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Call me a Professional Handwasher

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In this blog post, I will be giving advice on how to clean and care for all of your beautiful garments! I for one have learned what to do and what NOT to do when it comes to hand washing, dry cleaning and just maintaining the quality of the clothing. 

In this business, I have experienced many learning curves, and to my surprise how to clean the garments was one. I have made plenty of mistakes when it comes to cleaning my garments, and I hope by reading about my mistakes, it allows you to speed past and not make the same mistakes as I did. 

To begin with, I would like to explain the many reasons why I choose to hand wash my garments rather than popping them into a machine or taking them all to a dry cleaner. 

I choose to hand wash the majority of my garments for various reasons:

1. It is more delicate on the fabric - this ensures longevity of the garment

2. It is a quicker process - so it allows me to clean and dry it quicker than a typical dry cleaning service

3. It is cheaper for myself and our customers - we avoid the big cleaning bills 

4. I get control on how the garments are washed, and if it gets ruined, I have only myself to blame (some would say I am a control freak)

5. My mother has been a huge advocate in hand washing and has passed me down her wisdom

Please note, this is a recommendation, and what I personally do. It may not be the "best" way to clean your dresses, but this is what works for me. I cannot emphasise this enough, if your garment tag says, dry clean only, I recommend not following these steps outlined. 

Now moving onto the negatives of handwashing - it has been the reason for our garments to get ruined in the past. So I should write up about both sides of this technique

My technique of handwashing has known to:

1. Cause patches of discolouration in some fabrics

2. Cause the garments to shrink 

3. Cause the garment to lose its shine


What you will need:

1 x large bucket


Gloves - as the chemicals on your hand may irritate the skin (especially if you already have dry/sensitive skin)

My personal favourite products to use are:

Persil liquid washing powder (is it still called a powder if it is in liquid form? Who knows). This washing liquid is so good when it comes to fake tan marks, it is tough on the stains and it also leaves the garments feeling fresh and clean. This product is what I use the majority of the time. I will refer this as the "blue stuff" as I use this term when I talk about this product day to day. 

  • Cost: $8-11 at your nearest supermarket (this normally lasts me 1-2 months depending on how many garments I wash)


Sard Wonder Soap (this is literally a bar of soap type thing, and it has been known to get out tough stains). I use this if the Persil did not work. This has a neutral smell, it won't leave your garments smelling fresh. 

  • Cost: $3-5 at your nearest supermarket (this lasts a VERY long time, we have only ever gone through one in the last three years).


Steps when cleaning my garments:

1. Check the garment tag - majority of the time, it says it can be handwashed

2. Identify the marks that you want to get out, make sure you know where it is. Sometimes, I lose track of my marks, and when it gets wet I can no longer see it, and have to wait for it to be dry again. (If it is easier, pour the blue stuff into the lid of the container, dab your finger in it, then place it onto the mark you want to get out)

3. Fill up a bucket of warm-hot water, I like my water quite hot, as it helps with getting the stains out. Fill it up, so it is 3/4 full (I recommend getting a wider bucket rather than a narrow one. The one I use I got from Kmart for like $3). 

3. Pour in a swirl of blue stuff into the bucket. I make sure this is mixed in by swirling around the water until there isn't any product sitting on the bottom of the bucket

4. The mark you dabbed earlier with your finger with the blue stuff, dunk it in the water. Then give it a good scrub with your hands. Keep scrubbing until the mark disappears. If you need more blue stuff, then dab more on. 

5. Repeat until all marks are out. 

6. If all marks did not come out, you can try the following:

  • Use hotter water, sometimes this helps to lift the stains off
  • Use wonder soap instead of the blue stuff
  • Scrub harder

7. If all of these steps fail, sadly the mark may not be able to be lifted. You could always take to your trusted dry cleaners and see if they have better luck. 

After all of those steps, and if you have washed quite a few garments, your hands should look shriveled up and in need of some pampering. On rough fabrics, my hands get quite raw when I scrub, you may need to toughen up your hands, I suggest maybe doing some finger weights perhaps? Just joking, your hands will toughen up with time. 

* Please note, this is only a recommendation, and following these steps may not be successful, it may also lead to damage to your garment. I hold no responsibility, I am just outlining the steps I follow in my head when I'm washing garments 

Those are basically the steps I follow when I clean my garments. I would not recommend using these products on the following fabrics:

  • Delicate silk (e.g., brands like Miss Crabb are very sensitive to chemicals and any chemicals on there may cause discolouration. When taking it to a dry cleaner, I suggest mentioning this to them). There are many types of silk fabrics, Miss Crabb for one has been so hard to clean, whereas brands like Camilla still use silk but are more durable.
  • Sueded silk (e.g., Zimmermann dresses, I have caused discolouration to these fabrics by using the technique outlined above, especially if they are made from suede silk).
  • Cream coloured fabrics (I have had many cream coloured fabrics, and when I use either the blue stuff or the wonder soap, it has caused it to go white, rather than remain cream, if you make this mistake, perhaps blue stuff the whole garment so it is white rather than cream and just pretend it was meant to be white in the first place, haha). 
  • Some fake tan marks -  I haven't pinpointed which fake tan causes a bright pink undertone when it comes in contact with hot water. But many of my garments come back with lots of fake tan marks, sometimes it is very easy to get them out (all you have to do is dunk it in hot water with a little bit of scrubbing with the blue stuff), and other times it has been a nightmare. The most common fake tan brands that people use are bondisands, sugarbaby and loving tan. If I had to take a guess which one causes this bright pink undertone, I think it may be sugarbaby. If the fake tan marks are really bad, I would take it straight to dry cleaning, as it works best if the marks are fresh and haven't been attempted to be removed.


