If you're like many people, you've wondered if the "dry clean" or "dry clean only" label on your garments and household textiles really means that you can't wash the item in your washing machine. Here, we'll help you determine when it must be dry cleaned and when you can wash at home.
How restrictive are the instructions?
If the instructions say "dry clean," the recommended method of washing is dry cleaning but it's possible there are other ways to wash the garment without damaging it. However, if the label says, "dry clean only," it's likely that any other method of laundering will cause damage to the garment.
There are a variety of reasons that a garment might require dry cleaning:
A treatment that can be damaged by water has been applied (crinkling or pleating, for example)
The dye may bleed in water
The garment will shrink in water
Shaping of tailored garments may be damaged by water
The drying process may result in water marks (common with silk)
What's the garment made of?
Items made of wool, silk, velvet, taffeta, and acetate generally require dry cleaning, while cotton, polyester, cashmere, linen, nylon, and acrylic can usually be washed at home. If you're not sure about an item, ask your dry cleaner to help you determine its laundering needs.
Does the item feature detailing?
Many times labels are marked "exclusive of decorative trim," which means that the label applies to the fabric but not the detailing on the garment. For this reason, some garments may require dry cleaning despite a tag that instructs to machine wash in cold water. If you own any clothing items with sequins, beading, or other decorative trim, you may want to consult a dry cleaner before machine washing. Beads that are sewn on can usually be machined washed (as long as they're color fast) while accents that are glued on often require dry cleaning.
Machine washing an item that should be dry cleaned can cause significantly shrinking, water marks, loss of structure and shape, or other problems. If you're uncertain about any item you own, visit with your local dry cleaner to find out the risks of machine washing and how they recommend you care for the garment. Dry cleaners are textile experts, which means that even if the item doesn't require dry cleaning, they can assist you in determining the right wash method.
Do I really have to dry clean this?