Dry cleaning is the process of using specific chemical solvents, instead of just water, to deeply launder clothing. Still, the process isn't actually dry, it just uses those solvents (harsh detergents) instead of water to get the job done. The mix lifts grease and oil off clothes, which water alone will not be able to do, and is great for lifting stains around the collar, pits, and cuffs. Dry cleaning is a great way to care for your clothing, but the chemicals used are pretty serious. With that in mind, here are some tips for clothing care.
Our best tip is to bring clothes to the dry cleaner when the label requires it. Fabrics that may be damaged by hot water or your washing machine at home will lose shape and structure over time if not cared for by professionals with the correct tools and equipment.
We've all had that women's linen shirt that says dry clean only, but we throw in the wash and it survives every time. Those kinds of items are the exception, not the rule. Always play by the clothing labels rules, or you may end up losing one of your favorite pieces. Your summer dress is fine to run through the wash, but if the label says "Dry Clean Only" then your best bet is to take it over to the cleaners.
You may also see some clothes that say "Dry Clean" which is more of a suggestion than a requirement — use your discretion, but keep in mind that if you don't have the patience to handwash or run special washes for certain items, it's probably in your best interest to send it off!
You may already be familiar with materials that need more attention on laundry day, like wool, cashmere, silk, and some linen. Throwing these types of fabrics in the regular wash cycle can cause serious damage, from loosened fibers and structural degradation in cashmere and linen to shrinkage in wool, and color drainage in silks. The dry cleaner is great for larger garments, like women's wool coats, because of the size of their machines.
Suits are another type of garment that requires some extra care. Another bonus of the dry cleaner is that they can press or steam your suits and starch men's dress shirts so that when you pick up your order, everything is ready to wear or hang up in the closet. Either way, the work's been done!
While dry cleaners can save you a ton of time and work, make sure to keep these points in mind before visiting your local cleaner.
Because dry cleaners use strong solvents, it's best to subject your clothing to the process as little as possible. Below are some at-home tips to keep your clothing fresh, clean, and long-lasting.
There will be moments when you don't have the time, or the budget, to take your favorite items to the dry cleaners on a regular basis. For those cases, there are some at-home tricks of the trade that can help you recreate the dry cleaner effect with just a bit of effort.
Sometimes "Dry Clean" clothes are listed that way not because of how they need to be washed, but how they need to be dried. If you wash your women's wool sweaters and cashmere cardigans in cold water you'll avoid shrinkage there, and you can just air dry and save yourself a trip to the cleaners. Similarly, if you didn't get the clothing dirty, or only wore it for a couple of hours, just hang it up outside or by a window to let it air out before putting it back in the closet.
Always look up the exact needs for the material you're working with. Depending on the fabric, you can find several remedies in your own home, usually involving baking soda, vinegar, tonic water, or salt. Treating stains shortly after they happen is the best approach since many stains begin to "set" after some time on your garment.
Keeping more delicate fabrics safe in a mesh bag helps them to avoid snagging in the wash cycle. Don't use detergent, just water, and run them through on a gentle cycle. The less agitation in the wash, the less the textile gets worked, and the longer your favorite pieces last. Always test a corner of the silk in water first to see if the color bleeds. If it does, it'd definitely a dry clean only type of deal.
While at-home care for Dry Clean Only clothes is not a permanent or perfect solution, these tips should help remove small stains or freshen up those pieces in your wardrobe that deserve a little extra care. And when it's time for a trip to the cleaners, you know you'll come prepared.