How to wash a dry-clean-only pleated skirt

For the past few years all my winter skirts have come from charity shops. Every single one. Given my love of the frumptastic, and real wool, it’s surprisingly easy for me to find ones I like, in my size, for £4-6 a pop. This year I’d been craving a pleated skirt, and possibly some more tartan.

 I found this one a couple of weekends ago, for £4. It’s not tartan, but I do like the beige, black, red and dark green dogtooth pattern. It’s traditional, and while the mix of colours isn’t glaring from a distance, it means the skirt works well with tops and knits in similar shades. The only problem was, it wasn’t as clean as it could be, and the label said dry clean only. Did I want to spend as much as the skirt cost on cleaning it?

I looked at the label: polyester and wool. Both of those are washable. So why not the skirt? My guess was that washing could knock out the pleats. What was needed was a way to hold the pleats in place while the skirt was washed and dried. So, I came up with a way to wash my skirt. It’s quite easy. First, carefully tack every single pleat in place. You don’t have to fasten the tacking threads off, just leave a couple of inches of tail at either end. Needless to say, you should only do this with a wool or similarly coarse-fibred skirt, as the tacking would make holes and possibly even horrible pulls in satin, chiffon or other delicate fabrics. For wool it’s fine.

 Next, gently handwash the skirt. If you start scrunching and rubbing too hard you could pull the threads out (not to mention felt the fabric in a garment with high wool content), so try to keep it fairly flat, and squeeze it rather than rub it. Wool is a pretty good fabric when it comes to shedding dirt, as is polyester, so I didn’t need to be too rough with mine.

 Hang it up to dry. Make sure it dries in shape. With something containing wool, make sure it’s completely dry before ironing. Simply iron it with a DRY iron - steam can cause felting - then remove the tacking threads. I just grabbed one end of each thread and gave it a firm tug to remove it. Hey presto, a clean pleated skirt still in perfect shape.


  1. Genius! What a brilliant idea.
    It makes me happy when people are willing to put in a little effort to take care of their lovely things. :)
    (And now I'm inspired to wash the lovely mustard-coloured wool waistcoat I bought a few weeks back!)

  2. Fantastic! I can remember 'showering' a pleated dress once to wash it in shape- yup, I put it over a hanger and gave it a shower (with handwash gel) like a person! Cheaper than dry cleaning.

    And yup my winter skirts are mostly chazza shop. Even if I want a short kilt, I buy any length and if it's just second hand as opposed to vintage, I chop it off and re-hem it.

  3. I sometimes think that manufacturers put 'dry clean only' on labels as a get out clause, in case they get agro about people just bunging anything and everything in the tub! I handwash loads of dry clean stuff and it turns out ok, great tip for pleats though!

  4. I really enjoyed this. My mum and I are notoriously ignorant of dry clean only labels. I would have put this skirt in a net bag and then in the washing machine, on a cool or wool wash. A gentle spin (there is probably nothing on this earth my mum would not chance in her spinner! and then hung it up to dry before a gentle iron.

    I wouldn't recommend that anyone else risk it though! I have washed a leather jacket in a washing machine, and a sheepskin jacket (that came up a treat). I bought a couple of cashmere jumpers from a charity shop - and they were quite grubby. I put them through the washing machine too (and held my breath) - again, they were lovely.

    I'd prefer to risk a very very gentle machine wash, or a hand-wash over the chemicals used in a dry-clean. Besides which, what ex-goth hasn't had to wash a few mohair jumpers by hand in the past?!

  5. Many skirts label say that "do not wash or dry your leather jacket" but fortunately there is Leather-Clean and it works nice in water.


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