How To Clean Lolita Clothes At Home

This post might be a little boring for some people, but it's a very necessary post. I often hear people saying things along the lines of "For the price of brand, I should be able to just throw it in the washer!" which is just a ridiculous to say, often times high priced clothing needs special care when it comes to washing or, truth be told, they will get ruined. So, this post is about the various ways to clean and care for your Lolita clothes, keeping them looking as new as possible. Of course, each clothing piece may require a completely different cleaning techniques depending on fabric, trims, and even just varying from brand to brand and from piece to piece. I can't guarantee that these tips will work perfectly on every piece, but they are all a lot safer than just throwing it in the washer and dryer.

How often should you wash Lolita clothes?
This question has a few different answers depending upon who you ask, or which piece you are talking about, but my answer to this question is: as rarely as possible. Most Lolita pieces are not going to spend much time against your skin, you're going to have petticoats and bloomers and other blouses and probably even undershirts between your main Lolita pieces and your skin. So long as you aren't wearing all those layers on a 90 degree summer day, you're not going to be getting as much sweat on your Lolita as you would on, say, a tee shirt. After you are done wearing your Lolita clothes, inspect them for spots that need to be cleaned, if any, and clean those spots up with a damp washcloth with a little bit of detergent, rub it on the spot and blot up the excess moisture, do this a few times until the spot is clean. Try using a Tide To Go pen if you have one, it tends to be quicker and easier. After that hang your clothes up. This is very important because it helps air them out, and often times simply airing your clothes out will help with any smells on them, either from being places with a strong smell, perfumes, or just the regular smell of your own skin. Keep one of those little scented drawer sachets around the hanger if you are extra worried about any smells. If you follow these simple steps you can keep an item of clothing looking and smelling like it's new for a long time before you absolutely need to wash it.

General washing and wear tips
First of all, if you haven't gathered this yet from the intro, never just throw your clothes in the washer and dryer! While you should never put your Lolita in the dryer, especially if it has cotton lace on it, some pieces you can wash in the washer, but you should use gentle detergent, on the gentle cycle, in cold water. Also, you need to make sure you don't load up your washer with a bunch of stuff, especially not towels because they tend to get fuzzies all over your clothes that are hard to get off. Wash only a small amount of clothes at a time, and before you put them in be sure to take off all detachable things such as bows, lace up ribbons, charms, and anything else that you can take off. If you have something that laces up through some delicate lace, be sure to take that out because it can get caught on other things as it's going for a tumble and rip the lace. Bows, if they are very heavy, can also get pulled off and rip the fabric, you also may run the risk of the pin on the back rusting. Chains and charms should never be washed because they will nearly always break. Clothing should also be turned inside out before you wash it, because the piece will fade slightly with each wash and this way it ensures that most of the fading will happen to the inside. Once it's done you should hang it up somewhere out of direct sunlight to dry. Usually a washer gets most of the excess water out of clothing so you can often hang up pieces to dry inside.

If you have a clothing item that was both very cheap and has no cotton lace on it (dryers make cotton lace shrink, shrivel, and get fuzzy), you can, technically, put it in the dyer, but don't keep it in there until it's toasty and warm, put it in for only about half the time you normally would and then hang it up to finish drying somewhere. I use this for a few pieces that are "throw-away" (I hate that term though!) pieces from Bodyline, pieces that typically only cost me about $15 or a few dresses that I consider house dresses.

If you have the time, you should seriously consider hand washing your pieces, it's much more gentle on the fabrics and the trims. If you plan to hand wash, first remove all the bows and ribbons and flip the piece inside out, just as above, then fill up either a clean sink, bathtub, or bucket (don't spray them down with bleach to clean them before hand! Just wipe it down with some soap and water!) with some cold water and add a little bit of gentle washing detergent. Swish the detergent around to get some bubbles and then add your clothes. Swish them around a bit until they are completely wet and soapy and then gently scrub at any areas you think need to be cleaned, such as the armpits or hems. When you feel like it's clean enough take the pieces out and gently squeeze the water out. Don't wring the clothes! Just squeeze gently and then put them somewhere to drip dry. Remember that a whole lot of water is going to drip off a hand washed piece, no matter how good you think you got the water out, so hang it up in a shower or over a tiled floor with a whole lot of towels under it.

