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Video: How to care for your clothes

TODAY
updated 12/20/2006 10:43:09 AM ET 2006-12-20T15:43:09

We’ve all been guilty at one time or another of spending too much on fine clothes and then not properly caring for them. We toss our bras in the wash, dry our sweaters on hangers and leave our leather boots and bags crumpled in the corners of our closets. If you don’t take care of your clothes and accessories properly, they can easily lose their shape and end up looking old, stretched and worn.

The good news is that taking care of your clothes doesn’t mean that you have to spend a fortune at the dry cleaner. Jaqcui Stafford, the executive style director at Shape magazine, was invited on TODAY to share some insights on products that will help you maintain the “shape” of your clothes and accessories.

Here are some products Jacqui recommends:

Cheer True Fit laundry detergent
This new laundry detergent is specially formulated to help clothes keep their shape. Cotton knits, especially, loose their shape over time because the fabric stretches. The neck, the sleeves, and the waistband are especially vulnerable to be stretched out as you get dressed and undressed. Cheer True Fit helps fibers gently slide past each other at their cross points so they can partially recover their original form during the wash cycle. It basically acts like a lubricant, enabling yarns and fibers to gently slide past each other and keep garments feeling incredibly soft. It works best on cotton knit fabrics, which typically stretch more than woven or twill fabrics.
(Cheer True Fit, $4.99)

Intimates Wash Bags
Lingerie is one of those things you generally pay up for. Not only is underwear pretty, but it’s also delicate, so you have to treat it carefully. Intimates Wash Bags help protect fragile items like intimates as well as other delicate items like baby garments during washing. The round design reduces wrinkles. Always wash lingerie and delicate items in cool wash — heat destroys fine fabrics. (See below for more care tips.)
($4.99 each; Bed Bath & Beyond)

BraBABY machine washing device
You can pay up to $80 for a good padded bra only to have it lose its shape in the washing machine — bra straps can get caught on the drum and cups can be crushed by the weight of other clothes. The BraBaby is a helpful because it protects padded bras in the washing machine. Its two-shell design is made of strong smooth plastic that supports the cups to keep them from getting damaged in the washing machine. You place each cup around the ends of the outer shell, tuck the straps inside the inner shell through the vent holes.
($19.95 for pack of two; brababy.com)

Pop Open Sweater Dryer
When it comes to drying your sweaters, you can either dry them partially in the dryer on a low setting and then remove them to air dry, or skip the dryer entirely and just air dry them. But they key is not to use hangers when air drying your sweaters. Wet or damp, they are just too heavy and will pull and stretch, especially at the shoulders.

An open mesh drying rack allows air to flow all around the sweater — a better alternative to laying them flat on a towel, for example. This drying rack has a quick-release buckle and strap that maintains the arched position, allowing for all-around airflow and faster drying of garments. Sized to fit over the bathtub, it springs open for use and folds completely flat for storage. (Alternatively, you can use undamaged fiberglass window-screens as sweater drying racks, which allows air to circulate around the garment.)
($7.99; containerstore.com)

Inflatable Hangers
These thick hangars are great because they're perfect for travel and deflate for storage. Wonderful for drip-drying clothes - they can help maintain the natural shape of the garment and you can drip dry clothing without getting hangar marks. Good for blouses. No rusting parts. Rounded shoulder shape and swivel hook design.
($3.99 each; containerstore.com)

No-Slip Coat Hangers
These are helpful because they have rubber inserts on the shoulders to keep garments from shifting and sliding off. The extra-wide arms help preserve the shape of the garment. Perfect for coats, sweaters and wide-neck knits. They are made of durable plastic.
($4.99 each; containerstore.com)

FlipFOLD Shirt Folder
We all have stacks of T-shirts or thin shirts and as soon as we bring them home, they never look as good as they do when they are stacked in the store. This ultimate folding tool is the easiest way to keep shirts and T-shirts in mint condition every time. Turn your messy closet into a neat display, organize your overstuffed drawers and create more space.
($15.99 plus S&H; flipfold.com)

Basic care tips:
Handbags

Help retain the shape of fabulous handbags, especially the corners, by stuffing them with socks, stockings or tissue, and then placing them in a dust-bag so the exterior remains intact. (An old pillow case will work too.) Store patent leather items separately because patent leather will rub off. (Patent leather is huge for this season.)

Boots
We love plastic shoe trees, which you can find in any cobbler or shoe repair store. An easier solution? Retain the shape of your boots with just-read magazines. Just roll them up and slip them inside.

Clothes
Dry clean tailored, structured pieces like wool suits, jackets or coats, or any piece with intricate sequins or embellishment. Always follow the care advice on the label. If it says dry clean only, do that. Find a dry cleaner whose plant and work is done on the premises. Ask how often they change the chemicals and filters. Take your garments in on the day they change the chemicals. Some things, however, that say dry clean can often be gently hand washed in cool water. Here we are talking about natural fibers. For example:

  • Cashmere — turn piece inside out and hand wash, or machine wash gentle cycle
  • Corduroy — hand wash
  • Wool — hand wash
  • Silk — hand wash

Lingerie
These tips are from bra expert Susan Nethero of Intimacy Bra Fit Specialists:

  • Never wear your bra two days in a row, since the elastic materials need a day to “rest” and regain their shape.
  • Always wash in cool water — since hot water will shrink the cotton channeling for underwire, and cause them to pop out.
  • Never tumble dry as the heat and twisting will destroy elastic — leave it to air dry.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

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