hang on a wooden hanger in a space where they can breathe. Wool needs air to renew its shape. Always fold knit garments and store flat or folded over a padded rod of a hanger to prevent shape distortion.

If you notice any surface stains rinse with cool water before putting away. Clean wool garments regularly – cleaning removes soil that is abrasive to fibers.

Q. What is the best way to clean spandex fabrics?

A. Spandex is a synthetic fiber that has high elongation and recovery properties, which means it can be stretched five to six times its original length. Because of this characteristic, it can return to its original length without loss to its “springiness.” Despite its ability to stretch, spandex can experience a high degree of shrinkage if it is not cleaned properly. It’s important to follow the care label instruction closely. If the care label indicates that laundering is an acceptable process, avoid using chlorine bleach since this can lead to discoloration, strength loss and eventually cause the spandex fiber to break. Since high heat (446 degree F) can melt spandex, avoid high temperatures during pressing.

Q “How should I clean Rayons and “washable silks?

A. The answer (as you might imagine) is a bit complicated–but taking time to get the facts may help avoid an unpleasant situation. Both Rayon and “washable silks” dry clean very well. Washing, however, may damage garments containing sizing and/or dyes that are sensitive to water. To avoid unnecessary problems, follow the care label on the garment. Then, if a dye should run, for example, you can return it to the store where it was purchased indicating that you followed the manufacturer’s instructions.

Q. What should I be aware of in caring for silk garments?

A. Silk is easily degraded by mineral acids. This means that perspiration, for example, causes discoloration and weakening of the silk fabric. Here’s the important point: To help avoid unnecessary degrading, silks should be cleaned immediately after soiling to avoid staining.

Aluminum chloride, a common ingredient in deodorants and antiperspirants, will also stain silk. To help avoid staining, let deodorants dry thoroughly before putting on a silk garment. Alkaline substances, such as soap, toothpaste, shampoos and other alkaline toiletries, may irreversibly spot silk.

By all means, do not bleach silk with chlorine bleaches. Silk deteriorates over time with exposure to oxygen in the air. To help avoid this problem, silks should be stored in dry, dark, and cool conditions, preferably in acid-free paper.

Q. Linen clothes are so cool during the summer, but they wrinkle badly. Is there anything that can reduce the wrinkling?

A. On a hot, humid summer day, a linen outfit is indeed cool and thin, but your outfit will wrinkle. Perspiration, combined with the pressure of sitting, will cause deep wrinkles in this natural fabric. You can help reduce the wrinkles by hanging up the clothes, rather than depositing them in a pile for your next trip to the drycleaner. Your drycleaner can let you know if starch and sizing will help. There are many factors that come into play when caring for linen-the degree the fabric was pre-shrunk, composition of thread and trimmings, the dye used, tightness of weave and construction of textile-that will influence the effectiveness of treatments for crease resistance. Wearing it soft and natural may be the best answer.

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Q. “What is the best way to keep knits looking good and maintain their shape?”

A. 1. Keep knits clean. Treat stains immediately. When spills are blotted immediately and professionally removed, stains are not as likely to develop..
2. If a sweater or cape gets wet (and they do!), let it dry at room temperature away from the heat and then brush with the nap.
3. Store knits on a closet shelf or in a drawer, when possible. Light and medium weight knits can be hung over padded hangers, but heavier knits tend to stretch when hung. Never hang knits from the shoulders, and be sure to empty the pockets, and remove the belt. Weight only serves to distort a sweater’s shape. Also, close zippers.
4. Gently brushing woolens and other sturdy knits with a soft, light-bristled clothing brush will remove dust, pollen, and crusty food and help keep them fresh longer.

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Q. “Can you clean neckties successfully? I have taken several to other cleaners and have been disappointed in the results.”

A. Proper necktie cleaning takes special care. We give neckties extra attention, blocking them carefully, while making the edges look as soft as possible. Our customers seem pleased with the way we handle their neckties.