Now, let's talk about dry cleaning. Dry cleaning has been a 50/50 experience for me. It has ruined a few garments of mine and they have come back with stains that I later managed to get out with handwashing. But on the other hand, it has been able to get out stains that my handwashing technique could not (for example, oil based stains are VERY hard to get out with the hand washing technique, but dry cleaners are able to get these stains out). 

Signs to look out for when you should admit defeat and drive to your local dry cleaners, before attempting hand washing

  • Lots of dark fake tan - I recommend not to attempt this yourself, as there is a good chance that it may turn bright pink. Give it straight to a dry cleaner, as they should have better luck with it
  • Oil patches on silk garments 
  • Bright alcohol stains on light garments

Suggestions when choosing your Dry cleaner:

1. Make sure the price is right. With the move to the big smoke, we have noticed a large price surge on dry cleaning services. We were paying $9.50 per garment in Dunedin for dry cleaning, but in Auckland, the average price was $25 and sometimes $30+ for a silk garment. I don't know why there needs to be a sudden increase in pricing, to be honest. I would have thought there would be more of a demand for dry cleaning up north due to the increase in population, so there should actually be a decrease in prices? Or perhaps, because there is a bigger demand, they can afford to be higher in costs? But who knows how these work, and there isn't anything I can do about this.

2. Check the turn around time frame of your garment. On average it should only take 48 hours for a garment to be ready to be picked up. So if I take in a garment to be dry cleaned on Monday morning, I expect to be able to pick it up Wednesday. But obviously, this is a case by case scenario, if the garment has A LOT of stains on it, the dry cleaner may ask for more time, which should be discussed before you commit to leaving it with them

3. Make sure they have a policy which states if they ruin it they pay for what the garment was worth. A lot of dry cleaners don't offer this policy, as they know there may be a lot of factors involved that could ruin a garment, and they don't want to lose money by paying you if they ruin it. But a good dry cleaner should have this policy in place, as they believe that they know what they are doing is correct and will know how the fabric is going to react to certain chemicals. 

4. If the dry cleaners missed a mark that you pointed out while you were handing it over, see if they can re-do their process at no charge. Most dry cleaners offer this, and you shouldn't have to pay for their services again if they missed a mark. But if they said they tried everything to get that mark out and couldn't without damaging the garment, trust their word for it, or attempt to hand wash it yourself at your own risk.

We have had dealings with many different dry cleaning companies, within Dunedin, Tauranga and Auckland. And the following are my recommendations to which dry cleaners have worked best for us.

If you are in Dunedin - I highly recommend Brocklebank Dry cleaners. They are professional and efficient. You can find them here, you can also use their services through other stores, just look for their logo on shop's windowsill. Looking good alterations uses them, and they are just across the road from New World in town, in that alleyway that connects New World to the main st of Dunedin. 

  • Prices: $9 - $16 (if you ask for it not to be pressed, it ends up being cheaper)
      • I must say, Brocklebank Dry cleaners has been far the best dry cleaning service we have tested out. The cheapest by far, and the best. We created a working relationship where we brought them all of our dry cleaning and in return, they would dry clean ours as quickly as they can at affordable prices. 

    Even though Tauranga is becoming a "mini Auckland", there was a severe lack of dry cleaning companies. There was only ever really one company, which was Pristine Dry cleaners on Cameron Road. We weren't operating in Tauranga for long, so only used their services twice. 

    • Prices: around $30 a pop!
    • I don't feel comfortable giving a full review on this company as I only tried out their services once during a busy time period (Christmas and New Years). They managed to get out the marks that were on the garments and upheld their end.

    Auckland has been far the biggest struggle when it comes to finding the right dry cleaning company. The prices sky rocketed and it took longer for our garments to get dry cleaned. This was causing a havoc to our business which meant we had to look at different dry cleaning companies. I stumbled across, Laundromap. This is a pick up and drop off dry cleaning service. They would come pick it up from your house at a charge of $3 (could be different depending on where you live), and drop it off within 48 hours after pick up.

    • Minimum cost for a dry cleaning on a dress is $25 including the pick up fee, this does not include silk garments. Silk garments were $33 + pick up fee. 
    • Pros: Hassle free, you download their app, and order through there. They come to your house, and pick it up then drop off when it's done. It is also within a great time frame, so if I ordered a dress to be picked up on Monday midday, it will then be dropped off around 1pm Wednesday! Now talk about quick!!! They are also a friendly team, and always keep you in the loop. If there is a delay, they will ring you up and inform you of this. If they need to try a harsher chemical to get the mark out, they will ring you to make sure this is okay! They operate quite late, so can pick up quite late and drop off late too!
    • Cons: The price difference from the dry cleaning service we used in Dunedin is quite high! It also takes a bit longer if you find marks on the dress after it has been delivered to you, they have to come pick it up again and it ends up being a long process. I have had to re-send a few garments back again, paying at a discounted price for it to be re-dry cleaned. Now, they have offered it to be re-done without the extra charge. 
    • I talk about that the price of dry cleaning is quite high for this company, however this is the average cost of any dry cleaning companies within Auckland. This was a shock to find out and definitely a last resort when it comes to getting our garments dry cleaned (we do not charge the dry cleaning fee to our customer if we can avoid it). 


    Now, all of my secrets are out on how best to look after your gorgeous wardrobe!

    If you have any dilemmas that you would like me to personally address, just leave a comment and I will try my best to answer it!

    And if you have any secrets you may have in stain removing techniques I would love to hear them!


    Happy renting,

    With much love

    Saejung Oh  


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