What Are Delicates in Laundry? [Explained]

Now, I don’t know about you, but I learned how to do laundry from helping my Mom when I was little. From sorting the darks and light to adding the detergent, I just wanted to get involved.

However, one part of the process that I never quite understood were delicates. So today, as a fully grown adult, I finally need to answer the question: what are delicates in laundry?

Delicates are items of clothing that are made of more delicate materials like silk, wool, linen, chiffon, lace, and those with additional embellishments.

Items that are classified as delicates usually need special treatment in the wash, so it’s crucial that you identify these items in your wardrobe so you can treat them right.

This article is going to explain precisely what delicates are and how to take care of them so they last as long as possible.

Gomestic Fact: Some specially designed products can be found online that keep your delicates separate from your other laundry so they can be popped in with your regular laundry without getting damaged.

What Are Delicates in Laundry?

Delicates include embellished, embroidered, and handmade items, as well as those made from fabric like silk, wool, linen, chiffon, and lace.

The main thing that classifies an item as a delicate is the fabric it is made from. The sheerer and more detailed the fabric texture, the more likely that it qualifies as a delicate. However, there are a few other reasons why an item might be classified as a delicate.

I have broken down all the main factors so that we can explore each in detail.

Delicates in laundry are:

Bras and Underwear

The most obvious delicates are, of course, our undergarments.

Now I’m not talking about cotton or polyester briefs or bikini-style bottoms; these are perfectly fine being washed with the rest of your washing. I mean those garments that are made from silk, lace, mesh, and other delicate fabrics.

However, I also include plain bras with cups with the delicates as vigorous washing can deform the cups.

Special Fabrics

As mentioned above, the materials that are considered delicate are linen, wool, silk, chiffon, and lace.

These are fabrics that are easily damaged, torn, wrinkled, shrunk, or misshapen when subjected to hot water and an intense spin cycle. This includes lingerie items as well as pants, tops, and sweaters.

Handmade Items

As an avid crocheter, I was not surprised to find that handmade items classify as delicates.

I can’t imagine throwing a cardigan that I spent hours making in the laundry with my regular jeans and socks, so that makes sense. These items are also prone to unraveling if a thread comes loose in a spin cycle that is too strong.

Embroidery and Embellishment

Any piece of clothing or lingerie that is embroidered or features embellishments like sequins and beading automatically qualifies as a delicate.

These extras are very likely to break or unravel in a regular wash and need to be treated with extra care.

How to Clean Delicates

Since delicates are, as the name suggests, more prone to damage in the laundry, they need to be cleaned slightly differently than your regular clothes.

Here is a basic guide on how to take care of delicates:

DetergentRegular powder or liquid detergent or specially designed silk or delicate detergent
Temperature65-75 F
Wash TechniqueDelicate cycle or hand wash

I find that the key here is to read your labels. This will give you all the information you need to clean your delicates gently, so they last as long as possible in your wardrobe. These labels will indicate whether the item is machine washable, machine-washable silk, gentle, or hand wash.

Hand washing is time-consuming and frustrating, but it is unavoidable in some cases. Luckily, most washing machines have a specially designed delicate cycle that makes handling your delicates simple.

The delicate cycle uses colder water and a lower spin speed to clean gently and reduce wrinkling. This cycle will take approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes, depending on the machine you have. In some models, this setting may be labeled as ‘gentle wash.’

Many devices come with a specially designed wool setting that uses only cold water and avoids any vigorous spinning. Even if you aren’t using pure wool, I would suggest washing your knitted and crocheted items using the wool setting mentioned above.

Gomestic Tip: The most delicate items, such as lacy underwear and bras, are best cleaned by hand as they are the most likely to get damaged in the wash.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a delicate wash less clean?

A delicate wash is specially designed to be less heavy-duty and gentle on the clothes you wash.

While this will prevent damage to your clothes, it may be too delicate in some cases, like staining or heavily soiled clothing.

If the items are dirty or stained, I recommend soaking them and washing them by hand.

Should I wash my towels on delicate?

Towels are very hard-wearing items, even your luxury ones, so cleaning them in a regular setting is perfectly suitable.

If you want them to come out exceptionally soft, then I recommend using fabric softener.

What items should not be washed together?

As we have explored, a general rule of thumb is to separate your delicates from your other clothing. Apart from this, I suggest splitting your laundry into lights and darks.

This is because some darker fabrics, especially newer ones, will bleed dye into the wash and ruin your lighter items.


So, after all of that, what have we learned about delicates?

Delicates in laundry are those items that are made from certain fabrics and with certain additional embellishments that mean they need to be washed in a very particular way.

I hope this exploration into your laundry basket has helped you classify your clothes and change up your washing techniques, so they last for as long as possible.

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