It isn’t just stains that soil a tie. Every time you tie a knot, soil and oils from your fingers are left on the tie. A good practice is to wash your hands before handling a necktie.

Q. “How can I be sure that the dyes in a necktie won’t run? I have had this happen several times when trying to take out a spot with water.”

A. Many neckties contain water-soluble dyes. They bleed when they come in contact with moisture. Unfortunately, there is no way to know how a dye will react to water before you purchase a necktie. Most people find it out only when trying to remove a food or beverage stain.

Q. I have become quite attached to two of my neckties and wear them frequently. They are stained, but I hesitate to clean them. What do you recommend?

A. It happens to all of us. We have a favorite tie and no matter how careful we are, we spill food or a drink on it. And you are correct-the bias cut and delicate fabrics (most ties are silk) make ties difficult to clean and properly pressing ties is an art. Unfortunately, not all stains can be removed. But here are a few suggestions to help you extend the life of your favorite ties.

1. When you remove your tie, don’t pull it off, but remove it gently. If you loosen the knot enough to slip the tie over your head, you avoid pulling the tie around your shirt collar. Each time you pull it around the collar, the bias cut weakens, the material is stressed and the interlining can separate from the shell. Over time, your tie will become uneven or rippled.

2. When shopping for new ties, remember ties that are the same color as the lining provide the easiest care. Although dark ties may hide more stains at first, as the stains age they become darker and more obvious. A yellow tie with any shade of red or dark blue is more likely to bleed when it gets wet than other color combinations.

3. If you get a stain on the tie, immediately blot with a clean dry cloth. Do not use a napkin and do not rub. Don’t apply water or liquid to the stain-it may set the stain or cause the colors to bleed. Bring it to a drycleaner as soon as possible-the longer a stain remains, the tougher it is to treat and remove.

4. Discuss your ties with the drycleaner. If the tip has become uneven, the edges frayed or a stain has set, ask what the results of cleaning will be. If the tie can’t be restored to your satisfaction, it may be time to retire the old favorite.

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Pants, Shorts

Q. “Today, a good pair of denim jeans is a staple in most wardrobes. What’s the best method of care? “

A. While the variety of brands, styles, shades and hues is enough to make one’s head spin, the costs can be equally as daunting. To keep your jeans in top form requires proper care, which may vary with your investment.
Professional drycleaning keeps jeans looking newer, fitting consistently and lasting longer and is a good choice for your dress and expensive jeans. They will stay soft and won’t shrink or become “thin” as quickly.

If you do want to wash them at home:
* Follow the instructions on the clothing care label
* To minimize dye crocking, always turn them inside out
* Keep the temperature of the water cool, but not cold
* Don’t use detergents with bleach or bleach additives
* Wash alone – do not mix with other items
* Be sure to clean your dryer lint screen before using the dryer
* Never over dry them; use low heat in the dryer or hang dry them
* If machine dried, remove the jeans when they are 90% dry to reduce the chance of shrinkage
* When finished hang, rather than fold your jeans to avoid a white line eventually appearing in the crease area

Q. “I’ve only worn a pair of slacks a few times and find tiny ‘fuzz balls’ on the seat and thighs. Even after washing, I can’t seem to get them off. Is this normal? What can I do about it?”

A. It is caused by friction or abrasion during wear and occurs in such areas as under the arms, collar, inner thighs and elbows. Sometimes careful steaming and brushing with a stiff bristled brush will remove some of the fuzz balls. If the garment is quite new and had limited wear, the manufacturer should be responsible because of the limited serviceability of the fabric. Surprising as it may seem, manufacturers can make mistakes in fabric selection and discover problems (such as fuzz balls) only after receiving customer complaints.

Q. “I dropped off a pair of tan pants at my cleaner. When I got them back, they looked more green than tan. Why would the color change? Is it something the cleaner used on the pants?”

