Sure, you can wash those items at home yourself!
Otherwise, you’re likely to go broke if you dry clean everything that has a Dry Clean Only label.
There’s no doubt that drycleaning bills can be expensive — especially the more items you have. And would you believe that women’s clothing is typically more expensive to dry clean than men’s?
However, Dry Clean Only simply means the manufacturer prefers that those items be dry cleaned (as opposed to being cleaned in a washing machine) because doing so will extend the life and wear of the garment.
Some items marked Dry Clean Only can be safely home laundered. The Care Labeling law states only one method of cleaning must be communicated to the consumer, not all acceptable methods. Source
So, the good news is… Dry Clean Only does not mean that you can’t wash those items yourself sometimes!
Here’s how to save money on your drycleaning, including ways to dry clean at home…
How Professional Dry Cleaning Works
Dry cleaning is a misnomer. It is not a dry process. When clothes are cleaned at a professional dry cleaning establishment they are immersed in a solvent that really gets into the fibers and releases the stains and dirt that cause odor and discoloration. Source
This video shows how dry cleaning works.
12 Ways To Save Money On Drycleaning
See when it’s safe to ignore the Dry Clean Only label and when it’s not.
Wash a Dry Clean Only garment in your kitchen sink using a very gentle detergent (like Woolite, or a gentle dishwashing liquid). Then, wrap the item loosely in towels to soak up the water. Don’t twist or ring out the garment. Once most of the water has been removed, lay it out somewhere that is not in direct sunlight on a fresh dry towel to dry.
#2 Sometimes the entire garment doesn’t have to be washed; just a spot or two needs to be removed. In that case, you can spot clean items that say “Dry Clean Only.” As soon as you see a spot, you should clean it with a mild soap and cold water. You wouldn’t want to do this with a large stain or with garments made with the fabrics mentioned above. A spot remover like Dry Clean Spot Remover works best for small areas that need extra attention.
#3 Use a do-it-yourself home dry cleaning kit. Some of the kits to dryclean your clothes at home are: the Dryel At-Home Dry Cleaning Kit (which is highly recommended), Woolite’s Dry Cleaner’s Secret, and Bounce’s 15 Minute DryCleaner. While these won’t work for items that are heavily soiled, they can be great for items that you’ve only worn a few times and just need to be freshened up.
Here’s how at-home dry cleaning works, step-by-step.
#4 Hang up your Dry Clean Only clothes as soon as you’re done wearing them. People often take things to the drycleaner simply to have them pressed — because they left them lying around and the items are actually more wrinkled than dirty. If you hang your Dry Clean Only items on wooden hangers or padded hangers right after you’re done wearing them, you could wear them more often and not have to take them to the dry cleaners as frequently.
#6 Compare the cost to dry clean your clothes at different drycleaners in your area. Chances are if you look around you will find a drycleaner that is less expensive than the one you have been using and can save money that way.
#7 Use a clothing brush to remove dust and other stuff that may be on the surface of your Dry Clean Only garments. Sometimes a simple brushing (with a gentle clothes brush) will remove these things. That way, you can wear the garment an extra time or two more before having to take it to the cleaners.
#8 Leave space around the Dry Clean Only clothes in your closet so they can breathe. By simply airing out your clothes in this way, you may be able to eliminate odors that would normally cause you to take the items to the drycleaner.
#9 Wear garments more times in between washings. Unless your Dry Clean Only items have large amounts of soiling or perspiration, then you can wear them more than once before taking them to the drycleaners. You can spot clean here and there whenever it’s necessary, but a full drycleaning of every garment is not necessary in between wearings. Bonus: This means less wear and tear on your clothes as well!
#10 Steam cleaning is another option. If your washing machine has it, use the steam cycle for items you would normally dry clean. The steam cycle alone will remove wrinkles, odors, and stains from clothing in minutes — without the use of any chemicals. Another way to steam clean garments is to use the Whirlpool Fabric Freshener — a portable, collapsible appliance that uses only water. It immerses your clothing in a blanket of steam to remove the odors and wrinkles.
#11 Collect drycleaning coupons. Even if a coupon isn’t for your regular dry cleaner, sometimes it’s worth it to try a new one. Many times, dry cleaners will take competitors’ coupons. So it’s definitely worth asking — especially if it means they’re able to keep your business.
#12 Try to avoid purchasing clothes that say “Dry Clean Only.” Ultimately, this is the absolute best way to save money on drycleaning — because the fewer Dry Clean Only garments you have, the less you will have to spend on dry cleaning. (…And the less time you’ll have to spend spot-cleaning and second-guessing whether an item can be hand washed or not!)
Trying even one of these tips will save you money on dry cleaning. Trying 2 or 3 of them could cut your regular dry cleaning bill in half!