Brand Washing Directory
Do you wear lolita? Do you clean your clothes? Great! Please take a moment to tell everyone a little about your laundry experiences!
Looking to wash something? Take a look at this chart to see what experiences other people have had washing the thing! You can view the full version in google sheets, or skim the embedded version below.
- List of What Can and Can’t Be Washed – EGL 2010
- Updated/Compiled List – What Can/Can’t Be Washed – EGL 2014
Different Cleaning Methods
Dry Cleaning – dry cleaning uses a non-water liquid solvent to clean garments. The solvent binds to things like dirt, dust and oil particles and they are lifted from the garment. This is good for items that are not water safe.
Hand Washing – Washing a garment with a gentle detergent by hand in a sink, large bucket or wash tub is good for delicate items that are water safe. The water and the detergent bind to things like dust, dirt and oil particles and they are lifted from the garment.
Machine Washing – Washing a garment in a washing machine is like hand washing, but it’s a little rougher. This can loosen more dirt, but it can also damage items. This is best for water safe items that are not as delicate. Use mesh laundry bags when washing items with delicate details, straps or waist ties in the washing machine to keep them from getting caught or tangled.
Steaming – A garment steamer uses hot water to relax wrinkles in a garment. Steaming is faster and easier than ironing and works great for ruffles. However, use caution: steamers can “spit” water droplets! This can damage items that are not water safe, and can also burn you. Steamers also can get pretty hot which can melt some plastic based fabrics and trims. Use caution not to get too close, or hold the heat in any one spot very long when steaming any sort of mesh lace or sheer material.
Because a steamer is hot, steaming a garment can be a technique used to refresh a garment by killing bacteria that causes odors and removing wrinkles. Some dryers have a steam refresh option that functions this way as well. While this is good in a pinch, keep in mind, however, that this does not remove any dirt or oil from the garment, so it’s not a good solution for cleaning garments on a regular basis.
Ironing – Ironing uses heat and pressure to flatten material. It’s good for pleats, and anything you want crisp and flat. It’s safest to put a towel between your garment and the iron to help prevent scorching the the garment. If you iron uses steam, keep in mind that steam is water and can damage items that aren’t water safe. When ironing, make sure you are ironing on top of a surface that is heat (and/or water) safe. Don’t iron on your wooden floor or table!
Vodka Spritz – This can be used in combination with other cleaning methods, or on items where you have no other option. Cheap vodka is lightly spritzed over the garment, focusing on areas that are prone to odor like the arm pit area. This does not remove dirt, oil or stains. It only removes (to a degree) odor, primarily by killing odor causing bacteria. Do not saturate the garment. Keep in mind vodka is part water, so this may not work for items that are particularly sensitive to water.
General Washing Tips
Before You Start
Read the tags, first and foremost. Wikipedia has a great guide to laundry symbols. Laundry symbols are usually on tags inside the lower side seam of the garment, near the hem.
Remove any detachable items. Pin on bows, waist ties, etc. These can pull on the spots where they are connected to the garment, causing damage when the garment is wet. Pin on bows rarely need to be cleaned, and can likely be spot cleaned.
Test to Make Sure It’s Water Safe
When washing a new item at home, always test a small area that is not visible first. For example, the corner of a waist tie, or a bit of facing fabric on the inside of the bodice. Put a small amount of cold water on the spot, and then blot with a paper towel. If color comes off on the paper towel, the item will bleed when wet and may need to be dry cleaned. Let it dry. If the spot you wet looks different from the surrounding area after it dries, it may need to be dry cleaned.
Some items are not color fast, and washing them in water will cause the print to wash out. This can not be repaired. Use caution when washing anything from an indie brand that may have used spoonflower around or before 2013-ish, older items from Alice and The Pirates / Baby that are marked dry clean, and some older items from Angelic Pretty listed as prone to bleeding in the guides above.
Items that are dark or bright in color, especially black or red, frequently will have excess dye that may loosen from the fabric the first time the garment is washed. Always wash things alone in ice water the first time you wash them, and use color catcher sheets for items that are of concern.
Cold water (or cold water plus ice) is safest for most water-safe items. Warmer water can cause bleeding or shrinking.
When drying items, air drying flat (on a towel or on a drying rack) is the safest, followed by hanging and air drying. Blot garments that are dripping wet dry by laying them between two towels and gently rolling them up before hanging them to dry. Do not hang a garment to dry if it’s excessively heavy when wet, or has elastic or particularly delicate straps. Instead opt to dry flat.
Never dry a garment in direct sunlight; sun will bleach the garment. If you want to use a machine dryer, use mesh laundry bags, and the delicate setting. Opt for cooler drying options over warmer ones. Remember, heat shortens the life of elastic (in socks, or shirring!).
Stains & Bleeding
Heat sets stains. If you have something that has a stain on it or has bled, do not put it in the dryer. Vinegar and salt set dye, don’t use vinegar or salt to try to remove dye that has bled on a garment.