A. Very often two or more colors are combined to give a fabric a desired shade. When it comes to the care of tan pants, it is important to check the care label. If an item of clothing such as your tan pants is washed according to the care instructions, it should not lose or change color. If they are drycleaned, a component of the dye is removed exposing a green color. This can also be a progressing condition that only appears after several cleanings.

Q. “When I washed a new pair of bright green capri pants, the color faded. What can I do?”

A. Manufacturers sometimes use dyes that aren’t colorfast. Always check the care label for cleaning directions. Turning the garment inside out and washing in the coolest water possible will often help reduce fading.

Q. “I love all the new options in shorts. The knee length and Bermuda shorts, particularly in the whites and neutral colors that are hot this summer, are great options for special outdoor events. Many seem to be a combination of cotton and lycra and say “dry clean only”. Do I have to dry clean them?”

A. Although some cotton and lycra shorts can be washed and air dried, it is always best to follow the clothing care instructions. Cotton/spandex can shrink when washed and have wrinkles after drying that are difficult to iron out.

Q. “I’ve heard that plain, simple dark jeans are “in.” My denim jeans always seem to fade, streak and look sloppy. How can I keep them looking fresh?”

A. According to New York fashion writer, Stephanie Rygorsky, “Jeans are going to get darker and darker for the fall.”

Although fading and streaking occurs because the dye may not be completely colorfast and in some cases does not properly penetrate the yarns. Rubbing off the surface color exposes the undyed portion of the fibers and white streaks and light areas appear. Over time, more of the dye is lost, and the jeans fade. The shade variance may be uneven with the edges and seams appearing frosted or having a more pronounced lightening.

To help reduce fading, turn the jeans inside out and wash in the coolest water possible. Cold water will reduce the shrinkage and fading. Hang, rather than fold your jeans, because a white line will eventually appear in the crease area. Avoid rubbing stains as this can pull the color.

But for dress jeans or to extend the life of your jeans, drycleaning is your best option. It helps keep them soft and they do not shrink or become thin as quickly. Drycleaning will also preserve the color, fit and look of new jeans longer than washing.

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Shirts, Golf Shirts

A great choice for golf attire is a smart casual polo shirt. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your golf shirts and keep them looking good at the end of the season.

1. Think comfort and style. Choose a fabric that breathes easily, like cotton, and a fit that allows you to comfortably move through a full swing.

2. Avoid dark colors. Long exposure to sun on a nice day on the fairway can ‘bleach’ out the dark hues in your golf shirt. While the sun can take its toll on lighter colors, the damage is more apparent on darker garments.

3. Don’t delay cleaning or hand laundering your shirts after a day of golf to prevent permanent staining. Perspiration, deodorants and tree sap can interact with the dyes in your shirt and cause color changes and discoloration.

Remember, perspiration stains may not appear right away.
As the damp area dries, it leaves an invisible stain that will darken and harden with time, weakening a garment’s fabric.

4. Apply suntan lotion and let it be fully absorbed into your skin before putting on your shirt or shorts. When lotions come into contact with your clothes, they can cause discoloration.

Q. “One of my favorite pinstriped shirts is about two years old and it looks as if bleach were spilled on it. What caused the loss of color?”

A. If you examine the shirt closely, you will probably find that the colored pinstripe yarns are missing, leaving a skeletal framework of the white yarns. The colored yarns are dyed with fiber-reactive or sulfur-based dyes that can degrade with repeated laundering. As the shirt nears its life expectancy, the colored yarns can simply wash away. While there are many factors that affect the useful life of a shirt, the average shirt begins to show signs of wear at 35 to 50 washings.

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Q. “Our family is taking up skiing. Do you have any suggestions to prolong the life of our skiwear?”

A. Skiwear is an investment and most is made of high quality fabrics that will last if properly cared for. Constantly exposed to the elements, skiwear needs to be cleaned often to prevent permanent soiling. Pay close attention to the care label. Skiwear is complex with outer fabrics, inner linings, and protective coatings and it is critical that the care routine you use is right for the fabric. Pay careful attention to rips, tears and weak areas-they can become major issues if not identified early.

