How to wash cosplay outfits!

I think I can safely say that all of us hate con funk! You know that terrible smell you may encounter at cosplay conventions. While con funk has more to do with hygienic practices, it can also be the result of not taking washing or cleaning our cosplay outfits.

You might be thinking, “Why don’t I just throw on my cosplay in the washing machine and be done with it?

Well, cosplay costumes can be more complicated than that.

How do you wash cosplay outfits?

With some cosplays being super elaborate with intricate details such as embroidery, sequins or beads, tossing them in the washing machine would be a nightmare that could damage or ruin your cosplay. But not washing your cosplay results in stains setting into the fabric or an unpleasant odour from sweat that never got washed off. Especially during the summer; not washing your cosplays and putting them away is probably equivalent to sticking sweaty gym clothes back into your closet.

That’s why in this guide on how to wash cosplay outfits, I will go over the best and easiest methods for you. With these techniques and ideas, you’ll be able to keep your cosplay nice and clean.

Thanks to my friend Lisiantha Cosplay for helping me out with this guide.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Dry cleaning (Expensive but easiest method to wash cosplay outfits)

Taking your cosplay to the cleaners can get pricey, but it’s the easiest and gets the job done exceptionally well. Image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay.

If you have the resources and don’t want to bother cleaning it yourself, take your cosplay to the nearest dry cleaner. The nice thing about dry cleaning is everything is done for you; drop your costume, come back in a few days or a week, and it’s all done!

Dry cleaning is an option if either your cosplay is super delicate or the fabric can’t be washed conventionally. This will guarantee the con funk will be gone!

However, dry cleaning can be costly depending on the amount of clothing and the delicacy of the material. Also, some people with sensitive skin may react to the chemicals that are used to clean the fabric, so you’ll want to ask the dry cleaners what materials they use, if you have any allergies.

Timing is also important for dry cleaning; you have to plan out to make sure your cosplay is ready to be worn by the next shoot or event, as dry cleaning can take up to a week.

Steam cleaning (Fast but limited option to wash cosplay outfits)

Steam cleaning is another option. This involves buying a handheld steamer and steaming the fabric.

The hot steam loosens up the fibres of the fabric so the dirt and oil is released. This is the same way they clean upholstery and carpets.

Steam cleaning can get tricky if you aren’t able to remove the oil and dirt that’s supposed to get released from the garments; it doesn’t always work.

As well, some fabrics are also heat-sensitive so this may not be an option if your fabric is prone to melting.

Hand-washing (Hardest but best method to wash cosplay outfits)

Hand-washing is the safest and best method to wash your cosplay outfits!

Out of all the methods, hand-washing is by far the best method. It keeps your cosplays clean and looking new. And because I’m washing my outfits with my own hands, I know exactly how gentle I’m being with them, so as not to tear seams or destroy the details. And you can smell the con funk going away!

Here is a detailed guide on how to hand-wash your cosplay outfits:

  1. Get a plastic basin big enough to soak your garments with enough room to move them around. Fill it with lukewarm water, so that it’s not too hot to melt fabrics and not too cold to be punishing on your hands.
  2. Add a small amount of laundry soap, liquid or powder both work. Just a dab of soap from your normal detergent is more than enough. Do not use a pod-like soap for this, as they are waaaaay too concentrated and you’ll have far too much soap) Swirl the detergent around to dissolve in the water.
  3. Add in your cosplay garment and soak it thoroughly. Gently work the soapy liquid into the fabric with your hands. Don’t scrub it hard; just work it around so that the dirt and oil are released. Focus on the areas that sweat and dirt tend to accumulate, such as around the collar, the edges of the sleeves and the armpits.
  4. When you’re done, set the soapy garment aside in a different basin and use the water for subsequent garments. Always work from light to dark.Dark fabrics bleed, so if you make the water full of fabric dye at the beginning, the dark dye will bleed into white or lighter fabric. For heavily bleeding fabrics, place dark and light fabrics in different basins.
  5. When you’re ready to rinse, fill the basin with water again and swirl the fabric until the soap rinses out. You may need to repeat a couple of times by draining the water and adding new water if the garments are extra soapy. You don’t need to wring; just gently squeeze out the excess water and set aside in a basin. If the dark fabrics are prone to bleeding, set them in a different basin than the lights.
  6. Optional: Fill the basin with water again, and add a small bit of fabric softener. Swirl the garments around a bit and set them aside. Remember, always work from light to dark. This helps eliminate static and stiffening, while also making your cosplays smell wonderful.
  7. Optional if you have a washing machine: Put your clothes in the washing machine, and set the washing machine to “delicates” (or the lightest setting); do not use the regular washing cycle! This is safe, especially if you set it to the delicates option on the machine. Machine washing is rough because the clothes rub up against each other and twist during the cycle. But in this case, we bypassed the wash and rinse by selecting the delicates option. The spin part will get rid of excess water, without the garments rubbing against each other. Put delicates and small objects in a laundry bag.
  8. After the rinse cycle has finished, hang your cosplays to dry on a rack. Some delicate knits may require you to lay them flat to dry, which you can also do. The spin has eliminated excess water, so water won’t make them heavy and drag them out of shape. They also dry very fast; you’d be surprised how quickly clothes can dry indoors, as long as there isn’t too much water in it. This makes it very convenient for quick storage! Also it saves on electricity because you won’t need to use the dryer.
  9. Once dry you can fold your cosplays back up, or hang them to store. Storing your cosplays in bags is convenient because it’s easy to pack up when going to a convention or photoshoot, and it also saves on space. Feel free to adjust any of the steps to best suit your needs! Sometimes a dark and light fabric sewn together can cause bleeding. If any bleeding occurs, rinse with copious amounts of water and spin promptly to avoid dripping of the dyed water.
Hang your clothes to dry after finishing!

And that is how you clean your cosplay outfits by hand-washing.

Other additional tips to keep your cosplay clean:

  • Opt for magnets instead of safety pins to fasten bows and accessories to your outfits. Safety pins can pull and stretch the fabric, and may leave holes.
  • Wear undershirts and undergarments if you can. They act as a barrier between your skin and the cosplay, so as to avoid sweat stains.
  • Minimize dragging your cosplays on the ground if they are long. Pick up long dresses and gowns when you’re walking and set them down for short durations only, such as shoots and photos.
  • Take care of stains promptly; if you get a stain, don’t rub it in. Treat it as soon as you can with some baking soda, or water if needed.

And there you have it; a complete guide on how to wash cosplay outfits! I hope you found this guide freshly helpful.

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Do you have any tips for caring for your cosplays or getting rid of con funk? Let me know in the comments!