Common laundry problems solved

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Wash and dry. Sounds simple enough ... until you spill red wine on your wrinkled, white acetate shirt with pit stains. We've got the answers to seven of your most pressing (pun intended) laundry questions here.

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When do you need to dry clean (really)?

If a tag says "dry clean only," it means business. However, clothing tags are required to list only one way to clean a garment, which means sometimes "dry clean" (no "only") is negotiable. In general, cotton, linen, polyester, acrylic, nylon, and some cashmeres, if colorfast (test on a seam), can be hand-washed in mild detergent, like Woolite, and laid flat on a towel or hung to dry. Silk, acetate, wool, leather or suede, and velvet, however, must be dry cleaned. Don't forget about trims and decorative detailing, too, which may shrink, bleed, or fall off if wet-washed.

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How do you get sweat stains out of white T-shirts?

Pit stains are, well, the pits. Many antiperspirants contain aluminum chloride, which reacts with sweat and discolors light fabrics. None are foolproof, but there are a few ways to get rid of these unsightly yellow stains. Turn the shirt inside out and rinse in cold water. For old stains, sponge with white vinegar, let it set for at least thirty minutes, and launder in the hottest water recommended for the fabric. Don't use the dryer, which will set the stain. For new stains, try rubbing with ammonia (1 tablespoon to 1/2 cup water) before washing. If that doesn't work, try Clorox. (But not together with ammonia, unless you want to pass out on your laundry room floor.)

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When do you need to hand wash your delicates (really)?

Your lady clothes are up against your lady parts all day. Don't you think they require some TLC? It depends on the garment-your cotton granny panties and period undies can probably stand to go through a spin cycle or two-but for the most part, it's best to hand wash frilly or stretchy delicates. At the very least, machine wash them on the delicate cycle in a mesh wash bag, and never dry in a dryer.

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How do you get pills off a sweater?

If you wash it, wash it inside-out and air dry it to prevent pilling. There are small electric shavers and fabric combs made for de-pilling, but they don't always work. For a cheaper alternative, brush the sweater very lightly (this is key, unless you want some new air vents in your garment, too) with a disposable razor. There are also special pumice stones that de-pill sweaters. Be warned: they're a little smelly and crumbly, though worth it for a smooth, ball-free sweater.

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