How to make sure you don't ruin your printed pieces.
Prints are a very touchy thing to clean. Some prints simply can't get wet! If you own a print, especially a rare and expensive one, check out this list on EGL that is a pretty in depth print list that lets you know how you can wash certain prints and what prints you simply can't get wet. If your print is not on the list, or has conflicting reviews, test a small spot somewhere hidden, such as on the back of a bow or near wear the knots in a waist tie would go. Test it by wetting a small spot and rubbing it a bit, let it dry completely and then checking to see if it bled at all. If the print looks sort of fuzzy and the whites look dimmer, beware! You now are the unlucky owner of a print you can't get wet.

So, what now that you know you can't get your dress wet? Well, the first thing you need to do is to avoid the rain! Secondly, you might want to rethink how you wear it, if it's a piece you normally wear all the time, consider only wearing it to special occasions, so it gets dirty less frequently and you have less chance of spilling a whole glass of water on it or getting caught in the rain on your way home from the grocery store. When the time comes to clean it you should stick to very carefully spot cleaning it and airing the piece out.

Caring for velvets
First of all, you should be careful when you wear velvets, because if you are wearing something that rubs up against it too much you can easily rub the plush right off the velvet so you end up with bald spots! Avoid wearing tight coats over velvet, be careful where you put your elbows if you have a long sleeved velvet piece (I have a velvet jacket from high school that I rubbed the elbows bald from putting them on tables!), be careful about putting your purse over your shoulder, and just generally be aware of what is happening to your velvet pieces.

When it comes time to wash your velvet, don't put it in the washer or dryer, because it will more often than not, ruin the nap of the velvet. Instead you should practice very gently spot cleaning it and hanging it up to air out.

If you need to get wrinkles out of your velvet, you can't iron it. If you have very slight wrinkles, try hanging it up in a steamy bathroom (this works well for other lightly wrinkled pieces too), usually this is enough to get the wrinkles out. If it is very heavily wrinkled try steaming it, either with a steamer or by setting an iron to steam and holding it above the velvet. Don't press down on the velvet with the iron, as it can ruin the nap of the velvet by pressing it down.

Cleaning fake fur
There are a number of Lolita pieces that are made with fake fur, ranging from trims to stuffed animal purses, to accessories. If you spill something on fake fur you should stick to gently spot cleaning the area. If the piece is very dirty there are a couple of things you can do, you can either put the piece in a pillowcase, tie the top of the case, and then put it in the washer on gentle and then when it's done in there remove it from the case and hang it to dry somewhere. You can also actually dry clean fake fur pieces with cornmeal, but this technique works best for small pieces such as small stuffed animal purses, as you will need a whole lot of cornmeal to cover larger pieces.

To clean fake fur with cornmeal you need to place the item you want to clean in a container with a lid and then cover it in cornmeal, put the lid on and shake it up for a few minutes, then leave it to sit overnight. The shaking will help get the cornmeal in all the crevices and help loosen dirt and the cornmeal should soak up any oil in the fur, pulling grime out with it. When you take the piece out, shake out the extra cornmeal and wipe it off with a dry cloth to get any difficult cornmeal off.

Cleaning and repairing marks on shoes
Shoes can very easily be cleaned a number of ways, depending upon the type and color of the shoe. My favorite method of cleaning shoes is Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, or any other kind of generic erasing sponge. I've heard that this only works on white shoes because it contains bleach, but a bit of googling tells me that there is actually no bleach in these, and I have had it work on a variety of different colored shoes. I guess, just like everything you clean, you should just check somewhere unnoticeable on the shoe before you go gung-ho and start scrubbing all over the shoe.

You can also buff out scrubs with a little bit of white toothpaste (the abrasive kind, not the gel kind) on a washcloth. Then use a little bit of shoe polish, mineral oil, or even the inner part of a banana peel to make the shoes shiny all over again.

Most Lolita shoes are made out of pleather and are prone to the outer layer of the pleather scraping away on really bad scuffs, leaving the inner, grey material visible. If this happens to you the best thing you can do to fix this is use a little bit of nail polish or permanent marker over the area to make it the same color as the shoe. It's not going to have the same texture or be shiny there any more, but this tends to happen to shoes in only a very small area and it will, at least, cover the marks from far away.

If bows or other decoration falls off your shoe, or the heel starts to peel away, pick up some 2 part epoxy or E6000 glue and glue it back on. Super glue or any kind of water based glue like craft glue or Elmers just wont work.

