In Which I Attempt to Clean Clothes in Downton Abbey Fashion

I read somewhere that you’re really not supposed to wash suits – you’re supposed to brush them.

This brings to mind various Downton Abbey scenes in which the servants discuss some gossipy bit of upstairs news whilst cleaning their employers’ clothing in the boot room (or was the boot room only for boots?) – particularly that time that Lady Mary and one of her (unsuccessful) suitors got filthily dirty saving the pigs:


I was almost as glad for the poor pigs as I was put out that Anna had to clean Mary’s dress.

Downton Abbey tangents aside, I’ve been wearing my navy J. Crew skirt more recently – I somehow decided in my mind it was uncomfortable or frumpy but it is the EXACT OPPOSITE on both fronts and I am doing my darnedest to show it some much-delayed appreciation – and thus it’s gotten a bit smudgy, particularly here:


I’m not sure what that is, but knowing my house it’s probably toddler snot or cat saliva.


I used to own a fancy clothes brush but bagged it to the Goodwill awhile back because who uses a brush to clean their clothes?  Ahem.

I should note for all you declutterers out there that this is one of the few times I’ve regretted – almost – donating something.  I say “almost” only because it was so bulky and I own just two suit-like garments.  And also because pretty much any other gentle brush-like object can fulfill the same purpose, hence, an old (clean!) toothbrush:


I wetted the toothbrush slightly (though I think this is supposed to work well dry, too) and scrubbed the offending spots with moderate briskness.  I then left the skirt to dry, came back and realized I missed a spot, repeated, and ended up with this:

IMG_3886 IMG_3881


Slight amount of spottage still visible; but as you can tell by how large my thumbs are in these pictures, yuo have to be pretty close in order to see it.  I feel comfortable re-wearing the skirt a few more times until it is in need of a true laundering.

Part of caring for your clothes is not washing them more than necessary – we live in a clean-obsessed culture, but tossing our clothes in the washing machine (and particularly the dryer*) every. single. time we wear them can significantly reduce their longevity.

So if I can spot clean a skirt or spritz a shirt with some homemade (and therefore nontoxic**) clothing refresher and therefore conserve resources (and optimize laziness), I’m going to do it.


I know, Dowager Countess, I know.


*Remember that all the lint you clean out of the lint trap is, in fact, tiny pieces of your disintegrating clothing.  Tear.
**Febreze has some hazardous ingredients and smells funny to me, so I make my own.  It works about as well as Febreze does, which is to say, not great, but not horrible either.



5 thoughts on “In Which I Attempt to Clean Clothes in Downton Abbey Fashion

    1. Em, I used a ratio similar to this: but with lavender. I used both vodka and white vinegar since I liked the vodka we had at the time for drinking and wanted to stretch it out.
      I have to admit, the vodka + lavender smells like a weirdly floral G&T (or V&T I guess); while the smell fades pretty quickly, it is a little overwhelming when I first spray it. Next time I’ll use just white vinegar or use less/different essential oil.

  1. For wool items like the J Crew skirt, you can also spot clean stains using gentle shampoo. Wet the spot with water, rub a small amount of shampoo in, rinse and blot. You can also use rubbing alcohol instead of vodka or vinegar to make lavender water.

    1. Sheryl, great suggestion! I don’t use shampoo but I imagine I could use the olive oil soap I do have for a similar gentle cleaning effect.
      I think the recipe for the fabric refresher mentioned witch hazel, which is basically rubbing alcohol – good thought. Thanks for commenting!

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