We might not all be runway fashion models, and we might not all have the shopping budget of a diva, but we all should have a special outfit (or two). These are your runway fashion clothes, the ones that cost you a little more than you should have spent, but that make you feel so good when you wear them. So, it makes good sense to learn how to handle washing your runway fashion dresses. You don’t have to condemn them to the torturous world of the dry cleaner. You just need to know a few things and follow a few simple steps.

Read the care label. This little flap holds the secret codes that say whether your dress should be rescued before the spin cycle, or left to air dry. You can look up those mysterious symbols on Google, and it will be worth your while to do so, especially when it comes to using bleach and paying attention to anything that has a big X through it.

Learn a little about fabric. Polyester and nylon are machines washable, but cotton and linen can shrink and fade – use cold water to wash and then air dry. Wool, silk, and rayon can be damaged by immersion in water.

Get to those stains quickly. Dab them from behind, while laying the garment on an absorbent cloth, so the stain material has somewhere to go.

Women handwashing clothes in a tub.
Learning how to handwash is important for taking care of delicates.

Learn how to hand wash. Use mild soap in a clean sink filled with room temperature or lukewarm water. Let the water do the work, by soaking your garments in room temperature water to soften and break up stain substances. Then wash by hand using a swishing motion.

• Turn delicate clothing inside out to keep things from snagging
• Always wash a brand-new garment by itself the first time just to see how much color escapes from it
• Save the hot water for towels and cloths, or anything that might have bacteria on it
• Don’t wring them out! Press on them to push the water out, and then roll them in a towel

If you do plan to use your washing machine, choose your water temperature setting carefully:
• Cold for fine fabrics, delicates, clothes that may shrink, and new items with colors that might run
• Warm for white and light colors
• Wash similarly colored items together, sticking to the groupings of “whites, lights, darks, and delicates.”
• Save the hot water for towels and clothes, or anything that might have bacteria on it

Pay close attention to the type of bleach (color safe for colors, chlorine for whites), and never pour the bleach directly on the garments.
Dry wisely. Dry your special garments flat if you can, since hanging delicate clothes can lead to creasing and even disfigurement of the fabric.
If you plan to use your dryer, pay close attention to its heat settings and make sure they match your care label.
Finally, hang those beautiful clothes on felt-covered hangers. Never use thin wire hangers, as they will distort the fabric.
Follow these simple rules and your special runway garments will keep looking their best for much longer.