Cleaning out deodorant stains
Especially if you wear dark clothes deodorant stains are often a big problem. This can sometimes be fixed by switching deodorants, but, more often than not, is going to happen no matter what. The best you can do to prevent this is to wear an undershirt with short sleeves under your dresses and to wait for your deodorant to completely dry before putting your clothes on. If you still get white stains on your clothes from deodorant you can try a variety of remedies to fix this, but you're going to have to do a bit of experimenting to see what works best for you, and your clothes. Simply scrubbing at the area before you wash it is usually going to help a whole lot. But if there is still some stain left there is a few things you can do, you can either dampen the area with vinegar and let it sit for a while before washing it again, or you can try rubbing the area with a pantyhose. I have no idea what makes it work, but rubbing the deodorant stained area with pantyhose really does work to help get the stain out!

Caring for black clothes
Keeping black clothes "new black" is the bane of my existence! I have so many black clothes that I try to keep as black as possible. My routine is typically to wash infrequently, doing the spot clean and air dry thing, and when I do wash, always make sure you use cold water, as hot water will leach the dye right out of the piece! Use a cup of vinegar in your first wash to help lock the dye in (don't worry about it smelling like vinegar! Vinegar is a common home remedy for clothing care and the wash will get the smell out). Also buy some special detergent made for dark clothes to further help keep the dye in.

Even following these steps, there will come a time when your black clothes simply aren't as black as you would like any more. When this time comes you might want to reconsider redying them. Black dyes are sometimes tricky, as they are usually a very dark brown, or green, or purple, not actually black, so do a bit of research into what brand is the best brand of dye to use when dying something black. Even if it's a little bit more expensive than the $2.99 dyes, you're going to be using it on a very expensive piece of clothing, and honestly I think it's very much worth it to get a dress to look new again.

Keeping whites bright
The first thing you should know about keeping whites bright is don't bleach! You shouldn't actually be bleaching any of your clothes besides possibly gym socks. Bleach will just drastically shorten the life of your clothes and it can eat holes in delicate fabrics even after only using it once. Instead, look for some Oxy Clean or try to find some bluing. Many people swear by soaking clothes for a few hours in Oxy Clean to brighten them up. Bluing is also something that has been used to brighten up white clothes for centuries, what it basically is is a very very slight blue dye that is used to cover yellowing in white clothes, making them look brighter.

Those are all the tips I can think of for taking care of Lolita clothes! Nearly all of these are ones that I have been using faithfully ever since I started wearing Lolita, but, as I said before, I can't guarantee that they will all work on everything you need to clean or fix. Try a few things out and figure out what works best for your clothes, your budget, and your schedule. Also, check out this post by The Ugly Duckling on caring for your clothes for a few more tips, as we both had the same idea to write about the same thing around the same time, she just beat me to it!

What do you do with your wardrobe? Do you meticulously hand wash everything? Just throw it in the washer? Or send it all to the dry cleaners and let someone else deal with it? Have you ever had any major laundry catastrophes? I actually managed to ruin one of my first printed pieces because I had no idea at the time that some things couldn't be washed! It was an older Metamorphose print, Sweets Collection, that I tossed in the washer and it came out fuzzy and the lace sort of greyish! That had since scared me into very carefully washing all of my Lolita clothes.


  1. I should add something, especially for innocent world stuff. Almost everything from IW is strictly dry clean only. They use alot more poly than other brands, not cheap poly mind you, but the higher quality garment poly alot of european designer clothes use. In addition to that they use some more unusual cottons (not all cotton is created equal folks) and fabric dying techniques for prints, almost all of it throws it into the dry clean only category. Buying a fabric steamer becomes VERY important, and knowing how to spot clean clothing. A fabric steamer, especially a "professional" one, will run you between $100-$300, but it is well worth it. It super-heats steam, that is a way of both ironing clothes, but effectively disinfects them as well. It will not remove stains though, but is a way to steam clean clothing (steam is used to clean everything from carpets, to drapes, to kitchen countertops, so yes it works on clothes too) that reduces trips to the dry cleaners. It is also safer then ironing to get out wrinkles.

  2. Can you just use any vinegar? I got "nature vinegar"

    And how could do you wash your clothes then?

  3. Sorry about the complete lack of reply to this!! My comments sometimes just end up in my spam folder. Anyways. I have always used white vinegar, I have no idea what nature vinegar is but I know you can't use stuff like "malt" "wine" "cider" or any kind of colored vinegar. You just add an amount (usually about a cup) to your wash. It should work with your skirt, I do often use vinegar on dark clothes, but I also use a special for darks detergent, so I really don't know which is actually the most effective XD

    Google has a lot to say on the subject, there are pretty much whole websites devoted to all the things you can do with vinegar!

