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The Garment Care Bible | How to wash and care for your clothes

You asked and we listened! We have had a few little birdies asking us about the best solutions for washing or caring for your birdsnest outfit. Let’s face it, we’ve all had the moment we’ve pulled something out of the dryer and it’s basically half its original size or pulled a pink top out of the washing machine that was white when it went in *insert frustrated face here*. Now, one rule doesn’t suit all, garment care has a lot to do with the fabric make up as well as colours and features of each garment. You wouldn’t necessarily stick your black denim shorts in amongst your white work blouses… detrimental I tell you! As for hard and fast rules on washing and ironing, there are none but we’ll give you some key tips on how best to care for the items in your closet.

Each fabric is completely different in regards to its care requirements and generally there will be a tag on an inside seam of your garment that will clearly state the best way to care for your garment and you’ll also see a series of symbols representing the ironing and washing requirements. Some of these are quite simple, for example… dry clean only. This means don’t go sticking it in the machine on your ‘quick 30’ cycle on hot. DRY. CLEAN. ONLY. The other things you can refer to are general rules of thumb, we generally wouldn’t recommend utilising a dryer for many garments, a) there is always a risk of shrinkage and b) you will see over time that the fabric starts to get worn due to the heat and spinning nature of the cycles.

All about fabrics

There are so many fabric blends out there and available these days, however we’ve chosen to focus on the few most common ones our garments are made out of here at birdsnest. There are both natural and synthetic or ‘man made’ fabrics and we thought we’d take you through each and what its general characteristics are.

Linen

Everyone knows that linen is a gorgeous natural fibre, it’s derived from the flax plant and not only is it cool to wear, it just feels beautiful on the body as well as being a la naturale! Linen is a heavier weight fabric and typically one that will crush pretty easily, for example you may wear a linen pant, sit in the car on the way to work and find lines around the pelvis area from sitting down BUT it’s so easy to wear and generally you can iron fairly hot to correct any lines or crushed patches. The majority of linen garments will require a hand washing or dry clean only as they are quite prone to shrinking and also crinkle quite easily.

Cotton

Just like its bestie linen, cotton is also a natural fibre derived from the cotton plant. It’s slightly lighter in feel than linen but still gives its wearer maximum breathability and is an element of many garments including denim which makes it quite a rigid fabric. Cotton is very common in things like our t-shirts but often mixed with other elements such as elastane to give it stretch. Cotton garments can be one of those that shrink up with washing on hot cycles or excessive heat from drying but generally ok to go on a cold wash cycle and line dry.

Wool

We here at birdsnest are MASSIVE fans of our wool garments, not just because they’re super warm but we’re also based on the Monaro in NSW which is known for its production of wool! Now it’s no secret that wool comes from the fleece of animals such as sheep and alpacas. Wool garments can be tricky to care for if you’re not familiar with them so definitely keep this in mind. Wool garments are generally best washed in dedicated wool detergent (which you can buy from any supermarket) and please please please birdies we BEG you to refer to your garment care label on this one. Can be prone to shrinkage or also clumping/matting if washed incorrectly.

Cashmere

Many of us have heard of cashmere as it’s known as a ‘luxury’ fabric. It’s so beautifully soft, warm and super silky to wear on the body. It’s a little lighter in weight than its friend wool but still gives a lovely warmth and can generally be found in our shrugs, wraps or ponchos. Again, this is generally blended with something such as cotton. Another one to definitely refer to your care labels on, like wool it can shrink and also get matted in effect from excessive or vigorous washing.

Silk

Ever heard the term ‘soft as silk’, this one is a natural fibre too and also considered a luxury fabric because of its beautiful feel against the body. Silk is generally known to come from insects, the silkworm predominantly and is a fabric that requires specialised care. Generally silk garments will require dry cleaning and very careful ironing on the correct setting, definitely refer to any instructions you’re given from the label or manufacturer.

Denim

Our FAVE, the ever so awesome denim is mostly made up of cotton but will have elements of elastane for stretch. True denim lovers will know that there are quite a few tips and tricks out there including placing them in the freezer BUT we’re here to let you know denim is generally ok to be machine washed, obviously excessive washing is going to fade your denim in colour and depending on the fabric make up of your favourite pieces, could be prone to shrink with heat. Styles such as black denim may come with an additional tag stating that they are designed to gradually fade with each wash, keep this in mind - your item isn't faulty, it has it's very own unique quality and will change colour over time.

Polyester

This one is quite a common synthetic fabric and is prevalent in many many garments these days and is quite light in weight. It’s generally ok to go in your washing machines, once again we’d encourage you to look for specific instruction on your care label in regards to the temperature and cycle requirements.