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Suits, Sports Coats

Q. “It seems that suits have returned. My office is requiring that I wear a suit and since I tend to perspire a lot, I’m worried about the warmer weather. What do you suggest?”

A. The pendulum of workplace fashion is swinging back to suits, blazers and dress shirts. Fortunately, men’s suit makers have introduced new materials to add comfort in the warmer months. We see poplin suits that have polyester fibers designed to move moisture away from the body; “featherweight” suits that are made with higher yarn counts and lower weight fabrics; suits made of high tech fabrics that are similar to the wicking material used in running clothes; and suits with linings removed or partially removed.

It’s best to explore all the options to see what is most comfortable for you.

Q. “I had my sport coat cleaned and several of the yarns pulled out during cleaning. These yarns are thicker than the rest of the yarns and are soft. What happened to my jacket?”

A. Some manufacturers are using soft, fuzzy chenille yarns in men’s clothes. The chenille yarns, which are not securely or tightly woven into the fabric, pull out, resulting in a snagged appearance. This damage may have originated from rubbing and abrasion in use, but may be further aggravated by the necessary agitation in cleaning.

Q. “What happened to my nice wool blazer? It’s not as soft as it used to be.”

A. Many garments, such as blazers and winter coats, have a very soft surface nap. Sometimes a degree of matting or distortion of the nap occurs that changes the texture and appearance. Usually, distorted nap appears as pilling or balling up of the fabric surface with the texture becoming rough or matted. This often occurs from wear or abrasion or overall from the agitation of cleaning. Most soft napped wearing apparel has an average life expectancy of 2-3 years, but the overall appearance and texture should not be permanently altered in this span of time. There are ways to soften the nap, including steaming and brushing. If soft-napped garment feels rough after cleaning, it was probably pressed too long and hard and can be easily corrected with re-cleaning and proper steaming.

Q. “I purchased a matching skirt, pants and jacket as separates. After having the skirt dry cleaned, it was no longer the same exact color as the two other pieces. I think my dry cleaner should pay for skirt, don’t you?”

A. We could call this “The Case of the Suited Separates.” In the store, all three pieces seem to be identical and they may be. However, variations in color may be seen in daylight. Since they are “suited separates,” they may be made in different workrooms from cloth from different dye batches. It’s also true that one of the separates may be cleaned more often than the others with some loss of color, depending on the quality of the dyeing. You also want to check to see if the care instructions in the three garments are the same. If not, you may want to choose the separates that have the same cleaning recommendations.

Q. “I love the loosely woven jackets with the frayed edges, but I’m concerned that they will not hold up over time. What is your opinion?”

A. Fancy/novelty yarns create wonderfully interesting decorative effects in fabrics and can be a great hit for the fall and winter. They can be made from a variety of different fibers such as bouclé, slub, nub, corkscrew, and ratine yarns.

But you are correct-these fabrics may have problems with durability and maintenance. Due to the irregular twist and yarn structure, they tend to snag easily, have decreased abrasion resistance and wear rapidly.
Their looser structure also makes them prone to stretching, shrinkage and yarn slippage. This problem can be progressive and worsen after several cleanings.

Taking extra care with jewelry, watches, belts, handbags, and buttons that have pronged settings can help reduce snags. Reading and carefully following the clothing care label instructions will also help prolong the life of the jacket.

Q. ” I recently replaced a gabardine twill jacket because it developed a shine in the shoulder area. How can I prevent this problem from reoccurring?”

A. When you buy a fabric with a “sheen,” it can become shiny from friction or excessive wearing. Friction from sliding in and out of a car, carrying a briefcase, backpack or purse across your shoulder can put pressure on the fabric and cause it to shine. Rotating your wardrobe with other, easier-to-maintain fabrics such as wool, flannel and tweed will result in a longer life for your jacket.