  4. Oops, I accidentally answered your first question again too XD

  5. XD I got "white" vinegar as well. But I can wash in 20 degrees celcius 30/40/etc.. So.. What's the best answer?

    I tried 30 degrees and on the programm for whool clothing. I washed a bag as well (kippling bags) and I googled and they said: whool wash. Perhaps that's the most "soft" wash?

    Ah.. I really don't know!

  6. A lot of washers now a days have settings that might be able to accomodate delicate clothes; I know for certain mine has a hand wash setting all to it's own [which seems rather superflous to me, but I can understand it being a matter of the machine doing it, or you doing it], which I used to wash my Undertaker [Kuroshitsuji] outfit. But I definitely agree with all the air-drying. It saves energy and money too, not throwing it in the dryer [hence, I hang clothes on a line normally].

    Thank you for the lovely tips for black clothes, I've recently had an influx.

  7. Thank you for this! Wonderful piece of advice

  8. hard water over here makes everything even more annoying, and most of my line-dried stuff is... hard as wood afterwards. Dunno how to change that, I'm just living with it (and up until now it never concerned any really important lolita clothes, snce I'm just starting to buy expensieve brand).
    My most precious Bandshirts I used to wash by hand, now I put the im the machine, but NEVER EVER put them in the dryer. I so hate it when one of those gets caught up in the hands of my mum's household lady, who puts every cotton piece in the dryer undiscriminately u.u.
    Thanks for the advice, and I agree that most Lolita clothes don't need as much washing as normal clothes. Especially skirts can do with a little airing out, since they really don't touch any body area that would be really sweaty.

  9. I am SO going to try vinegar!

    All my black is more gray I feel?
    And I've got this new skirt.. which is black and grey jeans fabric and I'm afraid to wear it because then I have to wash it! D:

    Can you try vinigar for dark clothes too? I've got a blue/black jsk

  10. I heard soaking in salt water also sets dye. I hardly ever wash dresses or skirts (mostly spot cleaning). But I wash everything else normally by hand. My blouses are all off white or cream so I'm not sure what I can do about discolouration there.
    One thing I just toss into the washer are soks and bloomers. They take it well so far.

  11. If a white blouse has a stain, and everything on it is made of cotton, putting it in a big saucepan with some detergent and boiling it for ten or fifteen minutes will make it shiny white again. Things like pearl buttons are a bit of a problem because there's a chance they might flake, but if it was an expensive blouse and it's a really bad stain, it's worth taking off the buttons and sewing them back on afterwards.

    Also, when washing things with lace in the machine, popping them into a white pillowcase will keep them from any damage. It won't get out any tough marks, but it will freshen them up just fine.

  12. I used to live in a place with hard water....put white vinegar in the rinse load, instead of fabric softener! Works like a charm. I used to put vinegar in my hair, too, as a final rinse, or else I couldn't get a comb through it.

  13. Vinegar really is the magic potion when it comes to beauty and cleaning! When I first heard about using it I was really scared that I would end up smelling like it, but the smell really doesn't cling to things at all.

  14. When you handwash things, after squeezing out lots of water, roll them up in a clean towel and stand on it. Maybe do it more than once! I promise you, it won't drip on your floor anymore after that. You may have to pull/shake the wrinkles out of the fabric when you hang it, but it won't take nearly as long to dry.

    Also, I do have to say, that while yeah, expensive clothes sometimes require special care, dyes that run would really really piss me off. I didn't even know that was something I needed to worry about when I buy brand....I live in a really rainy city!

    Last but not least: don't leave a sweaty garment uncleaned for too long. Sweat can seriously stain.

  15. Thanks for that tip! I always just deal with puddles of water everywhere when I dry XD

    I do agree about the running prints. It's one thing for a black or a deep red dress to get white lace a little grey or pink after a while, but it's just uncalled for when a dress, in this day and age when we have the chemicals to fix this, is simply uncalled for.

  16. I am pretty sure that you can use vinegar on any color clothes. It's not a guarantee instant-problem-solver, but from what I've seen it really does help.

  17. i put my clothes in a delicates bag if i have to wash them in a machine. Tide makes really good ones and they are usually sold by irons, hangers, etc. these bags are made of mesh and the finer the mesh, the better the bag. it will keep buttons and bows from falling off and any plastic or metal things from tearing up the fabric. the only problem is that the bags i have are not always big enough to accommadate certain clothes.

