Whether you wear dress pants to work every day or only on special occasions, cleaning them properly is essential to prolong their life and keep them looking like new. But before you begin cleaning, it's important to know how to wash dress pants and whether or not you can machine dry them. Different dress pants are made from different materials, so there isn't a "one size fits all" rule for washing and drying them. Still, there are some general guidelines.
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How to Wash Dress Pants
The first thing you should do before laundering any article of clothing is to read the care instructions and the fabric materials on the tag. You should never wash certain fabrics, including leather, fur, taffeta and suede. However, it's unlikely that dress pants are made from these.
You can wash other materials that are more common in dress pants, but you need to use the gentlest cycle, cold water and special detergent. These include wool, rayon, merino and silk. When it comes to detergent, always purchase one that reports that it is safe for the fabrics you need to clean. Test a small amount of the soap on the material in an inconspicuous place before washing.
Use your machine's gentle or hand wash cycle, cold water and minimal agitation. Wash your dress pants by themselves or with items made from similar materials and colors. Next, it's time to dry your clean dress pants.
How to Machine Dry Dress Pants
Many pairs of pants, even those labeled dry clean only, will be fine in the washer and dryer. When in doubt, you can drip or line dry your pants, but it probably isn't necessary.
Before you put your pants in the dryer, zip the zipper to prevent it from snagging on other parts of the pants or other items in the dryer. Next, set the heat level. Use either no heat or low heat. Use no heat for pants labeled dry clean only.
Put the pants in the dryer for as long as they need to dry. If they're still damp, hang them to finish drying when they come out. Remove them as soon as the cycle is complete to prevent the dress pants from wrinkling. Iron them with a low heat setting if needed before wearing.
Dry Clean at Home
You can usually wash clothes labeled dry clean only, often on gentle or hand wash cycles in your washer and dryer. You can buy a kit for home dry cleaning at a big-box store or even in the laundry section of a grocery store. Make sure you follow the instructions on the box. Alternatively, if your machine has an "express" setting, use that, making sure you set it to cold water to prevent the clothing from being wet for too long.
Another option is to skip the machines and hand wash. Soak the clothing in lukewarm water and use a mild detergent to wash. If certain parts of the garment need washing, like the cuffs or a stain on a leg, spot-clean those, leaving the rest of the pants dry. Either way, line dry completely and iron if needed.
Lastly, you can use a clothes steamer to clean dry-clean-only dress pants. The hot steam kills germs and can loosen dirt, on which you can use a clothes brush to wipe away. This is a good way to dry clean at home.