On Maintenance of Hanfu

Translator’s note: Here Hu reminds fellow Hanfu owners that in the daily maintenance of the clothing, there are several places where the washing and drying process are different from that of Western clothes. The author’s accounts on fabric treatment not only apply to Hanfu, but is general-knowledge on the treatment of fabrics and material in general. While Hu repeatedly stresses that Hanfu should not be machine-washed due to its length, I would suggest that long articles of clothing or containing long sashes be placed in a washing bag before tossed into the machine.

琥氏名璟明﹑字宗武﹑号白额校尉﹐湖南醴陵人士。

Source: http://tieba.baidu.com/f?kz=937607758
By: Hu Jingming, President, Art Association of Hunan Normal University
Translation: Juni L. Yeung

Here I want to focus on the aspects of washing and drying the clothes. For the sake of convenience, I’ll combine these two topics into one thread.

First I will talk about pre-treatment. Pre-treatment refers to a technical processing of the fabric material prior to production of the clothes, and its methods are various. Here I will pick out some to discuss.

Currently on the market, much of the material are cotton woven. Along with the rise of raw cotton, many bad manufacturers will choose to increase woom tension to increase the length of the woven fabric to increase profit. However, this creates a serious negative after-effect: As the material becomes moist, it will revert to its original length. Therefore, before we tailor the clothes, we must pre-shrink the fabric. The method is simple: Simply soak the material in clean water, and then line-dry it. That way, most newly-made clothes will not shrink.

A common problem with pre-shrinking is that the fabric severely decolorizes. This in actuality also is a method of less moral businesses trying to move the problem to the consumer, in attempt to cut costs. After dyeing, fabrics will fade by washing, and strictly speaking, it should be thoroughly washed off first. However, as many fabric mills cut corners in the process, they only simply give a quick rinse and package the material out the door – to put it simply, it’s not washed clean at all. Therefore, you must wash it again. When you encounter this problem, it’s not just using water anymore, but also to use washing solutions. If this step is not executed properly, it will cause devastating damages to those Hanfu with different colour collars, cuffs, or lining, as well as any other articles of clothing also being washed at the same time.

Right now, some of our [Hanfu] makers have not been paying attention to this, therefore we’ve had reports when the clothing is beautiful as it came out of the package, but becomes a tragedy after a run through the wash. The problem is not complicated, as long as the makers treat this matter more seriously.

Here, I want to explain that the washing process really depends on the material. Synthetics are relatively easy, followed by cotton and linens, and the hardest silk. I want to focus on the silk part – washing silk must not use alkaline (such as soap) or enzyme-added cleansing formulae, as both destroy proteins, which silk is made of. Washing silk clothing has its own weak-acidic formula, but it is hard to find, neither is it necessary for personal use. Using mild bathing lotion would do. One cannot use the washing machine for silk, nor can you wring it dry, and hanging it requires you to balance the weight evenly, or else the clothing may warp or snag. Also, one must iron silk at a low temperature.

Dry fabric and clothes in direct sunlight - with a covering layer.

The last step in pre-treatment is drying. Here we have to be mindful, especially of natural fibres (synthetics are a bit better off) – Natural fibres fade easily from direct exposure to sunlight, with the most evident being silk, followed by cotton and hemp. Therefore, you have to cover a layer of thin material on top of the fabric – an old canvass cover, newspapers, or even old bedsheets – the purpose is to avoid direct sunlight, and use the heat radiation to bake the fabric dry. While this may take longer, it can greatly reduce damages done from the drying process. Also, the same applies to already-made clothes.

***

Lastly, I want to talk about the hang-drying of Hanfu clothing itself. Much of the treatment principles are the same as before, so I won’t repeat. What i will add is: Hanfu is not suitable for the washing machine, and is best hand-washed. The washing machine was created for industrially produced fashion, and as Hanfu’s sleeves are too long, as well as some longer sashes and strings, it may cause tangling and even damage from the spin-wash process.

Hanging Hanfu: Bad Idea (left), Good Idea (right)

Also, Hanfu is not suitable for hang-drying with the clothes hanger. Here, I use a Shuhe as an example. The Shuhe is still fine, but any larger (or longer) articles such as Quju (Shenyi), along with the extra weight from the water, will focus all the weight to the two ends of the hanger, causing stretching and warping of the shoulders and lose its fit. Therefore, this method is very unreasonable, and the clothes hanger can barely be used for shorter articles of Hanfu.

The correct method should be: Run a pole through the sleeves. But since many of our compatriots are students living in (cramped) dorms, doing this in the bedroom may be somewhat impractical.

An alternative method for hang-drying Hanfu

Therefore, there is a relatively easier solution: spread out the clothing as much as possible and hang it on a clothesline. Spreading it out is to increase surface area, decreasing pressure on a given point, in order to avoid warping or mutilation. Finally, whether it is pre-treatment or made clothes – washing it will cause small creasing or wrinkles. This is unavoidable, so go buy an iron.

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