2019 Update: We still stand by this advice on the easiest ways to wash your work pants — but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion on washable pants for work, as well as our 2019 roundup of the best pants for work (including tons of washable, comfortable options!).
Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.
A reader wrote in, requesting I round up washable pants for the office, and I thought it was a great idea. I’ve always drycleaned my suits, but the majority of my pants I’ve washed myself. There are actually a ton of good ones out there, so I thought I’d start the discussion with some tips.
- Look for stretch if you’re shopping online. If you want to narrow your search to pants that are machine washable, look for ones with stretch in them — they almost always are washable. (But most online descriptions will tell you what the recommended care is.)
- Get them tailored only after you’ve washed them first. Some pants are great in the wash, but for the first wash there may be a little bit of shrinkage.
- Wash them in cold water at home — but don’t put them in the dryer. At least, not for very long. I usually like to put my pants in the dryer for about 15 minutes — it gets the wrinkles out, and just a bit of time with the dryer sheet makes them softer. I always wash my pants on cold, and I usually do use Woolite and the delicate cycle for my pants.
- Hang them upside down to dry. The weight of the waistband will pull the pants taut, effectively smoothing them out. (I almost never iron ’em!) When you put them on the hanger, do your best to keep the crease the pants came with — if there was no crease, just put the inseams together neatly.
- “Dry clean” on the label usually means you can wash them (but proceed at your own risk). The big thing to know here is that “dry clean only” means, well, DRY CLEAN ONLY. If it just says “dry clean,” though, you usually can either dry clean them or wash them. Your mileage may vary here, but: unless I really loved the pair of pants, I would give “dry clean” pants a whirl in the washer, as well — particularly if the pants are made up entirely of natural fibers. You may want to do a spot test first.
Readers, do you wash the pants you wear to the office? Which are your favorite pairs? Check out our roundup, below…
|I’ve personally washed Gap’s Perfect Trousers (also available in petite and tall, and with 3 different inseam lengths) — and they came out great, even with frequent washings, and I have never found ironing to be necessary if you hang ’em upside down to dry. These even say “machine wash” on the tag. They’re $59.95 at Gap. Perfect Trouser Pants|
|Brooks Brothers is having its annual sale, which is the only reason these great pants come in so early in the round-up — normally $128, they’re currently marked to $64. Available in four colors, these also say “machine wash” on the tag. They’re $64 at Brooks Brothers. Cotton Stretch Lucia Trousers|
|When I asked this Q on Facebook and Twitter, the most popular answer was Express’s Editor Pant (it’s also pictured at the top of this post, in black). As one reader put it: “Haters will hate, but Express has nailed the editor. I’ve tried tons of others at all pricepoints, and they’re the best machine washable option.” They’re $69.90 at Express. SIGNATURE STRETCH ORIGINAL EDITOR PANT|
|The Limited’s Drew pant was also among the reader suggestions on Facebook — I like the double buttons and the fact that they’re available in 00-16 in 3 inseams. They’re $74.90 at The Limited. Drew Black Collection Pant|
|These “customer favorite” pants from Banana Republic suggest you dry clean them, but I would try washing them in cold water, maybe with a spot test first. They’re available in regular, tall and petite sizes in multiple inseams, 00-16. They’re $89.50. Banana Republic Sloan Fit Flare|
|I wanted to throw in at least one pair of more expensive pants to show you that washable pants aren’t limited to mall stores. For example, these Theory pants are just cotton and Lycra — while this tag also suggests you dry clean them, this is exactly the kind of pant that I would try in the delicate cycle. (Considering their price, I might try to get a year’s worth of wear out of them first.) They’re $235 at Saks. Theory Stretch Canvas Fit And Flare Pants|
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