Did you know you shouldn’t wash silk or wool items in biological detergent, and that doing so can damage them? I’m sure this isn’t common knowledge, which a quick check with my wife and my mother-in-law just confirmed.
Our own laundry is currently washed with a biological detergent. On the box there is a warning – although it’s not very prominent and I bet most people don’t read the small print on boxes of washing machine detergent. The exact wording is contained in a small box titled “looking after fabrics and you” and the second line reads, “DON’T use this product for washing wools and silks”.
At the foot of the box another section is headed, “What to use it for” and states, “… for pretty much your whole wash with the exception of wools and silks where we recommend you use a product that is specially made for delicate fabrics”.
The best gentle detergent I currently know of is Dreft, which is commonly used for babies laundry but is specifically said to “safer for fine fabric washing, particularly wool or silk.” I would recommend using a delicate detergent specifically for wools and silks or any item of clothing that has any wool or silk in it.
What can happen if you use biological detergent with woollens or silks?
Silk clothing can get holes around the seams at first and then in other places. Wool can become weakened, mis-shaped and holed too. Basically, the biological detergent contains enzymes and these enzymes will attack wool and silk causing irreparable damage.
The only reason we don’t appear to have had any problems with our laundry is because we don’t really have any silk items and very few woollens, but if you do, it may be worth keeping a more gentle detergent for them.
Did you know? Bold detergent is biological but they don’t seem to shout about it. It says so only in small print on some boxes.
How does biological detergent damage silks and woollens?
The following explanation is kindly supplied by the head of marketing at Miele –
“Biological detergents contain certain enzymes that are there to remove proteins from a garment. This is how they are effective at cleaning things such as egg from clothing. However, silk and wool are also made up of proteins. Biological detergent cannot differentiate between a bit of egg stain and a bit of silk so the enzymes will eat away at it.
This results in very small, randomly placed, holes on a garment. They won’t appear after the first wash, but tend to appear after several washes once the enzyme has gradually eaten the fabric away. This is a common complaint, as in the UK, despite there being dozens of detergents
available, most households tend to use just one type….usually a biological.”
Damage to clothes – a common problem?
A recent topic on my washing machine forum entitled Small holes in clothes after wash highlighted a common problem where many people are having their washing damaged and the washing machine is being blamed. There are many possible causes of holes and tears in laundry including faults with the washing machine itself but at least some of the damage can be attributed to the user. Only once these user “faults” are eliminated should the washing machine become a true suspect. This topic inspired a blog article – Holes in washing (laundry)