Manufacturers label their fabrics with washing and drying instructions to help their products last as long as possible. However, if your closet is full of clothes that are labeled “Dry clean only,” you may want to look for other less expensive and easier washing options. Many products with this label can be washed well at home using one of three methods: hand washing, gentle machine washing, or using a home dry cleaning kit.
Method 1 of 3: Hand Wash
Step 1. Read the label on the clothes
If the fabric is wool, silk, or cotton, then the garment can be gently washed by hand.
Avoid washing soft leather, leather, feathers, bird feathers, and other highly sensitive fabrics by hand. These materials should be taken to the laundrette for professional cleaning
Step 2. Mix the soap with cold water in a basin or bucket
Use soap flakes or a mild detergent and stir the water a little to create a lather.
- Do not use hot water on items that should be dry cleaned. The fibers will be damaged and the fabric will shrink.
- Woolite detergent can be used to wash wool by hand.
Step 3. Soak the ingredients in soapy water
Immerse completely, then remove from the water, and soak again.
- Rub any soiled areas, such as the collar and underarms, using your fingertips.
- Do not use abrasive scourers on clothes as this can damage the fibers.
Step 4. Squeeze the clothes
Drain the bucket of soapy water and refill it with fresh cold water. Immerse the clothes in and out of the soapy water so the water no longer covers them.
Step 5. Spread the clothes on a clean absorbent towel
Roll up the towel with the clothes inside, wring it out gently to remove the water.
- Unroll the towel, transfer the clothing to the dry part of the towel, then roll it back up. Repeat this process three to five times until the cloth is no longer dripping.
- Do not wring the fabric, as the fragile fibers can be damaged.
Step 6. Lay the cloth flat to dry
If the fabric is made of a stiff material that won't deform as it hangs, place the fabric on a hanger to dry.
Method 2 of 3: Machine Wash
Step 1. Read the label on the clothes
Use a gentle machine wash for clothes with stiffer fabrics that won't wrinkle when stirred. Cotton, linen, and tenacious polyester usually can survive in the washing machine.
Step 2. Run the washing machine on the gentlest cycle setting
The water should be cold, not warm or hot. Use a mild detergent for washing.
Wash clothes that can only be dry washed on the gentlest cycle
Step 3. Remove the clothes from the machine as soon as the cycle ends
Spread out or hang to dry.
Method 3 of 3: Dry Cleaning at Home
Step 1. Purchase a dry cleaning kit
This kit usually includes a bottle of stain remover, a dry cloth sheet, and a dry cleaning bag.
Step 2. Read the labels on the clothes
Dry cleaning kits can be used for silk, polyester, and other sensitive materials that don't get too dirty. If your clothes are too dirty, you should take them to a dry cleaner.
Step 3. Use a stain remover to clean the stain
The stain remover included in the dry cleaning kit is the same as the stain remover that can be purchased separately at the store. Use according to the instructions on the package.
- If you're worried that the stain remover will leave marks on your clothes, first test it on a hidden spot to make sure it's safe to use.
- Do not use stain remover on large stains. If a stain covers a large spot on clothing, it's better to take it to a dry cleaner than try to clean it at home.
Step 4. Put the clothes in the dry cleaning bag
Add a dry wash sheet to the bag. The sheet will release perfume and a little moisture to freshen the clothes during the washing process.
Step 5. Put the bag in the dryer
Run the dryer on a gentle cycle, making sure the dryer is set on a low heat level. Once the cycle is complete, take the bag out of the dryer.
Step 6. Hang the clothes
As your clothes are air-dried, the wrinkles will “relax,” and the dry-cleaning process will complete.
- Some clothes are labeled “Dry Clean (optional)” or “Dry Cleaning Recommended.” Clothes like this can be washed by machine or hand, but the manufacturer believes that the quality of the clothes will last longer if they are dry cleaned.
- Washing and drying clothes with a machine will shorten the life of the clothes. For very important garments, use dry cleaning regardless of the manufacturer's instructions. However, there are some materials that should never be dry cleaned. The ingredients say “Do not Dry Wash” on the label.
- Some materials that should only be dry washed, such as rayon, will shrink when washed by hand or machine. Most materials will only shrink on the first wash.
- A general rule of thumb is to always use a dry cleaner and never attempt to wash items made of acetate fibers, leather, or fine leather.
- Materials that have additives, such as those that make them stiff, should only be dry cleaned.
- Never use a machine to wash items that are dry-only and have sensitive lace, beading, or special creases, extra creases, or specific stitches.