How to Wash Dry Cleaning-Only Clothes at Home

When my mom taught me what to look for when buying new clothes, one of the first things she mentioned was checking the tag to make sure the clothes weren’t just dry cleaned. Usually it was followed by, “No matter how discounted it is, it actually costs more when added to the dry cleaning costs.”

But sometimes a find from a gift or thrift store, intended only for dry cleaning, came into the house, and we had to decide how to wash it . And, of course, you always need to put it on at the last moment, when it’s too late to take it to the cleaning lady. Or perhaps you’re in a pandemic and don’t have to leave the house, but want your pile of laundry to disappear and don’t want to wait until you can go out again. In any case, there are times when you need to dry clean something at home. Here’s how to do it.

What does dry cleaning only really mean?

Of course, your blouse might say “dry clean only” on the label, but is there any wiggle room? It does exist, according to Gwen Whiting, co-founder of The Laundress . “Instructions on care tags are not necessarily the best way to clean an item, but instead allow manufacturers to avoid accusations of irreparable damage if the instructions are not followed, she told Glamor . “When manufacturers use dry cleaning care instructions by default, it puts the responsibility on the dry cleaner, not on themselves.”

In a similar vein, Steve Borstein, a former dry cleaner and founder of, says that when a label says “dry cleaning only,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that an item can’t be hand washed, especially if it’s made from natural fibers. The dry clean only label is intended to reduce the risk of improperly washing clothes at home.

It also depends on the type of clothing and fabric. For example, according to , items with a simple design, no lining and made from natural fibers (cotton, silk and linen) or polyester are likely to be hand washed or machine washed in cold water. On the other hand, you may want to ditch suits, pleated skirts, and fine synthetics such as rayon or blended fabrics including silk and wool, as well as leather or suede and metallic embellishments. beads or sequins.

Hand washing

One way to wash dry cleaning only garments is by hand washing. You can do this in your bathroom, kitchen sink, or a separate sink. This is what we went over in detail a few weeks ago, but for reference, here’s what you need to do:

  • Get a bucket, a sink with a stopper, or a bathtub with a stopper. You are going to fill this container with water at the temperature at which you want to wash your clothes.
  • Use mild soaps or detergents ( not detergents). Dish soap or hair shampoo are good options.
  • Use your hands, a wooden spoon, or something similar as a stirrer. Go in and start whisking, squeezing and squeezing until everything is really soapy.
  • Rinse items one at a time in clean water from a nearby container.
  • Hang clean clothes to dry from a tumble dryer, shower curtain bar, chair backs, or wherever you have room.

Using the washing machine

If you really want to use your washing machine, you can safely wash some dry cleaning-only items in it. However, there is one important caveat: for this to work, the machine must have an “express” setup. If so, here are Apartment Therapy instructions for using your washing machine for dry cleaning only:

1. If the product is stained, apply the stain remover to the affected area while it dries.

2. Place contaminated clothing in a mesh bag.

3. Use a mild laundry soap by adding it to the detergent dispenser or directly into the drum of the washing machine as directed.

4. Turn on the express cycle of the washing machine, in which your clothes in general will interfere for less time.

5. Hang clothing or place on a flat surface to dry.

6. If necessary, remove wrinkles with a steamer.

Home dry cleaning kits

Over the past few years, home dry cleaning kits have become available in most supermarkets, pharmacies and large supermarkets. If you have it or can get it, that is also an option. Basically, these kits work by first spotting any stains on the garment and then “cleaning” them by placing a damp pad of cleaning solution from the kit in the dryer, where the heat steams them. While these kits are great for freshening up your clothes, they are not the best for getting rid of oil stains (including body oils).

It really depends on what you want out of the cleaning process. And if it’s something like a family heirloom or something that can’t be spoiled under any circumstances, you might be better off just taking it to a professional dry cleaner when you get the chance again.


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