How to Wash Dry Clean Only Clothing » How To Clean

Read the Label

Even if you plan to defy it, take a long look at the care tag before you wash, and understand what the symbols on it mean. Doing that will tell you the fiber the clothing item is made from and help you decide the method you’ll use for cleaning clothes.


        Credit:                      Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Always check the tag before you wash. It will tell you what fiber the garment is made from and show you symbols that explain how to care for it.

So, ready to get started? These fabrics are almost always fair game. Our guide to cleaning every kind of fabric provides detailed directions on how to wash them. • Cotton • Linen • Wool • Polyester • Nylon • Acrylic

        Credit:                      Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images / coolvectormaker

You don’t have to memorize the fabric care symbols, but definitely keep a chart like this handy when you’re washing your dry clean only clothing.


Wool Cashmere Care

When it comes to wools and cashmere, Whiting explains, that you can follow the same steps as above, but use a detergent that is made specifically for that purpose. You want to make sure that it is pH neutral, because it’s more gentle on woolen fibers like cashmere, merino, mohair, and even blends. However, this will still thoroughly clean, removing odor, dirt, and oil, while preserving your sweaters’ soft and supple feel and natural lanolin.

Steam Cleaning at Home Options

Most of today’s top-of-the-line dryers have a steam setting to refresh clothing without a full wash. This can be handy between dry cleanings for clothing that is not soiled but needs to be refreshed, deodorized, and unwrinkled.

Look for the steam refresh cycle on your dryer. It’s not a true drying cycle. We’d never recommend that for dry clean only clothing. It’s basically a short tumble with bursts of steam to kill odor-causing germs and remove wrinkles. Read your manual to be sure you understand the directions, and take great care not to accidentally use any other dryer setting.

You may also opt for hand steaming with a hand-held steamer.

CAUTION: Take extreme care to point the steamer wand away from your body and never touch the head of the steamer. You can easily burn your skin.

How To Steam Clean Your Clothes

If the garment is lined, turn it inside out and steam the lining first, using the same steps. Do the outside of the garment next. Here are the steps to steam your dry clean only clothes:

  1. Hang your garment on a thick plastic or wood hanger wide enough to support the shoulders all the way to the sleeve seams. Alternatively, you could spread your garment on a taut netting with space underneath (the type you would use to dry a sweater). 
  2. With the steamer powered on (plugged in or charged) Hold the steamer wand with the head close to the garment.
  3. Wave the steamer over the fabric. The steamer head will not damage the garment if it touches the fabric.
  4. Steam the garment from top to bottom. 
  5. Run the steamer down the sleeves from the shoulder, or from waistband to bottom of the skirt or pant legs.

Steaming is a great way to freshen up sweaters, washable wools, silks, and pieces with beading, sequins or other delicate embellishments that may be damaged by detergents and washing action. 

Clothing That Can’t Be Washed

Not everything can be washed, and when you wash some fabrics, the result can be disastrous. Some fabrics and clothing styles don’t wash well and dry even worse. Here’s a shortlist of don’t-even-think-about-it clothing:

  • Viscose, which is also known as rayon, is a versatile fabric used in all kinds of fashion, upholstery, and other products. It drapes beautifully and holds bright, true colors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always wash well. You may get away with hand washing some pieces, but do a colorfast test first: Wet a cotton swab, add a drop of detergent and rub the swab on an inconspicuous area like the inside of an underarm seam. If you see any color on the swab, forget washing. If the material is colorfast, understand that washing may break down the fibers that provide that beautiful drape, so it might never fit the same way again. Bottom line: if you love a garment made with rayon, dry clean it.
  • Polyamide, or nylon, is a synthetic fabric used to make such diverse-use clothing as stretchy yoga pants and Kevlar vests. Some garments made with nylon can be hand-washed, but if you’ve ever owned a pair of pantyhose, you know it’s risky. Your garment may stretch out, shrink up, or simply lose shape.
  • Pleating – Even if you have a pleated skirt made from durable cotton, using your washing machine at home is not a great way to save a couple of bucks. Professional cleaners have equipment designed to press pleats. Without it, getting the creases sharp is a time-consuming nightmare.
  • Suit pieces with a lining suit linings are usually made from some lightweight fabric like nylon or silk, which will shrink and shift differently from the outer shell. Tossing a lined blazer or skirt in the washer often leaves you with a saggy lining falling below your hemline.
  • Suede and non-washable leather – Water and leather simply don’t mix. While there are home dry cleaning products, do you really want to take a chance on a piece as expensive as leather?
  • Some silks – Silk is a natural fabric, and even the most delicate pieces may be hand washable with a mild detergent. Much like rayon, though, it may lose color or lose the fluid drape that makes these fabrics so remarkable.
  • Cashmere and other fine knits – you can successfully steam fine knits between dry cleaning, but hand washing is likely to ruin their shape.
  • Some wools – wool is a special case. It’s a natural fiber with a unique warp and woof. In this case, trust the label. If it says dry clean, then dry clean.
  • If you have garments with dry clean labels made of natural fabrics like washable silk or cotton and you want to save money on dry cleaning, proceed carefully. 

