Household Items QuestionsApril 1, 2011 10:39 pm
- “My comforter is soiled and needs to be cleaned. The care instructions say the preferred method is wet cleaning. What does this mean?”
A. Wet cleaning is a process used by the few professional drycleaners who have the state-of-the-art computer-controlled equipment that monitors water level, temperature, agitation and soap dispensing. It’s environmentally safe as water is the solvent. The controls can be programmed for many variables, including how fast the drum inside the washing machine rotates, the temperature and amount of water used, the amount of detergent added to the wash cycle and the air temperature and length of the drying cycle. This makes it a versatile process for many types of fabrics.
- “I understand dust mites can occur even in clean homes. What can I do?”
A. House dust allergies are common even in clean homes. The bacteria by-products in dust mites are called endotoxins and adults living in homes with high endotoxin levels are more likely to have asthma and related health issues. Here are a few dust mite-busting tips from The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology to help you keep your family healthier:
- Wash all bedding (including pillows without the cases) in hot water every week to 10 days. (Or let us wash them for you, it would be our pleasure!)
- Regular dry cleaning of comforters and blankets will also eliminate the endotoxins found in dust mites.
- Clean sheets and pillowcases in the same temperatures normally used by commercial cleaners and launderers (very hot — over 130°F) — and dry them in a hot dryer, or have your bedding commercially laundered and pressed. Dust mites cannot live in environments over 130°F.
- Don’t dry sheets outside, since that brings more allergens inside.
- Cover mattresses, box springs, and pillows with allergen-proof casings, which can be purchased at any linen store.
- Think twice before running a humidifier, since humidity encourages the reproduction of dust mites. If you must use one, clean it regularly to prevent mold growth.
- “I had my down comforter cleaned and it is lumpy. It also began to come apart. What can I do to prevent such damage?”
A. Although cleaning down items is usually not a problem, a comforter with poor construction and insufficient quilting can cause the down to shift, lose shape, or become matted. It’s a good idea to look for these things before purchasing a comforter. It is also important to check the strength of the stitching. Weak stitching can allow the down to shift and the comforter to come apart.
- “My mother just gave me a handmade quilt that my great-grandmother had made. Is it safe to have it dry cleaned?”
A. Handmade quilts need to be treated with great care. If the fabrics were not prewashed before the quilt was made, all colors should be checked for colorfastness. Gently rub a wet cloth over a small area in each section of the quilt. You will see if any of color comes off. Since quilts are made up of many pieces of cloth, it is necessary to test all sections. Some dyes will run in water and mild detergent, while others will run in dry cleaning solvents. If you decide washing is safe for all colors and fabrics in the quilt, fill a tub with water and mild detergent. Gently work the detergent and water into the quilt. Drain the water and fill with fresh water rinsing thoroughly until the water is clear.
If there is any question about the condition of the fabric and its ability to be cleaned, don’t take a chance. Hang the quilt out to air dry instead.
- “I’m getting ready to have our bedspreads cleaned. Is there anything special I need to know before I take them to the cleaner?”
A. The answer is “Yes.” Consumers are sometimes surprised when they get a bedspread back from the cleaner to find that the colors have faded and don’t match the companion pieces. Sometimes there’s an overall lightening or a complete change of color. There can also be streaks or a frosted appearance. This occurs because the fabrics are not “colorfast” to dry cleaning solvent. Before doing anything, read the care label. If you have colorfast concerns, ask your drycleaner to test the fabric before proceeding. This is the standard practice at Anton’s Cleaners.
- “What’s the best way to clean an electric blanket?”
A. As you might expect, we recommend that you read the manufacturer’s care instructions carefully before doing anything. There may also be a permanent label attached to the blanket.
Unless otherwise indicated, electric blankets should be machine washed on a gentle cycle and line dried. Do not put your electric blanket in the dryer. When hung to dry, electric blankets will not require ironing.
