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The ultimate guide to garment care

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So you know your seasonal palette, and you've invested in colours that make your eyes sparkle and your skin glow. But how to keep those colours (and therefore you) looking vibrant and beautiful for years to come?

Over the years, we've learned a thing or two about garment care here at Kettlewell HQ, so I decided to round up all our favourite tips and tricks for keeping your Kettlewell clothes (and the rest of your wardrobe) looking bright and beautiful for many years to come.

If you can't stand the heat... turn it down

Almost everything benefits from being washed at a cooler temperature when possible. We all know that most wool needs a cool wash, but even cotton and linen can shrink slightly if washed at too hot a temperature, and hot water degrades all dyes and fabrics quicker than cool. Viscose stretch, cotton modal stretch and pure modal stretch will all withstand higher temperatures without shrinking, but be aware that too hot a temperature will, over time, damage elastane mix fabrics.

Always, always read the garment care labels, and if you can wash at an even cooler temperature than the label suggests, do.

Soap suds

Not all laundry liquid or powder is made equal, and some can be much more aggressive on clothes than others. Use an appropriate amount for your water hardness, and always use a colour care detergent, even on lighter colours like Soft White and Pink Ice - it will keep them vibrant and fresh rather than fading them to dusty greys.

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Top tip for Winters - a tablespoon of Napisan (sold on Amazon and other online retailers) is brilliant for bringing the brightness back to your whites.

Oh, and let's take a moment to talk fabric conditioners: avoid using them on fabrics with elastane as they erode the elastane over time.

Grease stains

Honestly, has anyone ever invented anything better than Fairy Liquid for this job? We don't think so, especially when it comes to basic food grease stains - less common stains like biro and blood are sometimes dealt with more effectively by specific stain removers such as Stain Devils. You should always spot check your fabric first to ensure whatever stain remover you use won't fade the colour, but Fairy is the go to we all use for the inevitable lunch-down-the-front stains (is that just us?).  All you do is dab a little neat Fairy liquid directly on to the stain and then machine wash as normal.

Spin it out

The slower the spin speed, the happier your clothes, on the whole. Modern machines can spin at the most incredible speeds, which are perfect for getting excess moisture out of towels or bed linen but can be too aggressive for your brightest clothes. This is because they force creases into the fabric and, thanks to the relatively large amounts of dye in some of our more saturated colours, can lead to the dye 'gathering' in those creases and leaving a slightly darker mark along the crease line. If you must spin fast, get your clothes out of the machine and give them a good shake as soon as the spin cycle finishes to eliminate this problem.

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Drying times

How to best dry your fabrics can be as daunting as how to wash them. Tumble dryer, radiator, line?

A simple rule: air drying fabrics is always less aggressive on them than tumble drying. Your clothes will last longer and keep their colour better if you keep them away from the tumble dryer. But we all know that life is busy and needs must, so always check the garment care labels to see whether tumble drying is suitable, and use as cool and gentle a setting as logistics and your tumble dryer will allow.

If you can air dry your clothes, the big baddie to keep an eye out for is sunlight. Drying clothes on the line or in a conservatory might be super for getting them crispy dry, but it's also a magnet for colour-sapping sunlight, and your precious garments will begin to fade before their time if they are left out any longer than absolutely necessary to get them dry. Drying inside out will largely combat this, however, and in my experience is still less harsh than the garment zapping ways of the tumble dryer.

If you're lucky enough to have a laundry room with heated airers and no sunlight, your clothes will love you - and I envy you enormously.

Wool care

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Everything I've said about washing and drying also applies to wool, but multiplied by a thousand. Keep it cold and keep it gentle, to avoid shrinking your investment wool pieces.

Personally I hand wash all wool, even if it says machine washable, but the coldest and gentlest wool/delicates setting on a modern machine should be more than adequate for keeping your wool in tip top condition.

Did you know that it's the combination of water, heat and agitation that makes wool shrink? The water and heat makes the 'scales' on each individual strand of wool lift up, and agitation makes them grip together. This means that if you have a stain on wool, you can actually spot treat it with stain remover and hot water as long as you are careful not to agitate the garment at all beyond the area of the stain - I've used this knowledge more than once to treat small grease spots on wool.

The killer combination of heat/agitation is why machine washing and tumble drying are so bad for wool, but even radiator drying with occasional turning can be enough to start the felting process. The best way I know to dry wool is on a thick towel over a (non-heated) clothes airer, carefully laid to avoid stretching and distortion and ignored until it is bone dry.

You can help keep your wool looking like new by using a comb or special razor to remove pills. Friction is what causes pilling, which means that tighter fitting and softer wools are the most inclined to pill, and car seat belts, jewellery and handbags are usually the worst offenders when it comes to creating those unsightly bobbles on your knitwear.