Q. “Can you offer some tips on how I can make my suits last longer and still look sharp?”

A.Suits are a wardrobe staple for both men and women. They can last a long time if cared for properly. Here are tips that can help extend the life of your suits:

1. When you shop for a suit, consider the fabric as well as the style. If you wear your suit repeatedly, look for sturdy materials and if you travel often, look for wrinkle resistant fabrics.

2. Don’t overload your pockets, which can strain the seams.

3. Be conscious of how you carry a briefcase, purse or backpack. If you carry it across your shoulder, the weight can distort the shoulder pad area and cause the fabric to shine.

4. Unbutton your jacket before you sit down. Also pull the pants/skirt up at the thigh when you sit so you don’t pull the fabric too much.

5. Hang your suit on a good wooden hanger.

6. Air your suit for about 24 hours before putting it away. It will help dry moisture and rejuvenate wool since it is a natural fiber.

7. In your closet, avoid cramming it in between lots of other clothes, which could cause it to wrinkle.

8. Depending on the quality of the dye, there may be some color loss when cleaned; therefore, it’s best to clean the pieces of your suit at the same time. If you buy “suited separates”, be sure that the care instructions are the same in each garment and carefully examine the color of each garment in the sunlight. It’s possible that they are made from different dye batches and have a color variation.

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How to Fold a Sweater

Since hanging sweaters can cause them to lose shape or stretch, the best way to store sweaters is to fold and place on a flat surface, such as a drawer or closet shelf. To avoid wrinkles or bulges, you’ll want to be sure to fold them properly.

Q. “What do I need to know about buying and caring for cashmere sweaters?

A.According to the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute, which tests garments to assure that labeling meets industry standards, the popularization of cashmere in the last three years has put a glut of substandard cashmere on the market. For example, a white cashmere sweater should not yellow as it is not bleached and no brighteners are added. Better grades of white cashmere are the yarn’s natural color, a softer shade of white that’s somewhere between white and ecru. Purchase your sweaters from a reputable company, look for a brand you trust, check the label to ensure it is 100% cashmere, and ask about the testing policies for verifying the label information.

Here are some tips to make your purchase last longer:

• Allow your deodorant to dry completely before slipping into your sweater.
• Don’t spray yourself with perfume while wearing cashmere because it stains the fiber.
• Extra yarn usually comes with a good cashmere purchase and it should be saved for reweaving needs, if the sweater is torn or has holes.
• If the sweater is stained, have it drycleaned as soon as possible.
• Fold sweaters with tissue and store flat in a drawer or on a closet shelf.

Q. “A couple of my thin fabric sweaters have stretched out of shape. Is this due to the way they are cleaned?”

A. In the cleaning business, this is known as “the classic Jersey knit problem.” The weight of the garment can cause it to stretch just by being worn or hung up. This tendency to stretch can be aggravated by the action of the cleaning and finishing process. We take the precaution of placing these knits in a mesh bag for cleaning and dry them at a reduced temperature. We make sure there’s no pressure or stress on a garment during the finishing process. This extra care produces very pleasing results.

Q.”It’s the time of year for sweaters. What should I know about taking care of them?”

A. Because there are so many different sweater fibers–acrylic, angora, camel’s hair/cashmere/mohair, chenille, and wool–it’s important to understand the care for each one. Here are a few care tips:

• Pay close attention to the care label. Don’t assume anything. Acrylic, for example, can look like wool. The care of each can be quite different.

• Keep sweaters clean. Treat stains immediately. When spills are blotted immediately and professionally removed, stains are not as likely to develop.

• Give your sweater a good shake after each wearing to remove fluff and dust.

• Brush your sweaters after each wearing. This helps revive the nap, if there is one, and removes any surface soil.

• If a sweater gets wet (and they do!), let it dry at room temperature away from the heat and sunlight that can cause fading and then brush with the nap.

