How To Dry Clean Your Clothes At Home

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Are you looking to wash your dry clean only clothes at home? Read on for my full tips on how to wash many different types of dry clean only fabrics at home, using a variety of methods.

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.

Thankfully for me, and for you, I’ve recently come across this guide from the wonderful Yumi Sakugawa over on on how to wash dry clean-only clothes at home. It has really been helping me to take the guesswork out of dry cleaning at home.

A pink jumper on a pink background, with a blue text box that says how to wash dry clean only clothes at home.

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 leukaemia and tumours 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.

How To Dry Clean At Home

I’ve never known the right way to dry clean at home. As such, some of my attempts at at-home dry cleaning have been successful and others have 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, Yumi’s illustrated guide really helps to take the guesswork out of dry cleaning at home.

how to dry clean at home

Let me transcribe, in case you are visually impaired and using a text reader.

Before you attempt dry cleaning at home, check the clothing label first. Some materials and fabrics are best left to the professionals. These include suede, fur/feathers, velvet, taffeta, and anything with delicate stitching/beading.

In The Machine Washing

Cotton, linens, and durable polyesters can withstand machine washing.

  1. Place items of clothing inside a mesh bag designed for washing delicates.
  2. Set your machine to a gentle cold-water cycle, and add a mild laundry detergent.
  3. Once the cycle is complete, remove the clothing and lay it flat, or hang it to dry.

Hand Washing

Many wool, silk, and cotton dry clean only clothes can withstand handwashing at home.

  1. 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.
  2. Dip your clothing in and out of the soapy water until everything is soaked through. Use your fingertips to rub any soiled areas. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Reshape your garment, and lay flat on another clean dry towel until dry. For wool products, dry your garment away from sunlight/heat.

Leather Jackets

Before washing your dry clean only leather jacket, or other types of leather clothing, 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 dry clean only 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 About Washing Dry Clean Only Clothes At Home?

Of course, if you are in any doubt about washing dry clean only clothes at home, 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:

Here’s to greening your laundry!

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