Many years ago, when I was fresh out of college, I discovered a laundry accessory that changed my life.
Some random doo-dad catalog sold these nylon mesh bags with zippers which, it said, could be used to protect pantyhose and other delicate garments while allowing soapy water to get in, such that these “hand wash only” items could go through the washing machine.
What a revelation!!! At the time, I held a job where–even though we never met our zany clients in person–there was a fairly strict dress code, so I wore pantyhose or tights every single weekday. I dreaded hand-washing them and tended to put it off until the last possible moment. I also had a few sweaters and camisoles and things that were supposed to be hand-washed and therefore got worn only a few times a year because of their long stints in the “I’ll wash that later” pile.
Those first bags I bought weren’t very well made, but by the time they fell apart I was completely sold on the idea. You can, in fact, machine-wash most “hand wash only” clothing in cold water with one of these bags to protect it from the washing machine agitator and your other garments’ zippers! The only exceptions are things that require special soap, things that are peculiarly prone to attracting lint from other clothes and not letting go of it, and things with elaborate shapes that get distorted by the machine. (I’ve never had a shape issue that couldn’t be resolved by laying the damp garment on the drying rack and carefully pulling it back to its correct shape–the first time. But if you keep machine-washing something that has this problem, it will gradually look worse and worse and become more and more resistant to re-shaping.) Most hosiery, lingerie, silk garments, beaded garments, and embroidered garments will do just fine.
I got some much sturdier zippered mesh bags at Target. They’re sold in the department with regular laundry bags, clothespins, etc. [UPDATE: Here is the link to this product as of 2014. If it doesn’t work, search for Room Essentials Basic Mesh Lingerie Bag.] The band of solid fabric around the edges is crucial for durability. These bags would be easy to make yourself with a sewing machine. (If anyone is making these in USA and selling them online, please let me know; I’d be happy to link to you!)
Being able to machine-wash nearly all of my laundry saves me a lot of time and aggravation. It also saves water because I can just toss the bag in with a regular load of laundry instead of filling my sink. Also, I’ve found some other uses for these nifty bags:
- Put small items in a mesh bag so they don’t get lost and stick to larger items. I do this with my handkerchiefs and cloth menstrual pads.
- During a cold, put used hankies in a mesh bag. Then soak the entire bag in a sink, dishpan, or bucket full of hot water with Bac-Out Stain & Odor Eliminator or white vinegar for half an hour or so. Then rinse the whole thing in hot water and toss it in with a load of laundry (cold cycle is fine). All the disgusting, germy gunk will come off–and it won’t get onto your other laundry!
- Today’s stylish cotton knit tops are so thin, they easily get damaged in the washing machine. Mesh bag to the rescue!
- Wash a scarf with fringe in a mesh bag by itself. The fringe may tangle around itself, but at least it won’t tangle with any other garment.
- Hang up a mesh bag by putting a twist-tie through the mesh and bending it around a hook, doorknob, etc. Use it as a laundry bag for small cleaning cloths in the kitchen or bathroom. The mesh allows them to dry so they don’t get yucky.
Zippered mesh bags work for me!