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Dry Cleaning vs Laundry: What Do You Need?

Young girl holding basket in laundry mat
We all know certain fabrics and clothing should be dry cleaned. But when can you get away with laundering? Here’s your dry cleaning vs laundry guide.

The average American spends $161 a month on clothing. Over a year, that’s around $1700.

If you think about it, your closet has a good chunk of your salary sitting in there. If you have a couple years’ worth of clothing in there, that’s quite a large investment.

But when you look around your closet, do you see several years’ worth of clothing in there? Probably not.

On average, people throw out 81 pounds of clothing every single year! That’s a lot of money going into the trash. Often, people discard clothing when it becomes faded, torn, misshapen or got shrunk in the dryer.

Much of this waste could be prevented by dry cleaning. Read on to learn when you should choose dry cleaning vs laundry for your garments.

Look at the Label

The first thing you should do when deciding if you should launder shirts or other items or choose to dry clean is to look at the care label.

The label in the seam of an article of clothing gives you important care instructions about your garment.

If an article of clothing says dry clean only, there is probably a good reason why. Maybe there is a decorative trim that could be damaged in a washing machine or maybe the coloring could become faded or stain other materials.

If you decide to give laundering your dry-clean-only item a try, here are some tips.

Tips For Washing Dry-Clean-Only Clothes

If you want to wash an item that specifies dry-clean-only on the label, take a moment to consider.

If the item has sentimental value or is expensive, your best bet is to pay for dry cleaning. When items become damaged during laundering, it is almost impossible to repair them.

But if you are ready to try, here are some tips.

First, always use cold water and a gentle detergent. Wash the item on its own if you plan to use the washing machine to prevent it from damaging other items in the wash.

Your best choice is to wash the item by hand or use the gentle cycle on your washing machine. This mode on your machine doesn’t use as much agitation and wringing.

Once it is clean, lay it on a towel to dry if it is a knitted fabric. This will protect the item from becoming misshapen and stretched.

If the garment is woven, you can hang it on a clothes hanger over your bathtub to drip dry.

Understand the Dry Cleaning Process

Dry cleaning involves using a liquid & soap to remove stains from the clothes without any use of water (hence the term dry cleaning).

Then, the clothing tumbled and dried in the same machine. The final step is to either iron or steam the clothing so that they look crisp and wrinkle-free.

The main benefit of dry cleaning clothing is that this method is excellent at removing tough stains and dirt while being extremely gentle.

Dry cleaning makes your clothes last longer because the garments are agitated and wrung out. Plus, dry cleaning preserves the color of the garment so that it doesn’t wear out as quickly compared to items that are machine washed.

Dry Cleaning Vs Laundry – How to Decide

Sometimes an article of clothing doesn’t say dry clean only but you wonder if maybe you should get it dry cleaned. Or the label may say dry clean only and you feel that it could be laundered at home.

Here are some things to consider when you are deciding how best to clean your garment.

Does your item have any stains or spots that you aren’t sure how to deal with? Is your garment made out of silk? Specialty fabrics require delicate handling.

If your item is made from rayon, triacetate or acetate it is prone to shrink in water. This is why dry cleaning is recommended.

Layers or Trim

If your item is a suit jacket, consider the multiple layers. Though the exterior fabric may be washable, the lining and interfacing may not be. For example, the interface that shapes the shoulders may become warped in water and can no longer fit right.

Items that are made or suede or leather or have trims in either of these materials should never be washed with water. Water can strip these materials of their natural oils and ruin the finish.

Pleats and Tucks

Another thing to consider is if your item needs ironing. If you have a skirt with many pleats or tucks, it can take an experienced hand at ironing to get them looking crisp and straight after a tumble dry. Dry cleaners will ensure that the item retains perfectly straight pleats and tucks.

Is the Clothing Colorfast?

One reason why certain garments say dry-clean-only is that the dye in the fabric may transfer to other garments if it becomes wet.

You can test to see if your item is colorfast. This means that the dye will not fade or rinse out when washed with water.

Take a clean cotton swab and wet it with clean water. Rub the swab gently on the inside seam of your article of clothing. If the swab comes away dyed, then you should not wash that item with water.

Bottom Line on Dry Cleaning Vs Laundry

We hope you found this guide on when to choose dry cleaning vs laundry helpful. Although dry cleaning is more expensive than washing your clothes at home, it is often the smartest choice.

Especially if you take into account the replacement cost of a garment that becomes ruined in the wash. And also keep in mind that dry cleaning doesn’t wear out your clothes the way a washing machine does.

Still not sure, check out these 10 benefits of professional dry cleaning.

1 thought on “Dry Cleaning vs Laundry: What Do You Need?”

  1. Reading the labels of clothes and washing them with the appropriate method is something I can really see being important in the long run. Some of the apparel we use is quite expensive, and I wouldn’t want to ruin the fabric or any of the quality due to negligence. If we don’t manage that, we might end up spending a lot to replace those, so I’ll go and look for any dry cleaning services that I can rely on.

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