How often should you wash Lolita clothes?This question has a few different answers depending upon who you ask, or which piece you are talking about, but my answer to this question is: as rarely as possible. Most Lolita pieces are not going to spend much time against your skin, you're going to have petticoats and bloomers and other blouses and probably even undershirts between your main Lolita pieces and your skin. So long as you aren't wearing all those layers on a 90 degree summer day, you're not going to be getting as much sweat on your Lolita as you would on, say, a tee shirt. After you are done wearing your Lolita clothes, inspect them for spots that need to be cleaned, if any, and clean those spots up with a damp washcloth with a little bit of detergent, rub it on the spot and blot up the excess moisture, do this a few times until the spot is clean. Try using a Tide To Go pen if you have one, it tends to be quicker and easier. After that hang your clothes up. This is very important because it helps air them out, and often times simply airing your clothes out will help with any smells on them, either from being places with a strong smell, perfumes, or just the regular smell of your own skin. Keep one of those little scented drawer sachets around the hanger if you are extra worried about any smells. If you follow these simple steps you can keep an item of clothing looking and smelling like it's new for a long time before you absolutely need to wash it.
General washing and wear tipsFirst of all, if you haven't gathered this yet from the intro, never just throw your clothes in the washer and dryer! While you should never put your Lolita in the dryer, especially if it has cotton lace on it, some pieces you can wash in the washer, but you should use gentle detergent, on the gentle cycle, in cold water. Also, you need to make sure you don't load up your washer with a bunch of stuff, especially not towels because they tend to get fuzzies all over your clothes that are hard to get off. Wash only a small amount of clothes at a time, and before you put them in be sure to take off all detachable things such as bows, lace up ribbons, charms, and anything else that you can take off. If you have something that laces up through some delicate lace, be sure to take that out because it can get caught on other things as it's going for a tumble and rip the lace. Bows, if they are very heavy, can also get pulled off and rip the fabric, you also may run the risk of the pin on the back rusting. Chains and charms should never be washed because they will nearly always break. Clothing should also be turned inside out before you wash it, because the piece will fade slightly with each wash and this way it ensures that most of the fading will happen to the inside. Once it's done you should hang it up somewhere out of direct sunlight to dry. Usually a washer gets most of the excess water out of clothing so you can often hang up pieces to dry inside.
If you have a clothing item that was both very cheap and has no cotton lace on it (dryers make cotton lace shrink, shrivel, and get fuzzy), you can, technically, put it in the dyer, but don't keep it in there until it's toasty and warm, put it in for only about half the time you normally would and then hang it up to finish drying somewhere. I use this for a few pieces that are "throw-away" (I hate that term though!) pieces from Bodyline, pieces that typically only cost me about $15 or a few dresses that I consider house dresses.
If you have the time, you should seriously consider hand washing your pieces, it's much more gentle on the fabrics and the trims. If you plan to hand wash, first remove all the bows and ribbons and flip the piece inside out, just as above, then fill up either a clean sink, bathtub, or bucket (don't spray them down with bleach to clean them before hand! Just wipe it down with some soap and water!) with some cold water and add a little bit of gentle washing detergent. Swish the detergent around to get some bubbles and then add your clothes. Swish them around a bit until they are completely wet and soapy and then gently scrub at any areas you think need to be cleaned, such as the armpits or hems. When you feel like it's clean enough take the pieces out and gently squeeze the water out. Don't wring the clothes! Just squeeze gently and then put them somewhere to drip dry. Remember that a whole lot of water is going to drip off a hand washed piece, no matter how good you think you got the water out, so hang it up in a shower or over a tiled floor with a whole lot of towels under it.
How to make sure you don't ruin your printed pieces.Prints are a very touchy thing to clean. Some prints simply can't get wet! If you own a print, especially a rare and expensive one, check out this list on EGL that is a pretty in depth print list that lets you know how you can wash certain prints and what prints you simply can't get wet. If your print is not on the list, or has conflicting reviews, test a small spot somewhere hidden, such as on the back of a bow or near wear the knots in a waist tie would go. Test it by wetting a small spot and rubbing it a bit, let it dry completely and then checking to see if it bled at all. If the print looks sort of fuzzy and the whites look dimmer, beware! You now are the unlucky owner of a print you can't get wet.
So, what now that you know you can't get your dress wet? Well, the first thing you need to do is to avoid the rain! Secondly, you might want to rethink how you wear it, if it's a piece you normally wear all the time, consider only wearing it to special occasions, so it gets dirty less frequently and you have less chance of spilling a whole glass of water on it or getting caught in the rain on your way home from the grocery store. When the time comes to clean it you should stick to very carefully spot cleaning it and airing the piece out.
Caring for velvetsFirst of all, you should be careful when you wear velvets, because if you are wearing something that rubs up against it too much you can easily rub the plush right off the velvet so you end up with bald spots! Avoid wearing tight coats over velvet, be careful where you put your elbows if you have a long sleeved velvet piece (I have a velvet jacket from high school that I rubbed the elbows bald from putting them on tables!), be careful about putting your purse over your shoulder, and just generally be aware of what is happening to your velvet pieces.
When it comes time to wash your velvet, don't put it in the washer or dryer, because it will more often than not, ruin the nap of the velvet. Instead you should practice very gently spot cleaning it and hanging it up to air out.
If you need to get wrinkles out of your velvet, you can't iron it. If you have very slight wrinkles, try hanging it up in a steamy bathroom (this works well for other lightly wrinkled pieces too), usually this is enough to get the wrinkles out. If it is very heavily wrinkled try steaming it, either with a steamer or by setting an iron to steam and holding it above the velvet. Don't press down on the velvet with the iron, as it can ruin the nap of the velvet by pressing it down.
