Dry Clean Only. You see it on 50% of your labels, but you guess it’s probably only necessary 20% of the time.
You can never be sure though, so you take your dress or jacket to the dry-cleaners where it gets magically processed. $20 later you’re happy that it’s clean and safe, but you're a little deflated because you don’t know if it was really necessary to spend all that cash cleaning without water.
It’s true, often clothes manufacturers put ‘dry clean only’ on their labels when in actual fact the clothes would be fine in the wash. This is not because they're evil, it’s because they need to protect themselves against the constant stream of returns they receive because people don’t take proper care of their clothes. If they have 'dry clean only' on their label, they can request evidence that the clothes were washed under proper conditions, and refund based on the quality of their garments, not the public’s washing skills.
Unfortunately, this has created an expensive predicament for most of us, and we think it’s time to bust out of the cycle.
How does dry cleaning actually work?
Contrary to the name, dry cleaning is not a ‘dry’ process. Clothes are soaked in a solvent other than water, often Perchloroethylene, which the industry calls “perc”. This solvent extracts the compounds that cause stains. Without these solvents, clothes would need to be washed at much higher temperatures, causing damage to the fabric.
The solvent is removed through a gentle spin cycle, and then the remainder is evaporated in the dry cycle that immediately follows. Which is great, because these solvents have been identified as damaging to the environment and a carcinogenic by the EPA.
What should I dry clean?
Cotton, linen, cashmere, polyester, acrylic, and nylon and often wool can usually be washed at home. The rest should probably be taken to the dry cleaner, including;
To wash at home: make sure you use a delicates detergent, wash by hand in cold water, rinse in cold water and then lay the garment flat on the table. Bob IS your uncle, you’ve probably just saved $100’s a year.