Say you got a stain on a nice garment, or you’ve worn it a few times and it’s starting to pick up a faint musk. So you check the tag, and, to your dismay, it says dry clean only. You know that dry cleaning is what the manufacturer recommends, but is it absolutely necessary to spend all the time and money to freshen up a single clothing item? In many cases, the answer is no. Here are some rules to follow if you want to try to treat “dry clean only” garments at home:
Washing instructions can be difficult to read with all their unusual symbols and markings. But there’s one distinction in particular that’s easy to miss, and important to recognize—“Dry Clean” versus “Dry Clean Only.” The first one simply means dry cleaning is recommended, and you can still wash it with water if you’re careful, whereas the second means you should go to greater lengths to take care of the garment.
Even among clothes are labeled “Dry Clean Only,” some materials will always hold up better in the wash than others. Cotton, linen, cashmere, polyester, acrylic, and nylon tend to fare relatively well in water, even if the label says otherwise. Before you try it, check to see if the colors will run by taking a damp paper towel and blotting it on the garment. Silk, acetate, velvet, wool, and taffeta, on the other hand, you should never immerse in water unless the tag says otherwise.
If a tag says anything about dry cleaning at all, it’s probably pretty delicate. Washing machines agitate clothes by spinning them around and rinsing them out several times, which can easily cause irreparable damage to delicate garments. Washing your clothes by hand is a much gentler procedure that gives you a lot more control as well. Fill your sink or tub with a mild, room-temperature detergent solution and simply swish the garment around in the water to clean it. Make sure to wear gloves, as detergent can irritate your skin.
Except for the sake of expediency (and cozy warm towels!), you probably shouldn’t use dryers at all. Dryers cause all sorts of wear and tear to garments of every material, and greatly reduce the longevity of anything you put in them. For delicate garments, the dryer is practically a death sentence. After washing your clothes by hand, hang them on a rack or line (indoors!) to dry.
If you’re washing you’re clothes by hand, you are bound to come into close contact with harsh chemicals, even if you wear clothes. So it’s best to seek out mild, natural detergents that are safe for you and the environment. And if you absolutely must take your clothes to the cleaners—either for convenience, or because you have suede, leather, silk, or other tricky materials—be sure to seek out a green dry cleaning facility. Conventional dry cleaning uses solvents and cleaning agents that are far more harmful than anything you would use at home. Greener Cleaner is proud to be the first completely eco-friendly cleaner in Illinois. Read about our green cleaning and free delivery services here.