Viscose

This one is a synthetic type of rayon fabric and is in many garments nowadays as well, this one can be quite a difficult one in the care department due to the nature of the fabric so just make sure you’re checking how you should approach the washing and drying of your viscose garments. It is said that generally they should be dry clean only or alternatively hand washed, again your care label will outline what you need to do.

Jersey

Jersey fabrics are a knit that may have an element of stretch depending on the variance in weight. It’s made up of both natural and man made fibres, you may have seen us utilise jersey fabrics in some of our dresses or pants, depending on your jersey garment it may be a gentle machine or hand wash.

Bamboo

As the name suggests, bamboo fabric is derived from bamboo! Generally this fabric is a blend with something like cotton and may have an element of stretch. This fabric is known for its soft feel against the body and depending on the garment, may be gentle machine washable or alternatively hand wash.

Leather

I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar with leather which originates from animals. Aside from denim it is one of the heaviest weighted fabrics and is generally utilised in jackets or accessories such as handbags etc. Leather is NOT for washing, we repeat… NOT for washing. It will generally require cleaning by a leather professional or expert.

Chambray

This fabric some may say is quite similar to denim, however it’s much lighter in weight. The make up of chambray is still predominantly cotton and it’s a fabric utilised in a lot of summer garments due to the lightweight nature of it. You’ll see this fabric utilised in things such as shorts, pants and shirts.

Ironing vs Steaming

Here at the Nest, we steam all of our garments, we find it’s less taxing on the fabric of your clothing. Excessive ironing of garments on high heat can tend to wear the items out quicker and limit their longevity (which we know isn’t great sustainability wise). The other reason we love our steamers is because unlike ironing, the garment is hanging so we can get into all those nooks and crannies that we may not be able to navigate while the garment is pressed against a flat surface. We realise it’s not practical for everyone to own a steamer, irons are probably in the majority of households and it’s so important to ensure before ironing each garment to a) check the garment care label for ironing instructions AND b) triple check the heat your iron is set on BEFORE you start… the last thing you want is to iron that gorgeous silk blouse on your linen setting. A recipe for disaster!

Hot vs Cold Wash

Again, there is no one size fits all on this topic. Some garments depending on their fabric make up will shrink if you wash them on a hot wash cycle and over time your colours will be less bright when washing on a hot cycle. Obviously things like your fabric masks (thanks COVID-19) should be washed on hot wash to eliminate any bacteria but otherwise double check the fabric make up of your garment, depending on the combination it may be better on a cold wash cycle to be safe.

To dry or not to dry

This is a very controversial topic, especially amongst my family members! We have to tell you birds that generally speaking, the heat of dryers will wear your garments quicker. Totally unavoidable sometimes we know, it’s been raining for days, the weather is damp and unfortunately you can’t go to work without clothes… this is another moment when laundering your garments that you need to double check that the fabric make up is ok to go in the dryer and to also check the temperature setting. There’s absolutely nothing worse than your top going in long line and coming out cropped because it’s shrunk to half the size. Line drying is preferable to a dryer and sometimes with more delicate garments they will need to be dried flat to prevent marking.

Colours & Whites

Ok… here it comes, straight from the horse’s mouth. SEPARATE your colours and whites. We know it’s sometimes a complete pain to do this and it does take a minute of extra time but we can assure you birdies, you won’t regret it in the long run. It’s absolutely the worst when your fave ‘go to’ white tee gradually turns a murky grey in colour. Yuk! There are even some wash baskets out there these days that come in two sections, one for white and one for colour so it’s easy to just throw them in either one when you get undressed! Done!

Extra special pieces

We know that some of you can be a little extra and have dresses full of sequins in your wardrobes, these unfortunately CANNOT be thrown in your washing machine. Not only can it be detrimental to your garment and it’ll come out missing a few sparkles but they can also hinder the performance of your machine with little bits and pieces becoming stuck in the filter. Another one is dresses, skirts and pants with belts included, make sure you’re taking all the extras off before popping them in the machine.

You’ll find like anything there are just some garments in your cupboard that you have to wash by hand or drop to your local dry cleaners, it’s unavoidable right?! Depending on your care label you may also need to grab yourself a garment wash bag, it’s always handy to have and the best thing to wash your lingerie in (but alas we’ll get to that later). Another option for you to be kinder to your clothing going into the wash is to wash it inside out, a lot of t-shirts with prints will tell you this on their care labels so as to preserve the details on the front. Whatever you choose to do with your washing processes PLEASE birdies if we haven’t said it enough, READ YOUR CARE LABELS they are gospel when it comes to this matter. All of our birdsnest garments have their fabric make up listed online and each and individually have care labels attached to an inside seam, when in doubt about caring for your garment, always do your research it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Love, the birdsnest girls x

UPDATED: This article was first published on 12th October 2021