Dry cleaning is a hassle, it’s expensive, and it’s not always good for the environment. Can we skip it altogether without ruining our wardrobes? Well, yes and no. Read on for this helpful guide on what does — and doesn’t — need to be dry cleaned.
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Words mean everything. In most places around the world, washing instructions on clothing tags are actually regulated by the government. That said, just because a tag says you should dry clean an item, doesn’t mean you have to. These recommendations are just that — recommendations — not hard and fast rules:
Dry-Clean Only: Many items that are labeled “dry-clean only” can be washed at home if you know what you’re doing, though if you’re not totally sure it’s best not to risk it.
Dry-Clean. If the word “only” isn’t on a tag, you don’t have to take it in to the cleaners. Clothing manufacturers tend to err on the side of suggesting dry-cleaning over washing garments at home because they want to avoid consumer complaints about destroyed items.
What You Should Take to the Cleaners:
- Items with a lining
- Items with beading, sequins, and other embellishments
- Suits, particularly wool suits
- Items with complicated designs
- Very soiled or stained items
- Skirts, dresses, and pants with pleating
- Delicate synthetics like rayon
- Fabric blends
What You Can Wash at Home:
- Cashmere and wool will last longer if it’s washed by hand.
- Sturdier synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon can be washed by hand or in cold water in your washing machine.
- Cotton and linen items that don’t meet any of the criteria above; no lining, no details, etc.
- Leather. You can wash it at home if you’re careful (find more on that here) but any leather with metal details, or that you really, really don’t want to ruin, you should take to the cleaners.
- Silk. Light-colored silk can be washed at home in the sink, along brighter silks that you’re certain don’t bleed. If they do bleed, you should dry clean them. You can test this by getting a small, hidden patch wet and blotting it dry with a white paper towel. If the paper towel has stained, take it to the cleaners. Other fabrics can be tested this way too.
When in Doubt… Dry cleaning is best. If you’re not totally sure if something can be washed by hand, avoid the risk of ruining it by taking it in to the cleaners.
Choose the Right Dry Cleaners. Conventional dry cleaners use the chemical perchloroethylene, known as perc, to launder garments. This chemical is released into the air through vents, and can eventually pollute waterways, damage plants and animals, and possibly deplete the ozone layer. Human exposure can, in the short term, cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, and fatigue. Longer term consequences can include skin and liver damage, respiratory failure, and higher rates of certain types of cancers. Want to do your part to help the environment and the health of employees? Ask your dry cleaner about their cleaning methods and how they maintain their equipment and ensure safety. You can find more helpful information about this here.