  18. I hand wash all my lolita items (especially the self-made ones) and then I put them in the dryer on the air-only setting so there's no heat. That's usually just long enough so they stop dripping. Then I hang them up to finish drying and smooth out.

  19. I just wanted to say that if you buy Bodyline or other offbrand shoes, it's not even pleather. I have a pair of heart buckle bodyline shoes and i scuffed them, realizing quickly that the color on them was acrylic. As in plastic.
    Acrylic paint isn't the cheapest, but if anyone has painting skill, I suggest trying to paint over scuffs on offbrand shoes because it works and you can get as close as you need to the color.
    As for actual nice shoes-- Mr Clean Magic Eraser is where it's at.
    PS: Thanks for your message back, sorry I didn't reply, I read it and really appreciate it. I'm going to do my first vlog episode this week (once my very bleached hair calms down and I can style it again without making my hair break), keeping everything you said in mind. Thanks again so much, and this post was really great and needed to be said. :D

  20. Anime_fan_number1June 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    What do I do if it is a super light pink dress with black lace all over it?

  21. Use white vinegar! It's also great on blacks and dark dyes. I sell bedding and high end sheets at my boutique and we strongly suggest adding a cup of vinegar to every load of dark sheets to set the color and prevent bleeding/fading 

  22. Curious about the comment lost posted... I am just starting out in Lolita and I am about to buy a few IW JSK's. I can't even hand wash them? ):

    1. No, this is not true. I have several IW items, and yes, they are washable. The comment from "lost" is highly exaggerated. For example, my IW Classical Square OP is now air-dried after getting handwashed :)

  23. I hand wash my stuff but I always put dresses in the dryer, sometimes for 2 hours, and have never had anything funky happen to the lace. It's always 100% fine. Also, I've washed fake fur with dishwashing detergent then thrown it in the washer and dryer and it came out soft and 100% white when it was dirty and full of foundation before. I think some of the advice on here is decent but a lot of it is also paranoia...most of the "no nos" on here are "yes yes" in actual practice.

  24. Honestly, it's better to be paranoid than to end up ruining your clothes. While you may have had good results all the time, I know personally I have, as well as numerous friends of mine, not had good results with cotton lace and fake fur in the washer and dryer. I have the ruined clothes to prove it xD

  25. Thank you for this wonderful post. I think I may just hand wash my clothes today. I thought about taking it to the dry cleaners but honestly all my clothes are from Bodyline and I won't cry my eyes out if they get ruined. I do, however, have a question. Can you soak solid colors in Oxi Clean?

  26. My Bodyline skirt has a couple of small bows on it that aren't detachable - they're sewn onto the skirt. There's no lace anywhere on the piece, however - is it safe to put it in the washing machine, or would you suggest I hand-wash it?

    1. I think it can be washed safely :) after all, it's just a cotton skirt.

  27. Interesting blog. This is one of my favorite blog also I want you to update more post like this. Thanks for sharing this article.
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  28. Thoughts on washing skirts with boning in the waist? I'm not talking anything fancy - just Bodyline or F+F skirts that would otherwise be machine washable if not for the boning.

  29. I'm just starting to get into lolita, so I am loving your blog! I just wanted to add something fun about detergents. Ariel is probably the BEST multipurpose laundry detergent I have ever had. (I've even gotten stains out of old period panties with it)

    It's quite possibly the best detergent I've ever used, much better than OxyClean in my uses.

  30. I have some black blouses and as you know, every time I wash them, they became less black. I used vinegar but it is not enough.The water is still black after washing. I don't know if using a steamer is better 0r worst for black cloths
    What do you think?.

  31. This clothes Steamer from Bizarkdeal is an awesome device to keep around and use to clean anything you can think of in your house! It truly is professional quality steaming too and is very simple to use. Just fill it up and make sure it's plugged in and you're ready to go...couldn't be any easier. I've used it on a ton of different clothes so far and all the curtains in my house...they have come out better than I could have expected. Very happy with this! Make sure you get one as soon as you can. A+

  32. Really handful tips about how to clean different clothes, thank you for this ! It helped me a bunch!

  33. Your tips regarding washing clothes at home with easy to handle tool really comfortable and provide smooth path as well.

  34. how do you wash petticoats?
    also how would you suggest washing this dress? it's my first and i don't want to ruin it.

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