Ink – If you got ink from a pen on a garment, try rubbing alcohol (aka the old hairspray trick).
Makeup – Makeup remover, just like with your skin.
Food Stains, Yellowing on cotton – Try soaking in ice water + oxyclean for a few hours.
Blood – Treat as soon as possible. Scrub with ivory brand bar soap and cold water. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used as an alternative, but test an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t lift the color from a the piece if it’s not a white garment.
Dye bleeding – If loose dye from one area has stuck to a lighter area, rise garment in ice water until the water runs clear. Then, add color catcher sheets to an ice water bath. Use a soft toothbrush to massage a gentle detergent into the areas where the excess dye is, rinsing frequently. Soak in oxyclean overnight for stubborn parts. Rinse thoroughly, and monitor while drying. If attached trim is bleeding onto the garment, blot with paper towels as soon as you get the stain lifted, and try using a hair dryer and paper towels to dry the area once the stain is gone to prevent it from re-bleeding onto the garment.
For a more in-depth guide see: Raine’s Guide: What to do if the Dye in a Dress Bleeds
Can I use….?
Bleach – Bleach damages fabric, and will shorten the life of your garments. While it can be used on white items as a last option to remove stains, it should be avoided. Never use chlorine bleach on colored items.
Vinegar – Vinegar may set dye stains, so use caution when laundering with vinegar.
Special Care for Velvet / Velveteen
When cleaning velvet / velveteen be careful not to put pressure on it, especially when it’s wet or it may cause a pressure mark. When hanging velvet, do not use ‘clip’ style hangers or clothespins, they will leave marks.
If you get a pressure mark in a velvet item, you can use a scrap piece of velvet / velvet ribbon to fix it. Follow this tutorial and just go very gentle with it so you don’t pull the fibers out and cause a bald patch.
Bald patches (spots where the fibers have been pulled out) aren’t really fixable.
How Often Should I Wash This…?
Socks / Tights – They touched your feet, and now contain smelly foot bacteria, wash them every wear! Air dry to prolong their life.
Bloomers – If you wore tights under them and underwear, you can probably get away with every other time if you weren’t sweaty, but I personally wash mine every wear. They tend to be cotton and they tend to be machine washable, so it’s easy to just throw them into the wash. If you aren’t wearing bloomers regularly, I recommend it because they help keep your petticoats clean longer.
Petticoats – These typically don’t touch your skin as much as other items of clothing. I recommend washing them any time the waist band gets sweaty (because ew), but if you have a blouse tucked into your petticoat and it’s not touching your skin, you can probably go with once every 7 – 14 wears or so? You don’t want to over wash it and shorten it’s life, but you also don’t want it to sit around with oils from your skin or worse, stinky sweat in it! For petticoats that are made of cotton, organdy, voile or organza, hand wash and air dry, or machine dry on gentle / cold. For hard tulle petticoats, you likely will need to reshape and starch after washing. Because that is a hassle, you might want to wash those less often.
Blouses / Cutsews – Every wear. It touched your armpits and now it contains smelly armpit bacteria. Blouses are also really prone to yellowing from your skin oils. Most blouses can be washed with water, and many can be machine washed on delicate though!
One pieces – Ideally, every wear, though some people may be able to wear a dress twice in a relatively short period of time. If you would rather wash every other wear, wearing a tank top or other type of undershirt type undergarment can help protect the dress.
Jumper Skirts / Salopettes – Every wear, or every second wear as long as you didn’t get anything on it, but do not leave unwashed for long periods of time or you will get yellowing. If you wore the JSK without a blouse, see the entry for OPs.
Skirts – Every wear, or every second wear as long as you didn’t get anything on it, but do not leave unwashed for long periods of time or you may get yellowing on the waist band. If you want to wash every other wear, wear a tank top or blouse tucked in between the skirt and your skin.
Headbows – USE CAUTION. Headbows, likes the ones from Angelic Pretty, that have metal headbands inside are prone to rust damage when washed. If you typically wear a wig, and your headbows aren’t touching your skin, you may want to simply skip washing them most of the time unless they get something on them. If you do clean them, try blowdrying them on cold to help prevent rusting.
Coats – Once per season if you wear them on a regular basis, or if they get something on them.
Boleros / Cardigans – Somewhere between every wear and every third wear depending on how often you wear them, and if they got sweaty or not. If you are wearing them so that they don’t touch your skin (over an OP or blouse) you can go a few wears between washing. If you are wearing them instead of a blouse, that pesky smelly armpit bacterial is gonna make you want to wash them every wear.
In general, please don’t leave things that touched your skin unwashed for weeks on end. Your natural skin oils will cause yellowing and discoloration to your clothing, ultimately ruining it. Don’t be so scared to wash your clothes that you ruin them from neglect!
Also, it should go without saying, but make sure you clean things before selling them. You also generally should assume the last person didn’t clean things before selling them to you, and should clean second hand items before wearing them.