Is dry cleaning necessary, or can you wash at home?

It happens to everyone – you’re sorting your laundry and looking at labels, only to discover that one of your outfits has “dry clean” in the care instructions. You don’t want to go through the time, trouble and expense of dry cleaning, but you also don’t want to ruin the item.

What should you do? Our guide can help you understand how to wash “dry clean” clothes at home and determine whether to take that shirt, sweater or pair of pants to the professionals.

How to wash “dry clean” clothes at home

Which clothes should you take to the dry cleaners, and which can be washed at home? The answer depends on your clothing label. Many clothing manufacturers label delicate fabrics as “dry clean” to keep people from accidentally ruining them in the washing machine. However, this doesn’t mean you must dry clean every delicate clothing item instead of washing at home.

Instead, take a look at the wording on the label – if it says, “dry clean” or “dry clean recommended,” you may be able to wash it at home, as long as you do so carefully. There is a notable exception to this rule – if your clothing label says, “dry clean only,” don’t put it into your washing machine.

Washing dry clean only clothing can ruin the garment, so it’s best to take it to a professional cleaner. If you don’t see washing instructions, look instead at the material the clothing is made from – leather, suede, beaded or sequined items, silk, acetate, velvet, wool and taffeta should be dry cleaned.

A person uses a washer or dryer control panel to choose a laundry cycle.

Do DIY dry cleaning kits work?

If you don’t have easy access to a dry cleaner, you may be tempted to try dry cleaning at home with a DIY dry cleaning kit. These kits contain milder versions of the specialized cleaners used by professionals, allowing you to wash your dry clean only outfits.

However, it’s important to remember that these kits may not work on heavily soiled clothes. When in doubt, it’s best to take your clothes to the dry cleaners so they can take care of your items.

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