in which i accommodate another quirk of small-town life: how to hand-wash a pea jacket

About a year ago, I blogged about some quirks of living in a remote region. It's always amusing, baffling, and occasionally annoying to cope with what is and is not available in our town.

There are two hardware stores and two pharmacies, but to buy dog food, we have to drive to the next town, 40 minutes away. There's a self-serve dog wash, but no laundromat.

The absence of a laundromat is significant: there are many people in our community who don't live in nice homes with their own washers and dryers, plus a sizeable number of hikers, fishers, and sailors, who come into town to re-stock. It appears that there was once a laundromat -- one of the many empty and abandoned storefronts -- but it hasn't been in business for at least 15 years. 

There is also no drycleaner in the entire North Island. Now that my work attire is even more casual than it was in a suburban library, and Allan works from home, we seldom need a drycleaner anymore. And now I'm careful not to buy any clothes that can't be washed at home. Drycleaning is expensive and bad for the environment, so this is a nice thing to give up.

But then there is my pea jacket. I love my pea jacket. It's a quality garment, in great condition, and could last a very long time. I only need a winter-weight jacket two or three weeks out of the year now. (My big warm parka gets even less use!) So I have no need to replace the pea jacket any time soon.

I would normally have the jacket drycleaned once a year. But that's no longer an option. So the jacket had been looking less and less fresh. Then it went from not fresh to dirty.  And dirtier. It really needed a refresh, and I didn't know what to do.

The internet told me it was possible to hand-wash a pea jacket. I was nervous! Would it shrink? Would it get horribly wrinkled? Would it take a month to dry? And would it really get clean? 

I'm pleased to say the answers were: no, no, no, and yes. Here are the steps I followed.

1. First I had to find a container big enough to hold a jacket without smushing it, and to allow good flow of water. I used the bathtub.

2. Then I used a lint roller on the jacket and pulled off random dog hair.

3. I put on rubber gloves. 

4. I stoppered the drain, and ran cold water into the tub, adding a handwash soap powder. I have Soak, which is awesome (thank you SFYS!), but I didn't think it would be strong enough. I also have some Forever New, and decided to use that. I'm not one to measure things like that, I just poured in some amount and swished it around in the cold water.

5. When the tub was about half full, I submerged the coat in the water. I laid it flat on the bottom of the tub, unbuttoned, with the sleeves on the sides.

6. I set a timer for 15 minutes. Most instructions for handwashing clothes suggest soaking for 15 minutes, so I went with that.

7. When the timer rang, I opened the drain, periodically running the water to let the suds drain.

8. Then, keeping the jacket lying flat, I ran cold water into the tub, and also used a flexible shower attachment to rinse the jacket. I was very pleased to see that the water was very dirty!

9. I rinsed the whole tub repeatedly, each time letting the water re-fill so the jacket was a bit submerged, then letting it drain. The water was less dirty with every rinse.

10. After five rinses, the water was clear -- not dirty, not sudsy.

11. I put a few towels on the bathroom floor, lifted the jack from under the sides -- cradling it so no part was hanging -- and laid it on the towels. This is very important! If you handwash anything made of wool, and hang it while it's wet, the entire garment will stretch out -- and it will never go back into shape. I learned this the hard way with a beautiful sweater my mother made me, in ancient times, pre-internet.

12. After laying the jacket flat on the towel-covered floor, I used dry towels to squeeze out some water, doing one sleeve or one panel at a time. I also carefully turned over the jacket and pressed a dry towel into the fabric on the back. Then I left the jacket on the floor with the bathroom window open. 

13. When it became inconvenient to have the bathroom floor covered by a wet pea jacket, I cradled the jacket again and put it on top of a clothes drying rack, careful to place the sleeves flat on the body of the jacket, not hanging down.

14. I left the jacket there for several days, turning it over, turning it inside-out, opening it, and so forth, as it dried. In a few days it was completely dry. 

The result: it looks great! The jacket looks fresh and clean. All the dirt and stains are gone, and it's not wrinkled at all. 

The only minor negative is the jacket now smells slightly like Forever New. I am very scent-sensitive, and normally use only fragrance-free products. I didn't realize Forever New has a mild scent; for bras and other small hand-washables, it's never been a problem. I might put the jacket back in the tub for another rinse or two, to reduce the smell.

All in all, this was not difficult, and the results were excellent. Thank you, internet!


With God's Help said...

Great to read about your DIY experience. It's encouraging to know that this is possible in the absence of other options.

Amy said...

Is that an "after" photo of the jacket? Looks great if so. Sounds like a time consuming activity, but well worth it. I should do this with some of the sweaters my mother knitted for me that I've been afraid to dry clean.

laura k said...

That is a generic photo snipped from the L.L. Bean website! That is the men's version of the jacket I have.

I tried to do before and after pics, but couldn't capture the difference.

It was not overly time conusming. The whole process was finished in under an hour. AND -- bonus -- the soap smell has greatly diminished. It's barely noticeable now, even to my overly sensitive sense of smell. So I won't be rinsing it again!

Amy said...

Sounds good. BTW, did you get the email I sent re the NYT Book Review? I hope it gets there this time.

laura k said...

Amy, thank you, I did get the email. Consumed by bargaining and strike planning right now, personal email is on hold. Thanks for understanding!

Amy said...

No problem! Good luck!

johngoldfine said...

I bought my used USN-issue pea jacket at an Army & Navy on Washington St in Boston in 1964. I don't want the darker realities of my life to intrude unpleasantly in our relationship, Laura!


Yes, it's greasy and shiny on the collar and lapels and cuffs, and, no, I don't wear it much anymore, but...um, it's never been cleaned or washed.

laura k said...

I choose not to think about that too closely. :)

Amy said...

Ew, Jon.

impudent strumpet said...

I'm fascinated by this combination of no laundromat for 15 years AND no dry-cleaner AND not all homes have laundry machines! (What do those people do about laundry?)

I would have thought either no laundromat for 15 years would result in all homes getting laundry machines, or the fact that it's not possible for everyone to get home laundry even with 15 years to save up and organize it would result in a laundromat being economically sustainable - or at least some other business sticking a couple of coin-operated machines in a corner somewhere!

Also, the dog wash should sell dog food, since you have to drive out of town for it!

impudent strumpet said...

Data point for Amy: I've successfully hand-washed hand-knit sweaters with Soak (haven't tried Forever New)

It takes a passive 15 minutes to soak them (no rinsing required), then a passive 24-48 hours on a sweater drying rack to air dry (depending on ambient humidity - I live in an apartment that retains humidity easily, so I put them near a window that opens and gets sun, but I'm dependent on weather for how well that works)

laura k said...

I'm sure all the private houses have washers and dryers, and the apartment buildings must have at least a couple in the basements. But I'm sure there's a need for a laundromat too. Maybe the start-up costs are prohibitive?

The dog wash is a tiny little place, and completely automated! For dog food you need a big store that features many brands. Fortunately there are a couple of restaurants in the same town as the dog food, so at least we can get a dinner out of the trip down there. Plus one of my libraries is in that town, and I visit the branch a 3 or 4 times a year.

I forgot to mention the town has TWO cannabis stores. Every tiny town here as a liquor store, and most have a cannibis store. The cannabis store in Port McNeill (town with the dog food) delivers!