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Weekly and Seasonal Care

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Clothing needs a regular program of maintenance to remove dirt and wrinkles. How often your clothes need to be washed depends on how frequently each garment is worn. But most families find a weekly laundry time necessary. Read the labels carefully so you will know how to handle each article. You find it best to separate dirty clothes into three groups—those requiring dry cleaning, those requiring washing and ironing, and those requiring only washing (such as “permanent press” garments).

When gathering garments to take to the dry cleaner, inspect them for frays, missing buttons and small tears. Either repair them then or make a note so that you remember to fix them later. Further, says Margret Hanson in The Care We Give Our Clothes: “If there are any stains, write on a piece of paper the cause of each stain. Pin the notes to the stains with safety pins. If you do this, your dry cleaner will know how to remove each stain.”

As for those clothes you wash, whether by machine or by hand, it is first necessary to remove any stains. In addition, it is good to keep in mind that clothes will last longer if you strive to keep their fiber strength. Two tips on that: When hand-washing, treat the garment gently and do not wring or twist it too much. Secondly, rinse everything thoroughly so that you remove all traces of soap or detergent.

Some items that you may think of as needing dry cleaning can actually be washed at home if you are careful. For example, take a wool sweater that needs cleaning and spread it out on a clean piece of paper (not newsprint). Quickly trace the shape of the sweater on the paper. You can then wash the sweater in cold water with special cold-water soap or in soft, lukewarm water and mild suds. After rinsing it two or three times in water of the same temperature, gently squeeze out the moisture. Then roll it in a towel, to absorb more water. Now shape the sweater to your drawn outline and leave it on the paper to dry in a place away from heat and sunlight.

Of course, even if your clothes are clean you do not look well dressed if they are wrinkled. Many garments require ironing after each washing. Other garments, however, need frequent pressing. If you do this yourself instead of sending them to the dry cleaner, you will save considerable expense. Pressing differs from ironing in that the iron is lifted up and “pressed” down on the fabric instead of being slid across it. This is usually done on the underside of a garment but may be done on the “right” side if a pressing cloth is used.

Seasonal care of your clothes is mainly a matter of proper storage so that when you want them again they are in usable condition. The key is: (1) A dry, clean storage place and (2) all garments cleaned before storing. You see, moths prefer dirty wool, and mildew (a tiny plant) likes damp, warm places. Also, it is better not to starch clothes before storing, as starched clothes will mildew faster than those that are not. If it is not possible to dry-clean certain garments that you are storing, the next-best thing is to air them thoroughly and brush them inside and out. By doing this you may brush the moth eggs or larvae away. Store your clothes, whenever possible, in airtight boxes, bags, drawers or chests.

But, someone may reason, ‘Even if I do all of this, clothes tear; they get old and wear out eventually.’ This is true, but do not be hasty about throwing away a damaged garment or an old one.

Repair and Remodeling

Anyone, including bachelors, can learn to make simple clothing repairs. If you stop a small rip from tearing farther, you may save an expensive garment. There are books at many libraries on patching and reweaving fabrics. And, as with any job, you need the right tools—so keep a box or basket of mending equipment. Always include a supply of extra buttons; a safety pin where a button is obviously supposed to be will certainly not be attractive.

Once you study the possibilities, the variations are endless. Long-sleeved shirts can become short-sleeved shirts. An old dress can be turned into a skirt or a jumper. A dress with a bad stain on the skirt can be cut off and made into a blouse. Never underestimate what new accessories—such as a scarf, belt or decorative pin—can do for a not-so-new garment. Viewing it as a creative challenge, and daring to experiment, you may find that you are happier with the “remodel” than you were with the original!

When reviewing your wardrobe, note which fabrics have kept that good-as-new look the longest. Then, when shopping, buy with an eye to durability.

Moreover, while it is not wise to become overly anxious about what to wear, remember that often, before you open your mouth to speak, your clothes have “spoken.” A neatly attired person will usually find greater respect and consideration from others—all the more reason to care for your clothing.

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