How To Wash Dry Clean Only Clothes

One thing is true about your dry clean only clothing: Unless you’re a truly gifted bargain shopper, high-end clothing marked dry clean only costs a lot. When you spend your hard-earned money to fill a nice wardrobe, you want – and deserve – clothes that look splendid through wear after wear. But can you really wash dry clean clothes at home and not ruin them? That depends.

Dry Clean VS Dry Clean ONLY VS Launder and Press

This may sound shocking, but dry clean clothing doesn’t always need to be dry cleaned, and sometimes when you take your dry cleaning to your local dry cleaner, they are washed, much like you would wash them at home, and given a professional press.

Clothing labels have quite a lot of information if you understand the symbols. There are two classifications of dry cleaning: dry clean and dry clean ONLY. If your label says dry clean, it’s often an indicator that it’s a delicate fabric that should be handled with extra care. Even some dry clean only garments can be washed. In fact, if you drop off a good dress shirt at the cleaners and do not specify dry clean only, your shirt will likely be laundered and pressed. 

Why do garment manufacturers mislead you? Frankly, it’s easy to make mistakes while home washing delicate fabrics, and a dry clean label cuts down on returns due to user error. 

To be sure your garment is washable, check the care label for the fabric content. That’s your next clue.

Clothing That Can’t Be Washed

Clothing That Can’t Be Washed

Not everything can be washed, and when you wash some fabrics, the result can be disastrous. Some fabrics and clothing styles don’t wash well and dry even worse. Here’s a shortlist of don’t-even-think-about-it clothing:

  • Viscose, which is also known as rayon, is a versatile fabric used in all kinds of fashion, upholstery, and other products. It drapes beautifully and holds bright, true colors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always wash well. You may get away with hand washing some pieces, but do a colorfast test first: Wet a cotton swab, add a drop of detergent and rub the swab on an inconspicuous area like the inside of an underarm seam. If you see any color on the swab, forget washing. If the material is colorfast, understand that washing may break down the fibers that provide that beautiful drape, so it might never fit the same way again. Bottom line: if you love a garment made with rayon, dry clean it.
  • Polyamide, or nylon, is a synthetic fabric used to make such diverse-use clothing as stretchy yoga pants and Kevlar vests. Some garments made with nylon can be hand-washed, but if you’ve ever owned a pair of pantyhose, you know it’s risky. Your garment may stretch out, shrink up, or simply lose shape.
  • Pleating – Even if you have a pleated skirt made from durable cotton, using your washing machine at home is not a great way to save a couple of bucks. Professional cleaners have equipment designed to press pleats. Without it, getting the creases sharp is a time-consuming nightmare.
  • Suit pieces with a lining suit linings are usually made from some lightweight fabric like nylon or silk, which will shrink and shift differently from the outer shell. Tossing a lined blazer or skirt in the washer often leaves you with a saggy lining falling below your hemline.
  • Suede and non-washable leather – Water and leather simply don’t mix. While there are home dry cleaning products, do you really want to take a chance on a piece as expensive as leather?
  • Some silks – Silk is a natural fabric, and even the most delicate pieces may be hand washable with a mild detergent. Much like rayon, though, it may lose color or lose the fluid drape that makes these fabrics so remarkable.
  • Cashmere and other fine knits – you can successfully steam fine knits between dry cleaning, but hand washing is likely to ruin their shape.
  • Some wools – wool is a special case. It’s a natural fiber with a unique warp and woof. In this case, trust the label. If it says dry clean, then dry clean.
  • If you have garments with dry clean labels made of natural fabrics like washable silk or cotton and you want to save money on dry cleaning, proceed carefully. 

The Easy Way – Your Dry Cleaner Picks it up

Our very best advice is the method that does not involve all the hand-washing, air drying, and careful ironing: Get professional cleaners to do it for you. Not only do you get professional results, non-saggy clothing, and gloriously fluid silks with no weird, pointy hanger indents, but you get your laundry done quickly, easily, and door-to-door at no additional charge. That’s right, we pick up and deliver to your home or office for free. You get to rescue your weekends from laundry, and only pay the cost of the cleaning from a vetted professional cleaner. 

  1. Download the Press App
  2. Schedule a pick up
  3. Delivered back in 24-48 hours
  4. Enjoy your stress free laundry

Home Dry Cleaning Kits

Dry cleaning really isn’t dry. Basically, dry cleaners dip the clothing into a cleaning solution. Yes, you can buy home dry cleaning kits in the laundry aisle at most grocery stores. The kits aren’t really designed for full-scale cleaning. They’re for removing spots and freshening up your garments. Here’s how you use a dry-cleaning kit:

  1. Use the pre-treater included in the kit to treat any stains.
  2. Put your garments into the cloth or mesh bag included in the kit, along with the cleaning solution cloth.
  3. Turn on the dryer according to package instructions and dry for the recommended amount of time.
  4. Remove from dryer before the time is up to avoid wrinkles.
  5. Take items out of the bag and hang immediately.  

