Dry cleaning can be costly, wringing out a considerable amount of a monthly personal or family budget. How can consumers keep dress clothing clean and neat without spending hundreds of dollars each year on professional dry cleaning?
What is dry cleaning?
Dry cleaning is not really a dry process at all, although dry cleaners do not use water to clean clothing. Instead, a chemical fluid known as perchlorethylene (or tetrachloroethylene) is generally employed. Perchlorethylene (often tagged “perc”) is a chlorocarbon solvent used to dissolve oils and other contaminants in fabrics. Most of this compound is removed from garments during the dry cleaning process, although trace amounts may remain.
Ecologically and fiscally minded consumers may seek simpler ways to clean their fancier apparel – or at least to reduce the amount of items that must be handled by professional dry cleaners – by washing lots of their dry cleanable clothes at home.
Try these tips for maintaining many dry-cleanable garments at home.
Here are three alternative means of cleaning garments at home, even if those items bear manufacturers’ sewn-in dry clean instructional tags.
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1. Choose a home dry cleaning kit.
Many consumers purchase dry cleaning kits for home use. Popular products include Clorox Fresh Care, Dial Custom Cleaner, and Procter & Gamble Dryel.
Basically, each home dry cleaning kit includes a stain remover, heat-activated dry cleaning sheets, and a reusable bag for use in the dryer. A user simply pre-treats any visible stains, places the garment into the drying bag with a dry cleaning sheet, and tosses it into the dryer.
Because some garments may tend to shrink, a home dry cleaner may choose to place an item in the dryer just long enough to activate the dry cleaning sheet before removing the garment to air dry.
Some thrifty consumers find that they can reuse the dry cleaning sheets a few times by moistening them slightly with water before each use. A misting spray bottle, such as that used for ironing, does the trick nicely.
2. Hand-wash special delicate items.
Ready-to-wear apparel usually contains sewn-in fabric care labels. Dress garments often bear tags saying, “dry clean” or “dry clean only.” Often, items that say “dry clean” may also be hand washed safely.
Hand washing begins with stain removal. Any stain removal product ought to be tested in an inconspicuous part of the garment, such as an inside seam, before it is used anywhere that may show.
Many dress garments (such as woolen items) may be hand washed in warm water, using a delicate soap (such as Woolite). A thorough warm (but delicate) rinsing is essential. Hand-washed items may be blotted to remove excess water, but they should not be wrung out at all. Flat drying (on a drying rack) is ideal. A hair dryer on a cooler setting may accelerate drying without damaging the fabrics.
Linens, rayons, silks, and certain delicate textile blends ought not to be immersed in water at all. Again, spot-testing is essential. Dry cleaning (at home or professionally) is recommended for garments that may not be moistened.
3. Some fancy items can actually be machine washed.
Certain apparel items may indeed be machine washed, even if they are marked with dry clean care tags. Some silks, cottons, satins, velveteens, and other finer fabrics will hold up to gentle washings. Using mild laundry detergent and cold water, a consumer may be able to wash such items on a delicate laundry setting. Ideally, this is performed in a washing machine without agitation.
The primary danger in machine washing is often shrinkage. Gauzes, linens, rayons, and wools can shrink considerably when washed, particularly if these textiles have not been pre-washed in the garment manufacturing process.
Apparel constructed of multiple fabrics or sporting drastic color contrasts may be difficult to wash without bleeding, bunching, pilling, or tearing. Also, clothing with adornments, such as sequins or tassels, may not tolerate machine washing.
Certainly, delicate and dressy clothing should not be placed in an automatic dryer. Instead, such items ought to be dried flat on a rack (as with hand washing).
Some items simply must be handled by professionals.
Suede and leather garments generally require commercially cleaning, if a light home brushing is not sufficient.
Often, however, dry clean labels on store-bought fashions are not mandates, but suggestions. If consumers are careful and willing to experiment a bit, they can certainly cut their dry cleaning costs by washing many such items at home.