How To Wash Key Fabrics & What Common Care Labels Mean

Your mum doesn’t wash your clothes any more, at least we hope she doesn’t. Therefore it’s time we had a little chat about laundry. One wash does not fit all and if that’s the approach you take then you may find yourself having to replace garments quicker than you’d like.

We’ve already given you a run down of the items that will help make your clothes last longer, but sometimes they do need a little freshening up.

In the interest of your clothes remaining the same shape, size and colour as the day you bought them, here’s a handy guide to caring for your clothes when washing.

Key Fabrics


Despite the hard-wearing and durable properties of leather, it’s advisable to gently remove light dirt with a damp clean cloth that’s non-abrasive. But be careful not to rub excessively as this can damage the hide.

For more stubborn stains, turn to professional care products and follow the instructions to the letter, but not before doing a patch test on an inconspicuous area of the garment in question.

How To Clean Leather GarmentsImage: Massimo Dutti Spring/Summer 2015


First use a suede brush to remove any dirt or stains. If that doesn’t do the trick, stop.

Cleaning suede is a minefield and it’s far better to find a reputable cleaner to do it for you if you value the garment. Once cleaned, ask to have it protected or do this yourself. Even if it was protected before, it needs to be reapplied after each clean.

How To Clean Suede GarmentsImage: Gant Spring 2014


Firstly ask yourself, do I really need to clean these? The best way to achieve long-lasting denim is to minimise washing.

If the answer is yes, turn the jeans (or jacket) inside out and hand wash with cold water. Throw in a cap of protection liquid like Woolite Extra Dark to prevent dulling and fading.

Finally, allow to hang dry naturally – do not use the tumble dryer.

If it’s a smell you’re trying to rid, try popping them in a zip lock bag and sticking them in the freezer overnight.

How To Clean Denim GarmentsImage: Burton Montague Autumn/Winter 2014


Even if there’s a wool setting on your machine, likelihood is the care label will suggest hand washing. This should be done in tepid water to avoid shrinking and be mindful not to pull it out of shape while damp.

Wool should be dried flat and never be wrung out – to remove excess water ball it up and squeeze. To speed up the drying process, try lying it flat between two towels.

How To Clean Wool GarmentsImage: Mango Man Autumn/Winter 2014


Cashmere is fragile and should be hand washed. In a large bowl or bath, add a small amount of Woolite Extra Dark (normal Woolite contains bleach) to warm water. A couple of squirts of baby shampoo also works as an alternative.

Gently move the garment around in the water so the soap suds work through the fabric. Drain the soapy water and refill with clean water to rinse clean.

Drain once again and carefully remove the garment (try not to pick it up by the shoulders as this can pull it out of shape), ball up and squeeze to remove excess water, then leave to dry flat.

How To Clean Cashmere GarmentsImage: Massimo Dutti Equestrian Collection AW14


Silk marked ‘dry clean only’ should not be washed, and even on a trip to the dry cleaners you should ask they use as few chemicals as possible.

Washable silk should still be done with caution in warm water using a mild detergent. Do not soak, boil, bleach or wring out the garment. Hang to dry until slightly damp and press a warm (not hot) iron on the wrong side to remove creases.

How To Clean Silk GarmentsImage: M.J. Bale Autumn/Winter 2015

Learn Common Care Symbols

The average Brit ruins almost £15,000 worth of clothes in the wash over a lifetime, according to research by Cotton USA.

The organisation says less than half regularly check care instructions and fewer than 1 per cent of men are able to identify basic laundry symbols.

While it may appear daunting to memorise all of them, most have just slight variations that can save you the aches, pains and pounds of getting it wrong.

Luckily, detergent brand Persil have come up with an excellent visual guide to what common care symbols mean (below). Read more at

Common Care Labels

Common Mistakes & Myths

  • Hot water is the best option. Wrong, very wrong. Hot water only results in fading and shrinking your clothes, not to mention ageing your week-old shirt by six months.
  • Not separating. This is laundry 101. Washing dark colours, light colours and whites separately helps reduce colour bleeding. Plus whites can be washed on a slightly higher temperature (to reduce yellow staines), which would damage your darks. All your sweaty gym clothes or muddy running kit can have its own alone time, too.
  • The more detergent, the better. Like most things, less is more. Use too much product and clothes won’t get rinsed effectively, leaving them feeling stiff once dried.
  • Not emptying pockets. Whether it’s a handful of screws from a busy day being a man or some cherry lip balm, it’s the quickest way to kill your machine (and your clothes).
  • Anyone who suggests adding coffee to keep black clothes from fading, using chlorine for extra powerful cleaning, or hairspray to remove stains is wrong and not your friend.
  • The sock monster. It doesn’t exist, look behind the wash bin.

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