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What You Should (And Shouldn’t) Dry Clean

What You Should (And Shouldn’t) Dry Clean

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.

Earlier: 7 Other Ways to Use a Pizza Stone


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.

See Also: 6 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Dishwasher


Read more: Beauty, Bed & Bath, Eco-friendly tips, Fashion, Green, Home, Household Hints, Money, Non-Toxic Cleaning, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, , , , ,

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Katie Waldeck

Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and womenís issues. A Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives in Oakland, California.


+ add your own
9:26AM PDT on Aug 10, 2014

If it isn't wash and wear, I don't get it. Most things can be washed. Even if labeled "Dry Clean".

6:49AM PDT on Jul 23, 2014

I have always washed my drapes in my washer. We bought some new drapes 2 years ago and I made the mistake of washing them. They came out horrible!! I called the dry cleaners and they said if they aren't too bad, maybe they can fix them! I hope so, considering I gave away my old drapes!!

9:10AM PDT on Jun 21, 2014

good to know

11:06PM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

Exactly, Katie some clothes required special care and washing such as suits, saris and party wear dresses. Washing the various types of clothes with multiple tricks is a complicated and time consuming. Therefor it's a reliable choice to dry clean it at the laundry.

3:26AM PDT on May 23, 2014

Thanks for sharing!

9:07AM PDT on May 13, 2014


11:30PM PDT on May 9, 2014

Most delicate fabric clothes I've been able to wash on gentle cycle using a laundry bag. If I'm not sure I will have it dry cleaned, but I tend not to buy something needing dry cleaning. My washing machine is "apartment size" which means small, so certain blankets and large items that won't fit will have to be taken to a dry cleaners, but only once a year, maybe less often.

1:05PM PDT on May 9, 2014


7:50AM PDT on May 9, 2014

Thanks. The chemicals can cause itching skin as well. There are a lot of cleaners that are "green" nowadays though.

1:35PM PDT on May 8, 2014

Thanks for sharing !! :)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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people are talking

Yes, I do: vegan and mostly raw :)

Thank you for this very informative article.

Interesting information; thanks for sharing.


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