• If a button falls off or a small hole appears, repair the sweater quickly. The hole may get bigger if left unattended.

• Carefully remove any fuzz balls, also called “pills,” that seem to grow on a sweater. These are caused by simple wear and rubbing. To remove the pills, carefully use a sweater shaver, depilling comb or even the hook side of Velcro. Avoid pulling them off as this can further damage the fibers.

• Fold sweaters with tissue and store flat in a drawer or on a closet shelf. Avoid hanging sweaters from the shoulders because weight distorts a sweater’s shape.

• If washable, make a pattern of knit sweaters before washing by tracing the outline of the sweater on a large piece of paper. This will help block it back to its original size and shape.

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Q. “Is there any special care I should give to my swimsuits?”

A. Yes. The major problem is residual chlorine left in swimsuits. It can cause damage to the fabric. Most of us hang swimsuits out to dry and then put them away. Because of the possibility of chlorine damage, swimsuits should be rinsed out before hanging them out to dry. Then, launder them before storing away during the winter.

Q. “Do you have any suggestions to help prevent my bathing suits from fading?”

A. While chlorine is essential for keeping the water in swimming pools bacteria free and safe, it can cause your swimwear to lose color and fade, if not promptly rinsed. Salt water and hot tubs can also speed up the aging process.

Here are some care tips:

• Hand wash the suit (if you must put it in the washer, use a net bag and select the ‘gentle’ cycle).
• Fully disperse a mild detergent in the water BEFORE placing the suit in it, and take care to rinse thoroughly.
• To dry, gently roll the suit in a towel to remove excess water and then air dry, away from the sun.
• Avoid sitting or laying on abrasive surfaces, since they can cause the elastic fibers in your suit to ‘snap’ and snag.
• Be careful when applying sunscreens, oils, self tanners and insect repellents. They can react with the dyes in your suit and cause a color change!

And here’s a non-clothing care tip – don’t be careless around the water and never swim alone!

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Q. I am having trouble with zippers that won’t go up after washing. Some are made of metal, but most are plastic. Are zippers really this much of a problem?

A. When this happens, the cause is usually using too much detergent when washing the garment at home. This tends to remove some of the lubricant in the zipper. An easy way to solve most zipper movement problems is to run a candle up down the teeth once or twice. In the case of plastic zippers, some drycleaners may press a garment at a higher than appropriate temperature and damage a zipper. In this case it will need to be replaced.

Q. “Members of our family have their favorite baseball-type caps that get very dirty. What’s the best way to clean them so they look good and the bills don’t loose their shape?”

A. Here are a couple of suggestions. First, you can gently hand wash a cap in mild dish detergent. After rinsing, let it air dry. Second, you can get an inexpensive plastic cap form that’s made to keep the cap’s shape while being washed. The big problem in washing a cap is the bill. Since it usually contains cardboard, it can bend and even become badly distorted while being washed. The hat form, which is available through stores and catalogs featuring household items, helps solve this problem. Once the hat is in the form, it can be washed in your dishwasher. Avoid high temperatures since they can melt the plastic form and the plastic hooks in the back.

Q. Can lights in a closet cause fading?

A. Yes! Use low wattage lights in closets and allow no direct sunlight from windows or skylights as sun fading can result.

Q. “I’m a soccer, football and basketball mom. And by default a kids’ uniform caregiver. It seems like a full-time job…and it is. With new uniforms, how can I keep the colors from running and bleeding when I wash them?”

A. This is a popular question this time of year. While laundering is certainly the best way to remove heavy soiling from kids’ uniforms, check the care label for instructions. Bleeding of colors is often caused by water-soluble dyes. Some manufacturers recommend washing in cold water, since colors often bleed if washed at a higher temperature (such as mesh jerseys). Uniforms are usually dried at low to medium temperatures, although for some synthetics air-drying is recommended.