Pros of DIY Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning kits are:

  • Easy to use 
  • Leave your clothes unwrinkled and smelling fresh. 
  • The stain remover works well on water-based stains, like tea or coffee
  • It costs less than dry cleaning

Cons of DIY Dry Cleaning

  • The stain pre-treatment does not work well on oil-based stains, ink, makeup, or sweat stains
  • If you try it and it does not lift the stain, it may work to set it. So you may accidentally make stains permanent.
  • You must pay attention and remove clothing from the dryer immediately
  • Your garments are wrinkle-free, but not pressed
  • You’ll have to schedule more time after washing them to iron

Steam Cleaning at Home Options
Steam Cleaning at Home Options

Most of today’s top-of-the-line dryers have a steam setting to refresh clothing without a full wash. This can be handy between dry cleanings for clothing that is not soiled but needs to be refreshed, deodorized, and unwrinkled.

Look for the steam refresh cycle on your dryer. It’s not a true drying cycle. We’d never recommend that for dry clean only clothing. It’s basically a short tumble with bursts of steam to kill odor-causing germs and remove wrinkles. Read your manual to be sure you understand the directions, and take great care not to accidentally use any other dryer setting.

You may also opt for hand steaming with a hand-held steamer.

CAUTION: Take extreme care to point the steamer wand away from your body and never touch the head of the steamer. You can easily burn your skin.

How To Steam Clean Your Clothes

If the garment is lined, turn it inside out and steam the lining first, using the same steps. Do the outside of the garment next. Here are the steps to steam your dry clean only clothes:

  1. Hang your garment on a thick plastic or wood hanger wide enough to support the shoulders all the way to the sleeve seams. Alternatively, you could spread your garment on a taut netting with space underneath (the type you would use to dry a sweater). 
  2. With the steamer powered on (plugged in or charged) Hold the steamer wand with the head close to the garment.
  3. Wave the steamer over the fabric. The steamer head will not damage the garment if it touches the fabric.
  4. Steam the garment from top to bottom. 
  5. Run the steamer down the sleeves from the shoulder, or from waistband to bottom of the skirt or pant legs.

Steaming is a great way to freshen up sweaters, washable wools, silks, and pieces with beading, sequins or other delicate embellishments that may be damaged by detergents and washing action. 

Hand Washing Your Dry Clean Only Clothes

Most lingerie and delicate fabrics, even those marked dry clean only, can be hand washed with a gentle detergent like Woolite Delicates. The Laundress has a line of good quality detergents formulated for specific types of fabric. 

To hand wash:

  1. Check your delicates for stains, and pretreat according to the type of stain.
  2. Fill a sink or large bowl with cold water and add the amount of detergent specified by package directions. 
  3. Completely submerge your garment in the soapy water and swish gently. 
  4. Let soak for at least 30 minutes; soak overnight if it’s heavily soiled.
  5. Rinse thoroughly and check to make sure stains are gone.
  6. Lay each garment on a clean towel and roll to up to remove excess water.
  7. Hang or spread on netting to dry.

Tips to Keep Dry Clean Clothes Clean

Since cleaning is an inherently destructive process, you can extend the life of your expensive products by wearing more than once between cleaning. Here are a few tips to help keep your clothes clean between laundering:

  • Put on makeup, deodorant, perfumes, powders, and body sprays several minutes before you get dressed to allow time to dry and set. This will keep chemicals from transferring to your clothing.
  • Keep a stain-remover pen for quick fixes in your pocket or purse. Hand sanitizer, which contains alcohol, is another handy item to keep on hand, along with a few cotton balls or an old-fashioned white handkerchief to apply and blot stains. 
  • As soon as you get home, change clothes and hang your clothes in a well-ventilated area for an hour or two. This will dry light perspiration, and release any odors or smoke you may have picked up during the day.

Laundry is tedious, and it’s really easy to ruin expensive clothes marked dry clean only. We know you’re busy. You don’t have time to run back and forth to a dry cleaner during your lunch hour or on weekends. That’s why we offer to pick up and delivery at no extra charge. We’ll even hook you up with eco-friendly dry cleaners. You can look your absolute best with less effort than ordering pizza. What a world we live in!