How to “Dry Clean” Clothes—Without Going to the Dry Cleaner

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Unless your work clothes require dry cleaning, you probably only go to the cleaner a few times a year. Those few items in your closet that have to be dry cleaned cause you an extra, sometimes expensive trip—and then you have to remember to pick them up.

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But some items that say “dry clean” on the label can actually be washed at home if you’re careful with them. Certain garments can’t be put through a cycle in the washing machine, but they’re not so delicate that you can’t still wash them yourself.

Step 1: Check the Label

The first step is decoding the label. If it says “Dry Clean Only” you should take it to the cleaner. But if it just says “Dry Clean,” you can probably get away with handwashing it with a mild detergent.

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Fabrics like silk, velvet and wool should always be dry cleaned. Other materials like cotton, cashmere and polyester can usually be washed at home even if the label says to dry clean them.

Step 2: Do a Spot Test

Before washing your garment, do a spot test using water and a drop or two of the detergent you plan on using to make sure it won’t harm the item. Check to see if the dye bleeds onto a cloth or cotton swab, it needs to be dry cleaned.

Step 3: Wash Very Carefully

Wash your items by hand in the sink or tub with a mild detergent or solution. Don’t agitate them too much, just push them around in the water for a few minutes, then rinse.

Step 4: Skip the Dryer

The heat from the dryer can shrink or distort the shape of delicate clothing, so you’ll have to let them air dry. Get as much water out of the items as you can without twisting or wringing, then hang or lay them flat to dry.

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