It’s the dreaded moment we can all relate to. You take off your new outfit after a long day and get ready to throw it in the washing machine with the rest of your laundry, only to have your eyes fall in disgust on the care label now poking, almost mockingly, out of the collar: Hand wash only.
So begins the tiring but inevitable argument with yourself:
“Do I really need to hand wash this?”
“Can’t I just use the gentle cycle on my washing machine?”
“What’s the worst that could happen?”
You begin weighing the value of the item and its importance to you up against the likelihood of damage and the potential cost of repair or replacement, all in an attempt to determine whether you can justify risking a machine wash, and I don't blame you! The convenience of the washing machine is, after all, almost too powerful to resist when compared to the often messy, skin-damaging, and time and energy consuming process of washing by hand.
Nevertheless, you should keep resisting, because washing machines, even on gentle cycles, can damage certain fabrics, contributing to both immediate, short-term damage like rips and tears, and more subtle, long-term fading and fibre erosion, all of which ultimately reduce the longevity of our garments.
If you’re feeling a little powerless against the allure of your washing machine, never fear, because we’ve compiled some handy facts about these machines that are bound to motivate you to at least occasionally opt for the safer, hand wash routine. So the next time you find yourself reaching for your washing machine, try to remember that:
- Machine washing certain clothes risks the breakdown of fabric and antimicrobial properties, and more easily clogs up fibres, reducing moisture wicking properties.
- Although washing machines may seem hassle-free, they require regular maintenance and routine checks. This is because faulty internal components expose your clothes to risk of damage. Website builddirect.com notes that even something as basic as a faulty agitator, the appliance that helps to agitate clothes during washing, can prevent proper removal of detergents, leading to fibre breakdown and colour fading, not to mention potential skin irritation.
- Any loose embellishments or straps can easily become entangled in the washing machine, leading to potential tearing. Such loose components should therefore be removed or tied tightly to the garment before machine washing, making it generally much safer and sometimes even more time effective to wash these items by hand.
- Even small holes and tears should be patched up before washing, as exposure to a machine can greatly exacerbate minor damage. In such instances, it may be safer and more time effective to wash by hand.
- Machine agitation, even on a gentle cycle, can snag, tear and stretch fabrics, leading to potential damage. As fashion designer Kate from Kat the Label shared during our recent Q&A: “I know from experience that throwing them [delicates] in the washing machine is never a good decision … Garments with fabrics as delicate as mine can get caught on other garments, zips, hooks etc., which can tear the fabric. The actual spin cycle of the washing machine can also damage the fabric as it was not designed for such conditions.”
- Garments with zippers, Velcro and hooks can actually harm the washing machine itself by scratching the drum and eventually leading to costly repairs or replacements. Hand washing or at least using a mesh bag for such items is therefore recommended to keep your machine in good working order.
It’s clear, therefore, that washing machines can both affect and be affected by a number of fabrics in a myriad ways. Although throwing all your clothes in the washing machine may be tempting, checking labels and following care instructions is the most important step in preserving your garments and potentially saving you both a lot of time and money in the long run.
Can’t be bothered with conventional hand washing? Try the new Allurette gentle washer, the portable, electricity-free device that makes caring for "hand wash only" items easy thanks to its internal, ultra-gentle wash board. Combining the care of a hand wash with the convenience of a machine wash, Allurette promises to safely clean your clothes in just minutes, all while saving electricity and keeping your hands clean and dry.
The next time your laundry becomes the arena of that all too familiar machine vs. hand wash debate, retrieve these facts from your arsenal to defend against the allure of your washing machine! It’s the best way to keep your clothes looking as new and fresh as possible!