Dry cleaning is not an option. Electric blankets are made with electrical wires that are covered with plastic casing that may be solvent-soluble and expose the wires. This can cause a short circuit or even a fire.
- What do you recommend about pillows, blankets, duvets, and comforters?
A. As with clothing, read and follow the care instructions carefully. If labels are on the packaging or are removed because they are scratchy, it is best to keep them in your linen closet or laundry area, so you can find them when needed. Although a drycleaner’s past experience and knowledge of fibers, fabrics and dyes can guide the best and safest method of dry cleaning, saving the labels is the best damage prevention method.
If your pillows are synthetic filled, you can wash and dry them. The thickness and density of pillows means that you will need extra rinse and dry cycles. If you have natural filled pillows, like down or feathers, they should be sent to the drycleaner where the ticking is removed and the feathers sanitized.
Pillows are best protected from dust and dirt with a pillow protector and pillowcase. When proper care is taken, I recommend cleaning pillows at least once a year. Freshening up your pillows by airing them out on a dry, sunny day is also a good idea.
Blankets should be cleaned before storing away for the spring. Soiled blankets placed in storage attract insects and stains can set and weaken fabrics.
Cotton and synthetic blankets generally can be washed and dried. A fabric softener may be used to help reduce static cling and keep the blanket soft.
For wool blankets, I recommend dry cleaning. If washed, wool blankets can experience shrinkage and lose their shape and softness. Sometimes customers will bring in a blanket that has shrunk and ask us to “stretch” it. Unfortunately, if the shrinkage that occurs is severe it is not reversible. Dry cleaning best maintains blanket size, shape, feel and appearance.
Comforters/ Bedspreads/Duvet covers
While this is a personal decision, most people clean their comforters or bedspreads once a season, or more depending upon use. If you use a duvet cover, you may not have to clean your comforter but once every 2 – 3 years. If simple shaking does not return your comforter to its original loft, it should be cleaned.
Some problems that can occur when cleaning comforters or bedspreads are shrinkage, color loss, dullness, and tears. You can avoid some of these issues at the time of purchase by checking to be sure that the bedspread has been preshrunk and that down or fiber-filled bedspreads are well quilted. Quilting stitches should run both vertically and horizontally with quilting lines 8 to 10 inches apart. Stitching should be strong, as loose stitching can allow the filling to shift during cleaning.
Before cleaning, inspect the comforter or bedspread for rips, tears and weak areas. These articles become quite heavy when immersed in solvent or water and during cleaning these weak areas can enlarge.
It is recommended that you clean or launder all matching and coordinated items (shams, dust ruffles, curtains) at the same time. This helps to ensure that any color or sheen loss is uniform.
Finding appropriate space to store bulky comforters, bedspreads or blankets can be difficult. Items need to be properly cleaned before storing in a dry, well-ventilated area that does not have direct exposure to sunlight or artificial light. Consider trying our Anton’s Closet where storage is in a temperature-controlled facility. You pay only for the cleaning and your household items are safely stored for the season. Click here for more information.
- “We had a great time camping this summer and now it is time for me to clean the sleeping bags. The care label clearly says ‘do not dry clean’, but the bags are too bulky for my washer. What should I do?”
A. The dry cleaner can launder your bags, rather than dry cleaning them or you can take them to a laundromat and use a large front-loading washer. It takes time to properly clean sleeping bags. They should be washed on the gentle cycle in cool water, may require multiple rinsings to remove all the soap and should be dried on a low heat setting. Nylon sleeping bag shells will melt if exposed to high heat and down can become lumpy.
Solvents used in dry cleaning can strip the natural oils from the feathers in down bags and cause them to lose their loft and warmth; therefore a quality dry cleaner will launder your bags. Before washing, check the bag for heavy stains, rips or tears. Pretreat any stains and repair damages before cleaning.
When storing your sleeping bags, never use a plastic bag as it can cause mold, mildew and bacterial growth.