A GUIDE TO WASHING LOLITA CLOTHING
I always hear people saying: I do not wash my brand clothing, it's going to bleed out and it ruins the fabric to wash it with these harsh chemicals!
It's time to calm down and look at the stains on your dress, the smell it might get, after wearing it during summer. Anti-bacterial fabric spray can only get you through so much, it's time to guide you through safely cleaning your clothes.
I personally recommend washing everything that you bought 2nd hand, through auctions, sales, swaps and online resellers like Closetchild. You never know where these items come from, how they have been kept and sometimes there are small stains that could be removed with a simple handwash.
Step One: Check The LabEL!
Unless it's 100% wool you can still wash it. Just don't put it in the washing machine.
Cotton and fabric mixed with at least 50% cotton can go in the machine, but not in the dryer.
Don't put any of your dresses in the dryer, even if the label suggests you can: Through spinning and the heat, buttons can be lost easier, and sometimes delicate buttons, like star-shaped ones can rip holes in the fabric when they get stuck in the machine.
Don't put anything fur, organza (a bit scratchier and more stiff than chiffon), wool or heavy fabric mixes in the machine!
All petticoats I have owned so far are machine washable, though you should put those with lace or from brand stores in washing bags designed for delicate clothing. Same goes for blouses with loads of buttons. It will be more crumbled when coming out of the machine, and it will need some steam ironing, but you are safe for losing buttons with that trick.
Also: Detach all bows that are fixed on your items.
If they have a metal clip like a brooch, only wash when dirty, and only handwash them. Some are made with a cheaper coating, meaning the clip can get rusty parts that can discolor your fabric. If you aren't scared of taking it off and if the bows don't have a soft padding inside, you can still wash them in the machine, but also put them in the clothing net, and always wash them with your other items, in case of discolorage.
Discolorage can happen to every piece, but mostly it's darker colors (especially blouses) washing out over the time, but also by UV rays when you display your clothing on a wall or a rack.
Dark blues, browns, purples and blacks will lose a lot of color during the first wash, it's easier to see when handwashing and I recommend these items to always be handwashed, as they will lose less color during that process, as is being soaked for less than 10 minutes, while machine washing will leave it in water for at least 30 minutes.
I have lately experienced the full joy of washing a Pre-2012 print item, meaning it bled out pink on white lace and I thought I'd have lost this piece forever. You can get dicoloring sheets at the drug store, that are supposed to go in the washing machine, however you can use them in your handwashing. After hanging up your dress to airdry, you can use it like a sponge along the lace to catch excess colored water and keep it from discoloring.
Please note that there are some early prints (2000's) that contain reds and pinks that will bleed out of the counturing and should therefor only be dry-cleaned under supervision.
Step Two: Air IT Out!
You can wash blouses instantly after wearing them.
You shouldn't wear heavy deodrant, and not wear deodrant that you didn't test for staining before. I personally recommend bodyspray and deodrant sheets, which are really popular over here in Japan, as they don't leave yellow or white stains and are powder based. Also their smell doesn't stick to clothes as much as spray or roll-on deodrant.
Bodyspray or perfume will cover a lot of smell in public and if you take a shower before getting dressed, it's less bacteria lingering on your skin, so less smell by sweating in the sun.
A lot of smell as in bodyspray, when sticking to your clothing, will fade during the night. Not only does this mean you might have to wash your dress less, it also means you save its lifetime.
Washing is always a little damaging, though handwashing is the least dangerous way.
None of the dresses you own will last forever, but the more you care for it, the longer it will last and it will stay pretty for a long time.
Step Three: Stain Removals!
Get a Q-tip and luke warm water and gently brush over the stain with the wet cotton part, then rub softly with the dry end. If it doesn't come off after several tries, mix the luke warm water with baking soda and repeat. If this also doesn't work you can try a non-toxic washing liquid, that you can find for handwashing at drug stores. Do not use heavy bleach or anything you use for cleaning surfaces! They can eat holes in the fabric and bleach out any color to a bright pink, so be careful!
Step Four: Handwash & Airdry!
First, fill the sink with luke-warm water and handwashing liquid. Do not use normal washing soap powder or fabric softener, as they will stain your items in luke-warm water (20 degrees and under).
Soak your dress in it fully, then wash it off under flowing, cold water and place on a plastic hanger, gently wringing the sleeves and skirt ends. Hang it up in the shower or over the bathtub for a few hours to let excess water drip out of the dress, and when it's warm, put them outside to dry.
Be careful not to put them out during sharp sunny days around lunchtime, and keep a watch, especially when you are living on the ground floor or in an apartment type building on a upper floor. Some neighbours or passer-by's might be interested in what you have hung out to dry.
Especially in Japan, it's a huge issue, so if you had things stolen from your line, watch out of thieves.
Alternatively you can dry it in the airing in a bathroom or under the cold air of your aircon.
Wait an additional night before putting it back in your closet, as excess moisture might still be in the fabric, that you can't feel and that can cause mold if you don't air out your items regularly!