I’ve always wondered how to dry clean at home. I try not to buy dry clean only clothes. However, sometimes unsuspecting dry clean only clothing works its way into my wardrobe. More often than not this happens when I’ve bought clothes on eBay and haven’t been able to inspect the care label. These items will inevitably end up in the laundry basket and sadly never see the light of day again.
What’s the Problem With Dry Cleaning?
I’m a bit loathe to dry clean my clothes, you see. The most common dry cleaning chemical used is perchloroethylene. This is a carcinogenic and neurotoxic chemical linked to higher incidences of leukemia and tumors in dry cleaning staff. And who knows how this affects those wearing dry cleaned clothes.
To add to this chemical load, dry cleaning has an environmental impact. Think of your local dry cleaners, where all the newly cleaned clothing is hung on plastic hangers and wrapped in plastic. The environmental impact of this single-use plastic is not to be ignored. If we can lessen this impact by bypassing the dry cleaners then I’m all for that.
I’ve never known the right way to dry clean at home. As such, some of my attempts at home dry cleaning have been successful and others not. Laundry roulette if you will.
The “dry clean only” coat I’ve worn every winter for the last five years has been gently machine washed time and time again. And it still looks fresh as a daisy! Other times, the odd item of dry-clean-only clothing has come to a sad end at the hands of my washing machine. RIP my lovely but synthetic pleated skirt circa 2006.
Thankfully for me, and for you, I’ve recently come across this guide from the wonderful Yumi Sakugawa over on WonderHowTo.com on how to dry clean at home. It really helps take the guesswork out of dry cleaning.
How To Dry Clean At Home
Let me transcribe, in case you are visually impaired and using a text reader.
Before you attempt cleaning at home, check the clothing label first. Some materials and fabrics are best left to the professionals. These being suede, fur/feathers, velvet, taffeta, and anything with delicate stitching/beading.
In The Machine Washing
Cotton, linens, and durable polyesters can withstand machine washing.
- Place items of clothing inside a mesh bag designed for washing delicates*.
- Set your machine to a gentle cold-water cycle, and add a mild laundry detergent.
- Once the cycle is complete, remove the clothing and lay flat, or hang dry.
Wool, silk, and cotton can withstand handwashing.
- Fill your sink or bucket with cold water, and add a mild detergent. Mix a little to create a foam. For wool products, use a specialist wool detergent*.
- Dip your clothing in and out of the soapy water until everything is soaked through. Use your fingertips to rub any soiled areas.
- Drain your sink or bucket, and refill it with clean cold water. Dip and re-dip your clothing until all the soap is gone. Refill your sink or bucket, and repeat as necessary, if required.
- Lay your clothing on a clean white towel, and push (but don’t twist) the water out. Place another towel on top, and roll the towel up whilst squeezing gently. Repeat 3-5 times.
- Reshape your garment, and lay flat on another clean dry towel until dry. For wool products, dry your garment away from sunlight/heat.
Be sure to carefully read the care instructions on the label first.
For light surface care, use a damp towel to remove everyday dirt and grime. Be sure to not rub too hard. For more serious stains, try using a leather stain-removal spray. You can also hand wash a leather jacket in a sink filled with lukewarm water and a small amount of dishwashing liquid or liquid Castille soap. Gently rub stained areas.
When it is time to rinse the jacket, lift the jacket out of the soapy solution. Similar to the process for handwashing clothes, empty the sink and refill it with clean water. Rinse your jacket in the clean water (don’t wring your jacket.) Again, you may need to change the water a few times, to make sure all the soap has been rinsed out. Then allow your jacket to air dry, away from sunlight/heat.
I would hang it on a sturdy hanger, perhaps in your shower or bathtub to catch drips.
In Any Doubt?
Of course, if you are in any doubt, or if an item of clothing is particularly special to you, then do use a dry cleaner. I don’t want to be responsible for ruining your wedding dress or bespoke suit! If you are looking for a greener alternative to conventional dry cleaners, then I have heard of dry cleaners that don’t use perchloroethylene. However, at present, I don’t know enough about them to vouch for their environmental friendliness.
I also have a ton of other laundry tips that you might find useful. Firstly, how to make your own fabric conditioner. Secondly, this is a good one to legitimise laziness – how often should you wash your clothes. I also have a guide on how to wash wool, and how to wash striped clothing. And lastly, my guide to natural stain removal, and my eco-friendly alternatives to tumble dryer sheets.