Cleaning fake furThere are a number of Lolita pieces that are made with fake fur, ranging from trims to stuffed animal purses, to accessories. If you spill something on fake fur you should stick to gently spot cleaning the area. If the piece is very dirty there are a couple of things you can do, you can either put the piece in a pillowcase, tie the top of the case, and then put it in the washer on gentle and then when it's done in there remove it from the case and hang it to dry somewhere. You can also actually dry clean fake fur pieces with cornmeal, but this technique works best for small pieces such as small stuffed animal purses, as you will need a whole lot of cornmeal to cover larger pieces.
To clean fake fur with cornmeal you need to place the item you want to clean in a container with a lid and then cover it in cornmeal, put the lid on and shake it up for a few minutes, then leave it to sit overnight. The shaking will help get the cornmeal in all the crevices and help loosen dirt and the cornmeal should soak up any oil in the fur, pulling grime out with it. When you take the piece out, shake out the extra cornmeal and wipe it off with a dry cloth to get any difficult cornmeal off.
Cleaning and repairing marks on shoesShoes can very easily be cleaned a number of ways, depending upon the type and color of the shoe. My favorite method of cleaning shoes is Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, or any other kind of generic erasing sponge. I've heard that this only works on white shoes because it contains bleach, but a bit of googling tells me that there is actually no bleach in these, and I have had it work on a variety of different colored shoes. I guess, just like everything you clean, you should just check somewhere unnoticeable on the shoe before you go gung-ho and start scrubbing all over the shoe.
You can also buff out scrubs with a little bit of white toothpaste (the abrasive kind, not the gel kind) on a washcloth. Then use a little bit of shoe polish, mineral oil, or even the inner part of a banana peel to make the shoes shiny all over again.
Most Lolita shoes are made out of pleather and are prone to the outer layer of the pleather scraping away on really bad scuffs, leaving the inner, grey material visible. If this happens to you the best thing you can do to fix this is use a little bit of nail polish or permanent marker over the area to make it the same color as the shoe. It's not going to have the same texture or be shiny there any more, but this tends to happen to shoes in only a very small area and it will, at least, cover the marks from far away.
If bows or other decoration falls off your shoe, or the heel starts to peel away, pick up some 2 part epoxy or E6000 glue and glue it back on. Super glue or any kind of water based glue like craft glue or Elmers just wont work.
Cleaning out deodorant stainsEspecially if you wear dark clothes deodorant stains are often a big problem. This can sometimes be fixed by switching deodorants, but, more often than not, is going to happen no matter what. The best you can do to prevent this is to wear an undershirt with short sleeves under your dresses and to wait for your deodorant to completely dry before putting your clothes on. If you still get white stains on your clothes from deodorant you can try a variety of remedies to fix this, but you're going to have to do a bit of experimenting to see what works best for you, and your clothes. Simply scrubbing at the area before you wash it is usually going to help a whole lot. But if there is still some stain left there is a few things you can do, you can either dampen the area with vinegar and let it sit for a while before washing it again, or you can try rubbing the area with a pantyhose. I have no idea what makes it work, but rubbing the deodorant stained area with pantyhose really does work to help get the stain out!
Caring for black clothesKeeping black clothes "new black" is the bane of my existence! I have so many black clothes that I try to keep as black as possible. My routine is typically to wash infrequently, doing the spot clean and air dry thing, and when I do wash, always make sure you use cold water, as hot water will leach the dye right out of the piece! Use a cup of vinegar in your first wash to help lock the dye in (don't worry about it smelling like vinegar! Vinegar is a common home remedy for clothing care and the wash will get the smell out). Also buy some special detergent made for dark clothes to further help keep the dye in.
Even following these steps, there will come a time when your black clothes simply aren't as black as you would like any more. When this time comes you might want to reconsider redying them. Black dyes are sometimes tricky, as they are usually a very dark brown, or green, or purple, not actually black, so do a bit of research into what brand is the best brand of dye to use when dying something black. Even if it's a little bit more expensive than the $2.99 dyes, you're going to be using it on a very expensive piece of clothing, and honestly I think it's very much worth it to get a dress to look new again.
Keeping whites brightThe first thing you should know about keeping whites bright is don't bleach! You shouldn't actually be bleaching any of your clothes besides possibly gym socks. Bleach will just drastically shorten the life of your clothes and it can eat holes in delicate fabrics even after only using it once. Instead, look for some Oxy Clean or try to find some bluing. Many people swear by soaking clothes for a few hours in Oxy Clean to brighten them up. Bluing is also something that has been used to brighten up white clothes for centuries, what it basically is is a very very slight blue dye that is used to cover yellowing in white clothes, making them look brighter.
Those are all the tips I can think of for taking care of Lolita clothes! Nearly all of these are ones that I have been using faithfully ever since I started wearing Lolita, but, as I said before, I can't guarantee that they will all work on everything you need to clean or fix. Try a few things out and figure out what works best for your clothes, your budget, and your schedule. Also, check out this post by The Ugly Duckling on caring for your clothes for a few more tips, as we both had the same idea to write about the same thing around the same time, she just beat me to it!
What do you do with your wardrobe? Do you meticulously hand wash everything? Just throw it in the washer? Or send it all to the dry cleaners and let someone else deal with it? Have you ever had any major laundry catastrophes? I actually managed to ruin one of my first printed pieces because I had no idea at the time that some things couldn't be washed! It was an older Metamorphose print, Sweets Collection, that I tossed in the washer and it came out fuzzy and the lace sort of greyish! That had since scared me into very carefully washing all of my Lolita clothes.