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Red Wine on Your Winter Whites
Last week, while vigorously stirring up a salad dressing, I spilled olive oil all over my boyfriend’s new suede dress boots—the ones he had specifically chosen to wear in honor of the play we were en route to see that evening. (In my defense, he was hovering over me as I tried to navigate the kitchen, but still, I was mortified.) I sprang into action—before realizing I had no idea what that action might be. Namely, how do you get olive oil out of suede?
I flirted with Google’s idea of dousing the stain in WD-40 (oil on oil?), which apparently—it’s similar to lighter fluid (the stuff your local dry cleaner is made of)—effectively removes grease. Instead I skeptically called my mother, whose advice was to cover it in cornstarch: Sprinkle, wait 10 minutes, wipe it off with a dry cloth, and repeat until the stain is gone. It worked pretty well, actually.
Image: vintage bridesmaid dresses
But it also made me realize that I have no idea how to sustainably care for the expensive clothing purchases I make. (I am ethically opposed to the dry cleaner for aforementioned reasons.) I’m unable to swiftly erase red wine from a silk blouse, or to clean my new ivory felt fedora without warping it. Once, while wearing a natural-color pair of cotton Céline pants, I knocked a latte all over my lap. Rather than treating the stain, which I had no idea how to do effectively without resorting to the dry cleaner, I had them professionally dyed a dark navy.
And so I visited The Laundress’s newly opened flagship store in Soho for a pep talk, where cofounders Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd are holding seminars this month to teach customers how to save their favorite pieces from the messy holiday season. Whiting waves her hand at my excuse that my New York City apartment is too small to handwash clothes—I refuse to mix and mingle my laundry with my dishes in the kitchen sink. “We developed this company on a fifth-floor walk-up with no laundry either, so as far as we’re concerned, everything can be done,” she says. Whiting says her products go against grocery brands that are “just ‘wash’ period.” Silks, cashmere, and wool, “they aren’t Tide appropriate, nor are they dry-clean appropriate because everything is always getting ruined from the dry cleaners,” she says. So with New Year’s Eve around the corner, I asked Whiting and a few fashion designers who specialize in hard-to-care-for fabrics to give us their best tips and eco-friendly trade secrets for avoiding even the most disorderly holiday traditions—like Aunt Alice spilling wine on your carpet, or Cousin Dan dripping gravy down his favorite white shirt.
PROBLEM: The wrinkles won’t come out of your silk slip dress.
SOLUTION: Samantha Margherita, a former designer at Free People and the cofounder of Day Space Night, spends her days making 100 percent silk digital prints. “This delicate fiber needs a lot of TLC to travel through the decades,” she says. “An old textile professor once taught me that silk fibers have an insane memory. For example, if you wet silk and scrunch it into a ball it will hold its shape and keep the wrinkles forever. This is why it’s important to gently wring your piece with a towel after washing, then hang it to dry so it keeps its shape.”
PROBLEM: Your cashmere sweater looks like it’s covered in tiny pom-poms.
SOLUTION: Kelli Dugan, lead merchant at Everlane, suggests using a disposable razor to remove pills from cashmere sweaters. “Just remember to do it gently, so you don’t cause any holes!”
PROBLEM: Your party dress smells like it’s been partying a little too hard.
SOLUTION: Manuel Ruyman Santos, design director at Reformation, says a great (and eco-friendly) way to remove odors from clothes without washing or dry cleaning them is to spritz them with vodka. “Mix vodka and water in a spray bottle, about a 60//40 mix, and liberally spray on the garment,” says Santos. “The vodka dries odorless, kills bacteria, and removes any smells as it evaporates.”
PROBLEM: Trimming the tree left you with sap on your Stella McCartney.
SOLUTION: “We treat sap the same way as chewing gum,” says Gwen Whiting, cofounder of The Laundress, who recommends their Wash & Stain Bar. Wet the bar, keep the fabric dry, and work the sap until it clumps into a ball, “so you can just pull it off,” she explains.
PROBLEM: Your ivory felt fedora flew into a dirty puddle.
SOLUTION: Milliner Gigi Burris stresses that you must not wet the hat, which can warp the shape of the brim. Instead let the hat dry and the dirt crust, before covering the hat in baby powder. “Let it sit for 30 minutes before dusting it off. It lifts stains and makes the piece smell so fresh!”
PROBLEM: Your grandmother goes in for a kiss, and plants red lipstick on your silk blouse.
SOLUTION: If you get lipstick on a silk blouse or dress, Dugan’s trick is to take a piece of clear tape and smooth it down on the stain before ripping it off swiftly. “This usually does the trick in removing most of the stain,” she says.
PROBLEM: Your very sweet, very affectionate aunt just rubbed her foundation all over your collar.
Also Read: black bridesmaid dress
SOLUTION: For makeup mishaps, particularly on cottons or silks, Whiting suggests removing as much as possible by wiping it (very gently) with a damp lint-free cloth. Spot-clean with Wash & Stain Bar. Afterwards, use a damp lint-free cleaning cloth to lift the stain and suds.