Ironing - love it or loathe it?

I love an ironed finish for keeping clothes looking neat, but using an iron on the hottest setting isn't great for fabrics other than pure cotton or linen. The heat will degrade elastane over time, and (especially paired with steam - that nasty heat, moisture and agitation combination) isn't wool's best friend either.

Most of Kettlewell's fabrics, especially the stretch ones, benefit from being ironed inside out if they do need ironing. It means that if your iron is accidentally set a little too hot (most irons heat and cool constantly rather than maintaining a perfectly static temperature, so can have moments of being hotter than you'd like) you won't end up with shiny patches on your clothes.

Special note: cashmere gauze stoles

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Everything I've said about wool also applies to cashmere, and our cashmere gauze stoles deserve particular care to ensure their cloud-like softness and gorgeous colours aren't sacrificed. If you must machine wash them, do so in a mesh delicates bag, pair of tights or a pillow case, to protect them from the jostling of the machine and the impact of (even a relatively slow) spin cycle.

Special note: Faux suede

The intense colours of our faux suede fabric (used in the Roxy Shirt Jacket, for example) can leave a coloured fabric dust on very light coloured t-shirts and accessories. We recommend washing according to the garment care instructions before wearing with light colours.

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I hope our top tips for garment care will help you keep your favourite colours vibrant and fresh for many years to come, and if you have any tips we haven't shared here we'd love to hear them - we'll update this post with any gems we receive.

SUSAN KOFFLER SLUIJTER on Aug 11, 2020 8:33 PM

Please I have looked for colour care wash liquid and found none?I use non bio due to eczema but can you PLEASE tell me which wash tablet or liquid toi use for KW garments? My Liberty print tana lawns have faded so I need help! PLEASE

Kettlewell Colours: We normally use a detergent for colours as opposed to one specifically for whites.

Emma Davidson on Jun 24, 2020 4:17 PM

Great advice - I have just recently been told about the fairy liquid tip (when I dropped a loganberry on my top and the juice merrily sank in!) and it worked really well.

Heidi 62 on Jun 21, 2020 8:55 AM

Brilliant blog never known any other retailer give such service. You learn something every day , for me the fairy liquid tip. Thanks

Sue Berry on Jun 20, 2020 9:01 PM

Hi

Thank you it’s useful to know. I have a washing machine that allows the clothes to glide on a thin film of water to protect and lengthen the life of a fabric. I use Mrs Meyers dish soap which takes out stains from garments. It works well it’s expensive but worth the money.

Elizabeth on Jun 20, 2020 10:57 AM

Thank you for all this information and advice, especially about how wool becomes damaged. (Lunch-down-front? Oh, you are not alone.)

Margaret Longden on Jun 20, 2020 10:16 AM

A really comprehensive guide to caring for our clothes. I volunteer in my local Oxfam shop and it is amazing how many clothes are donated which have been ruined by rough treatment in the wash!

Kate on Jun 20, 2020 8:31 AM

My biggest problem is that some of the fabrics mark very easily when damp so pegging on the line leaves unsightly marks. I always put on a hanger first and have a little gadget which fixes the hanger onto the line. However I’ve had it for years and have no idea where I’d get another. This is the only way to dry the Lulu top!

Jayne McClelland on Jun 19, 2020 9:04 PM

Thank you for some 'sage wisdom' practical and straightforward

Becky on Jun 19, 2020 8:30 PM

Thanks Jo for those tips, really helpful.

Ruth on Jun 19, 2020 8:07 PM

As an inveterate dinner spiller I completely agree about Fairy Liquid on greasy marks. Hairspray is great for biro stains - spray on a pale cloth and keep dabbing to get it off. Stain removal is the only area where I am a true domestic goddess. Needs must!

Nita on Jun 19, 2020 5:49 PM

How about separating colours? I just received a lovely kettlewell top in "mole" a light taupe. Should I wash it with darks or in a separate "mediium colours" wash?

Jenny Worstall on Jun 19, 2020 5:38 PM

Top tips! Thank you.

I find that lots of my Kettlewell tops (eg Pippa) hardly need ironing if I don't use the fast machine spin and hang to dry straight from machine. Not being a fan of ironing, this is a real bonus!

Debbie Colman on Jun 19, 2020 4:33 PM

Useful insider knowledge, thank you!

Tricia on Jun 19, 2020 3:55 PM

Very useful tips, thank you very much. Very much a contribution to sustainability, keeping our clothes for as long as possible.

Now, if you have a solution to the dropping good in my décolletage, I for one would be really very grateful. We are all ears here.