The Easy Way – Your Dry Cleaner Picks it up

Our very best advice is the method that does not involve all the hand-washing, air drying, and careful ironing: Get professional cleaners to do it for you. Not only do you get professional results, non-saggy clothing, and gloriously fluid silks with no weird, pointy hanger indents, but you get your laundry done quickly, easily, and door-to-door at no additional charge. That’s right, we pick up and deliver to your home or office for free. You get to rescue your weekends from laundry, and only pay the cost of the cleaning from a vetted professional cleaner. 

  1. Download the Press App
  2. Schedule a pick up
  3. Delivered back in 24-48 hours
  4. Enjoy your stress free laundry

Use a Home Dry Cleaning Kit

This will probably be your safest bet since, well, that’s what it’s designed for. These kits are made to use at home usually in the dryer, just follow the instructions on the box.

You can grab an affordable home dry cleaning kit on Amazon for $10 – $20 for the starter kit which will come with a reusable dry cleaning bag that you will need to put your clothing in and a set number of cleaning clothes and usually a laundry booster.

You will need a starter kit at first and then you can buy refill kits for future cleanings. The refill kits are even cheaper usually under $10 for 8 or so more loads.

As you can see these kits can save you some serious money and they have great reviews. One of the most popular is Dryel but Woolite also makes one.

Check out some Dry Cleaning Kits. Check the reviews and ask questions in the question section of Amazon (usually near the reviews of a specific product) if you’re not sure if it’s right for your item.

People are super helpful and usually, respond within a day or so.

About this article

Co-authored by: Safir Ali Professional Dry Cleaner This article was co-authored by Safir Ali. Safir Ali is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hamper Dry Cleaning and Laundry, a startup in Houston, Texas reinventing the laundry industry. With over six years of experience launching and operating Hamper, Safir specializes in innovative ways to simplify dry cleaning using the experience from his family’s business. Safir holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management from Texas A&M University. Hamper offers 24/7 on-demand dry cleaning and laundry through delivery and kiosk services. Hamper has been featured on the Houston Rockets, Station Houston, the Houston Business Journal, BBVA, Yahoo Finance, and Innovation Map. This article has been viewed 877,137 times. How helpful is this? Co-authors: 11 Updated: February 21, 2022 Views: 877,137

Article SummaryX

Before you wash a dry clean only garment, make sure it is made from wool, silk, or cotton because other fabrics need to be professionally cleaned. If they are made from those more durable fibers, fill a bucket will cold water and some soap flakes or detergent like woolite. Dip the garment in that water multiple times and rub any soiled areas until they are cleaned. Then, wrap the garment in a towel and squeeze the excess water out of it before you hang it up to dry. Keep reading to learn how to machine wash cotton, linen, and polyesters!

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Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 877,137 times.

Steam your clothes

If your dry clean only clothes aren’t filthy, steaming is a great solution. At the very least, a good steaming will extend the number of wearings you get between cleanings. It’s chemical-free, kills most germs, and quashes odors, according to The Laundress.


Use a handheld steamer

Hold the steamer over the garment, going from top to bottom. If there’s a lining, steam it before you do the outside. Be cautious, because a steam burn hurts. Don’t even think of steaming clothes while you have them on.

Steam clothes in the dryer

Don’t panic! We’re not suggesting that you take your cherished clothing for an unprotected spin in a hot dryer. We would never do that. But if your dryer has a steam refresh cycle, you should use it to perk up a lightly-soiled garment. It’s not a true wash, but fine for stuff that’s not really dirty.

        Credit:                      Reviewed / Jo

Credit: Reviewed / Jonathan Chan

If you’re fortunate enough to have a dryer with a refresh cycle like this Electrolux model, you can give dry clean only clothes a quick shot of steam.

Buy home dry cleaning kits

Kits like Dryel’s can be safe for clothes as long as you follow the directions to clean at home. The reusable cleaning bag steams your clothes. Martha Stewart says these clean at-home kits do a refresh, are good for removing water-based stains, and that the clothes come out soft and unwrinkled.

        Credit:                      Amazon

Credit: Amazon

You can buy a kit like this one from Dryel to do your dry cleaning at home, in the dryer

But don’t toss in your good navy blazer in the bag and plan wear it to a job interview that same day. It will need pressing before it’s fit to wear, and you’ll also have to give it a thorough airing before you put it on to get rid of the kit’s perfumey smell.


Miscellaneous Tips

One last tip for seasonal items that you might be putting away? Whiting reminds, “Launder your clothing with the appropriate detergent to prevent perfume, body products, body oil, food, and dirt from showing up later, which are much harder to get out. This also is true for starch. Do not store items that are starched.” Why? Because all of the above are a feeding ground for bugs.

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You can also keep your clothing fresh while laundering less frequently by using a steamer on high heat. Boyd says, “Steam works to eliminate odor-causing bacteria and release wrinkles. If you don’t own a steamer, then set an iron to the “steam” setting and hovering it over the item. Be sure you’re not making direct contact with the item, as pressing down on certain fabrics, like wool, can crush or damage the fibers.

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