Do you just toss your tights in the wash along with the rest of your synthetics or cold wash garments? That’s not a good idea, actually. Although a good pair of tights can survive such a washing repeatedly, the odds are that they will eventually get snagged or torn. But much more likely is that they will suffer microscopic surface abrasions, which appears in the form of “pilling”. That’s where you see these very small raised specs on the material. You can usually just pull them off without incident. But what is actually happening is that the material is weakened at those spots, increasing the likeliness of a tear. And before even a tear appears, you get that unsightly pilled look.
Here are some tips to help you:
- Washing Techniques
- Hosiery Cleaning Products
- Drying Tights
- Washing Between Wearing?
- Extending the life of your tights
- Got a hole?
One common technique that women employ is to use a hosiery bag. This is a zippered mesh bag that allows water to freely flow through it while protecting delicate garments inside. Although this is definitely better than leaving hosiery to swim around freely in the washer, it’s still not perfect. Most of these mesh bags commonly found are made of firm fabric to withstand the punishment of repeated washings. But they aren’t very smooth either, and delicates rubbing up against the material may suffer some surface abrasions. If you have found a good mesh bag that is durable yet soft, please post about it!
The best way to wash your hosiery is by hand, in a smooth sink, using a cleaning solution specifically formulated for hosiery. Of course, it’s a little bit of a pain to do, but surprisingly does not take all that long, if you have a small to moderate hosiery collection. The key is to use the right cleaner.
Hosiery Cleaning Products
Some of you may be familiar with “Hosiery Mate“, a product that has been available since the late 1960′s that is specially formulated to clean and enhance fine nylon material (it was invented by an optometrist, if you can believe that!). This is pretty amazing stuff. I first learned about this when noticing my girlfriend washing her hosiery in the sink. You basically immerse the hosiery for about 15 seconds in water with the cleaner added, then hang them up to dry. Rinsing is not necessary. Also, you’re not supposed to wring out the hosiery, because it’s not good for the delicate nylon fibers in pantyhose. Once dry, you notice the hosiery not only smells like new, but it has a softer feel to it. It definitely does something to the nylon. My girlfriend said this stuff extends the life of her hosiery more than double.
So… should you wash your tights with Hosiery Mate as well? I have used it and the results are reasonably good. I prefer to rinse afterward, because with thick tights you get a bit of a dust-effect after they dry (snap the fabric and a puff of dust is unleashed).
Anyway, I have since learned that there’s an even better product available now, by the same manufacturer. It’s called “Activewear Mate“. It’s specifically formulated for heavier hosiery and nylon garments (like sport shirts, running tights, etc). You can buy it directly from the Hosiery Mate Company website, for a very good price ($9 for a 16oz bottle). I don’t know if they ship overseas, but I imagine it must be available to Europe. If you don’t have very much activewear, you can get an 8oz bottle from other sources (even eBay sellers).
Activewear Mate isn’t the only nylon cleaning solution available. There is another one called Ovacion, by Forever New. It’s the liquid form of their powdered “Fabric Care Wash” product. It’s availabe in department stores like Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, but there is also an Amazon seller offering a 16oz bottle for $12, available for free shipping in the USA if you order total is over $25. The Amazon customer reviews there are mostly very positive. The Forever New website doesn’t go into much detail about how it is used, but from what I’ve read it sounds like rinsing is required. They also have a similar cleaning product called “Variance“, which costs more and is supposed to be hypo-allergenic, as well as being unscented.
I think you can’t go wrong with either product. As far as I’m concerned, when you consider how much you invest in getting the hosiery you want, with some good quality tights costing around $50 USD, using a cleaning solution by hand is the way to go. It will extend the wearable life by at least double, so it’s well worth it.
So you’ve washed them, rinsed them, and now they need to dry. The most common place to hang them is over the shower rod (if you have one). This way, traces of water will drip into the shower instead of onto a floor. If you’ve got a clothes line in the back yard, pinning them to a line is probably the best way, because the air flow will help dry them out more quickly than indoors. This is especially helpful for heavier opaque tights. However, I have one trick that helps quite a lot, and that is to use the washing machine. Turn the selector to the “spin” cycle, put the tights inside, evenly laid around the bottom rim, and then push “start”. The washer’s spin cycle is a centrifuge, spinning rapidly and flinging moisture out to the sides. This helps reduce the water content still trapped in your tights and shorten the drying time by at least half, if not more, after hanging. Lastly, if you don’t have your own washer/dryer, you can help reduce the drying time by pressing the hosiery in a thick absorbent towel before hanging up.
Washing Between Wearing?
Obviously, hand washing tights is far more bothersome than machine washing. So, washing them after each wearing would be a real pain, and it’s not always necessary to do that either. On cooler days when you’ve perspired very little, a pair of tights can still be fresh enough to wear for another day. Otherwise, you can try a light spray of deodorizer at the feet and crotch. There is also a product similar to a dryer fabric freshener that is supposed to “refresh” your clothes without washing, that you use in the dryer in the same way. But whatever the case, it’s usually best not to wear the same pair two days in a row.
Extending the life of your tights
So, using a cleaning solution formulated for hosiery will help extend the useful life, by helping to reinforce the fibers after the strain of being worn. I’ve heard that some women use hairspray to help protect their tights. I found this strange, because hairspray is a sticky substance that stiffens when dry. Maybe it works for very sheer hosiery, but I wouldn’t try this with heavier opaque tights. Probably the best thing you can do is to “give your tights a rest.” Even if they’re your favorites, don’t wear them multiple days in a row. The rest period allows the fibers to return closer to their original state. If not allowed to do so, the fabric will end up stretched out and not fit as snug. Another important thing to do is periodically inspect the seams. Sometimes a separation starts to occur that you wouldn’t otherwise notice, but can eventually progress into a hole or a run. Make sure you deal with it as early as possible. I also have some other tips on “making your tights last.”
Got a hole?
Fine hosiery tends to run a lot more so than heavier opaque tights. The common remedy for a hole is to use clear fingernail polish, which bonds to the fibers and prevents the hole from turning into a run. This will also work with denser opaque tights. However, there are products on the market that are specifically made for repairing hosiery. Some are just more expensive repackaging of nail polish, while others are more tailored to the purpose. One such product is Aleene’s Stop Fraying. It goes on like a white craft glue, but dries clear and is flexible. It’s great for the smaller holes. Larger ones will be harder to mend. I’ve personally tried it out and had several tights go for a long time without needing to be repaired again.