Unexpected Sartorial Uses for Water

Clothing maintenance is so important, but can be such a chore. Washing, ironing, folding, dry cleaning, mending … it’s enough to make a gal consider the burlap sack route. OK, not really, but we all know that keeping your duds looking fresh and new is a time-suck and an energy drain. And in can get expensive, too.

So to combat all that, here are a few simple clothing maintenance workarounds that can be performed with nothing more than a few ounces of my favorite beverage: Water.

Substitute static guard

Your skirt absolutely insists on clinging to your thighs, your slip is just making matters worse, and you left the static guard at home. No problem: Just duck into the bathroom, moisten your hands, and pat down your tights. Some folks suggest using hand lotion or hairspray in a pinch, which may help, too … but I’m not too keen to gunk up my hosiery with either substance. The tiniest bit of water does the trick beautifully.

“Shoulder nipple” eliminator

Oh how I wish I’d created the term, “shoulder nipples.” If you’re the clever person who did, please stand up. Shoulder nipples are the little bits of distended cloth that occur when a stretchy or delicate garment has been sitting on a hanger too long. You don’t even notice they’re there until you pull on your shirt or sweater and see the little protrusions atop your shoulders. Luckily, all you’ve gotta do to return your shirt to normalcy is dampen the protruding area. Wet it down, smooth across your shoulder with your hand, wait a few moments, and the material will be flat and flush once more. Again, works best with natural fibers, but many synthetics will cooperate, too. Here’s a little demo.

Last-resort lint brush

Truly, nothing beats sticky tape. Nothing. Especially for embedded cat hairs. But if you’re dusty or linty and sadly without a lint roller or supply of packing tape, moisten your hands and run them over your clothing. This will backfire SPECTACULARLY if you’re covered in anything that turns goopy upon contact with water, such as copious amounts of dried dirt, so proceed with caution. But if you’re dealing with threads, lint, some pet hair, human hair, or anything non-goopy, a wet hand can do some makeshift lint brushing for ya in a pinch.

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  • I don’t know if hair counts, but plain old water is a great curl fixer-upper. Wet hands, scrunch through hair, done (unless curls have other ideas) : >

  • JB

    This isn’t all that unusual, but regular water on a damp cloth does a good job of getting deodorant streaks out of most fabrics. I use Patti’s hair trick too!

  • One of my favorite sartorial uses for water is the steam iron on wool. Amazing! It makes shoulder nipples and weird puckers go away…you can almost reshape a sweater with enough steam.

    Great topic, Sal!

  • I love that you used the word “sartorial” 🙂

    If I have a garment that’s just a wee bit wrinkly, I’ll mist it with water and hang it up (on a hanger) in the bathroom while I shower to let the steam relax the wrinkles a bit.

    If we want to talk hair maintenance, too, water is an excellent fast fix for flyaway static hair, especially for my crazy bangs after I’ve been wearing a knit hat!

  • I read the title and thought you might be offering a history lesson. I remember reading that in the late 1700s/early 1800s (more or less Pride and Prejudice era), women would wet their dresses so that they would cling to their bodies the way clothes appeared to cling to the bodies of Greek statues.

    Your tips are less likely to give people pneumonia. 😉

    • Sal

      That is totally the fun fact of the day. Love it!

  • Em

    As mentioned above, a bit of water helps revive a hairstyle, especially if you used hairspray to style it initially. Water reactivates the product, adding some oomph, hold, and shape.

  • If a garment is mildly wrinkly I spray it with water and shake it out. There’s a spray bottle of just water by my closet 🙂

    • Lady Harriet

      Yes! By doing this I am able to avoid ironing almost entirely. It’s great.

  • Cat

    I agree with JB about getting deodorant streaks with a damp washcloth. If you ever get powdered laundry detergent spots on dark clothes, a damp cloth will get those off too (this only happens when my kids do laundry!). Also, any crocheter or knitter can wax eloquent about the benefits of blocking a newly finished garment. This is usually done by wetting it, pinning it into shape and allowing it to dry or by steaming it.

  • remember the expensive sprays that were so popular a few years ago, for removing wrinkles without ironing? While I had little luck with them in general, they were nice to pack in suitcase for a quick touch up. Their primary ingredient?….you guessed it, water.