Denim, silk, cashmere and wool: How the hell do you wash them?

Thanks to our brand partner, Electrolux

I have a confession to make: I like my jeans to be so fitted, so snug, that often, I end up washing them after every wear.

I know, I know, it’s bad. I know it’s bad – not because I am a fabric whizz with nuanced knowledge on how to care for my clothes properly – but because my jeans just end up fading really, really quickly. Alas, I know I must be doing something wrong.

Vanessa Cranfield knows all about my denim dilemma, and all the things I should be doing instead. As the owner of South of the Border – a fashion label that’s all about the detail –  and as someone who has studied costume, Vanessa is well-versed in how A) looking after your clothes properly means you will probably have them forever and B) a good washing machine is everything.

So I put the question to her: How do I look after my clothes properly? How do I make sure I am not spending half my pay packet on a leather jacket, only to ruin it with my own ignorance?

Vanessa explains that generally, looking after your clothes properly is one of the most underrated ways to save money and help the environment.

“Correct care of your favourite clothes ensures they will stay looking new and fresh and you should have them in your wardrobe for seasons to come,” she tells Mamamia.

Vanessa Cranfield, owner of South of the Border. Image: Supplied.

"It is important not to wash your clothes every single time you wear them - overwashing isn’t great for the planet and minimises the amount of wear you get out of your clothing. Air them and hang them straight up after each wear."

Vanessa says it's helpful to know if your machine has something called a vapour cycle, which refreshes your clothes without putting them through a full wash cycle.

How to care for silk.

Caring for silk totally depends on the kind of silk you have, Vanessa says. For example, some silks really shouldn't be washed, and in that case, you could always use a vapour cycle or dry clean it once or twice a season.


For those that can be washed, she suggests not falling victim to the common cliché that handwashing is better than anything else.

"The best way to care for most silk garments is to wash them on a gentle cycle in a good front loader, using warm water," she advises. "A good front loader is actually gentler than hand washing as it just sloshes the garment, whereby if you hand wash, you are inclined to wring."

How to care for denim.

For obvious reasons, my ears pricked up when came to finding out how to stop screwing up perfectly good pairs of denim jeans.

"I always wash and hang my denim to dry inside out to ensure that their perfect wash stays that way. The first time I wash denim, I always wash them separately just in case. It is important not to wash your denim every single time you wear them...air them and hang them straight up after each wear.

"Don’t put jeans with stretch in the dryer as the heat causes the stretch fibres to shrink and break. If you really must dry your jeans in a dryer, use the coolest cycle you have," she says.

Some brands don't recommend washing denim at all, so, in this case, a vapour cycle might be your best friend.

"The first time I wash denim, I always wash them separately just in case." Image: Getty.

How to care for cashmere and wool.

According to Vanessa, the best way to keep cashmere or woollen garments in tact is by using a delicate or wool cycle in a good front loader. This, she says, is much gentler on clothes and more thorough than hand washing. However, if you don't have a front loader, hand washing is the second best option, though you would want to be careful not to soak your knits, wringing them or drying them flat.

"It is very important to thoroughly launder and then store your knitwear between seasons. Laundering ensures you remove any body oils, perfumes or deodorants from your knits, as if these are not removed they will cause yellow age marks. Make sure you fold them and pack them away with lavender to protect them from moths," she says.


Other hacks to put in your back pocket.

When it comes to caring - really caring - about the garments she both owns and makes, Vanessa clearly knows her stuff. So naturally, in her back pocket comes a wealth of hacks that may make the caring process for your clothes that much easier.

"If something has fringing, I wash it by itself on the delicate cycle or use a garment bag to ensure the fringing does not tangle with other items. I never, ever dry-clean, soak or wring anything with beading or embroidery," she says.

She also says suede and leather should very rarely be washed, if not occasionally dry cleaned. She adds if you're washing your bras, be careful where the hooks are heading.

"Always wash bras with the hooks done up and use a garment bag so they don’t catch on other items of clothing," she suggests.

And the last tip?

Taking note of something called a detergent premix function - if your washing machine has one.

"There is nothing is worse for your clothes when washing than putting the detergent straight on top of them."

What's your ultimate tip for taking care of your clothes? Tell us below.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Electrolux.