Spotting a dry-clean only tag on an item of clothing is kind of the worst. It means that you need to go way out of your way and spend big bucks to get a wool, cashmere, or silk item looking and feeling fresh again. Or does it? Laundry experts say most garments labeled as dry-clean only can be cleaned at home with ease.
Not only does going to the dry cleaner regularly cost a pretty penny, it has another major drawback: the harsh chemicals used in the process are horrible for the environment and can even damage fabrics over time. And washing your dry-clean only clothing at home might seem complicated, but it’s super easy. It’s so simple, in fact, that you’ll wonder why you ever brought half your wardrobe to the dry cleaner in the first place. There are a couple different ways you can go about it, depending on the fabric. Here’s how to get started.
How to dry clean at home
Angelina McCullar, the conscious-fashion designer behind the YouTube channel BlueprintDIY, says she never takes her clothes to the dry cleaner and only washes them at home. In a YouTube video, she said she used to use a store-bought kit to dry clean at home. But after researching how to make her own solution, she hasn’t gone back since. Here’s how:
1. Create your own dry-cleaning dryer mix
Spot-clean to get rid of any stains by putting a little water and Ajax ($13) on the mark and using a clean section of the fabric to rub the stain out. Next, prepare a dry-cleaning mix: “I mix one cup of warm water, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1 teaspoon of Borax ($14), 1 teaspoon of oxygen bleach ($8), and a couple drops of lavender,” says McCullar.
Next, she dips a clean cloth, like a flour sack towel or white washcloth, in the mixture and puts it into a dryer sack with the items to be dry-cleaned. Then she puts the dryer sack in the dryer for 30 minutes. It’s that easy.
2. Hand-wash your dry-clean only items at home
If your clothing needs some extra help, McCullar has a super-simple method of hand washing her silk and linen garments. “I hand wash with a dab of Ajax, then rinse well and lay it on a dry towel,” she says. “Roll it up in the towel and keep rolling the towel to get as much of the water out as possible.” After hanging it up to air dry it until it’s damp, she irons it without steam. “When you iron it, it restores its silky feel. If you don’t iron it while it’s damp, it’ll feel really stiff once it dries.”
You can also hand wash your wool or cashmere sweaters. In a Youtube video, fashion-loving YouTuber Audrey Coyne shared how she goes about it. She first fills up a basin with water, then adds in a gentle detergent and mixes it with her hand. Then, she turns the clothing item inside-out and submerges it in the water.
“I’ll let it sit anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how thick the item is, how dirty it is, how often I’ve been wearing it,” says Coyne. “Once it’s ready, I take it out of the basin and run it under very cool water. You never want to use warm water in any of these steps because it has the possibility of shrinking your items. Gently press it in between your hands—never wring, as it misshapes your item. Or put it in a towel and roll it like a burrito.” After most of the water has been removed, Coyne dries it overnight on a clothing rack made specifically for air-drying. The next morning, she steams the clothing items to release any wrinkles.
With these expert solutions, your entire wardrobe will be looking—and smelling!—fresher than ever. And all without spending a fortune on dry cleaning.