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Homekeeping · Laundry · How To Break The “Dry Clean Only” Rule The Right Way
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How To Break The “Dry Clean Only” Rule The Right Way

What does that "dry clean only" label REALLY mean, and can you wash those clothes at home? I'll show you how to do it (without ruining your clothes) in today's post!

When I first encountered my white coat, it was love at first sight. After raising four kids, I know all too well how hard it is to keep white clothes clean, but even that wasn’t enough to deter me from taking it home!

After a while it started looking a bit dingy, and that’s when I discovered it—the dreaded “dry clean only” label. I resigned myself to a trip to the dry cleaners, so I tossed the coat in the trunk of my car.

A few days went by, which turned into a few weeks, which turned into nearly two months, and I still hadn’t made that trip to the dry cleaner! I eventually decided that if I was never going make it over there, I might as well try washing it myself.

I washed it using the delicate wash cycle and cold water, then hung it up to dry. After steaming out the wrinkles, my white coat looked clean, fresh, and good as new! So I decided to learn more about this act of laundry rebellion, and in today’s post, I’m sharing everything you need to know about when and how to wash “dry clean only” clothing at home!

Related: How to Clean and Care for Silk!

How To Wash “Dry Clean Only” Clothes At Home

Step 1 – Ask The Important Questions

It’s important to know that there’s a certain amount of risk to washing clothing labeled “dry clean only.” Asking yourself some questions about the garment you want to wash can help you determine whether or not it’s worth it!

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Does the garment have any substantial stains?” A gentle at-home wash cycle may not be enough to remove the stain, and a more robust cycle may damage the garment.
  • “Is the garment made from acetate, triacetate, or rayon?” These fabrics are all too easy to shrink and often end up misshapen. If you choose to wash them at home, be sure to use cold water only.
  • “Is the garment difficult to iron?” Clothing items with a lot of pleats and tucks may never look quite as crisp after you’ve washed them at home.
  • “Is the garment structured or tailored?” Structured coats and suit jackets may have layers of interfacing that can be ruined by water.
  • “Is the garment lined?” Lined garments often have two or more types of fabric, and those fabrics may react differently to water and shrink at different rates.
  • “Is it made of leather or suede?” Water can strip leather of its natural oils and stain suede.
  • “Is the fabric colorfast?” Some items are meant to be dry cleaned because the dye bleeds in water. You can test the colorfastness of your garment by rubbing a damp Q-tip on an interior seam or hem. If the color transfers to the Q-tip, you probably don’t want to attempt washing it at home.
  • “Would I be devastated if the garment was ruined?” If a garment is extremely important to you, you probably shouldn’t wash it at home unless you’re confident that you can do it safely!

Once you’ve considered the potential outcomes and are ready to take the leap, it’s time to do the actual washing!

Step 2 – Wash The Garment

When it comes to cleaning delicate clothing, hand washing is usually the safest option. Use cold water and a gentle detergent, and follow the instructions outlined in this post.

If you do decide to use your washing machine, use the delicate cycle. Select cold water, add a gentle detergent, and wash the item alone.

You may also want to put the item in a mesh laundry bag to help prevent the fabric from snagging on anything!

Step 3 – Dry It Flat

After washing your garment, it’s important to let it air dry. It’s best to avoid your dryer entirely, since many “dry clean only” fabrics are likely to shrink in the dryer.

Instead, lay the garment out flat on a towel or a drying rack. Turn it over as needed until it’s completely dry, then iron if needed according to the laundry symbols on the tag.

You could also steam any wrinkles out of the fabric if you have a hand steamer at home. (I really like my clothes steamer, and have found a surprising number of uses for it around the house!

Have you ever washed a garment labeled “dry clean only?”

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    Hi, I’m Jillee!

    I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

    Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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