Another take on ignoring care labels

Yesterday I wrote a post called When should you ignore care labels and clean garments yourself? I’ve been curious about this topic and poking around the Internet to see what others think.

As professional cleaners, we definitely tend to lean in the direction of sending out any garment we care about to be cleaned (in our case, by us!). Sure, socks and undershirts and other garments that you don’t mind getting a little roughed up are fine just to throw in the wash. With just about anything else, however, we hesitate.

I have shirts I treasure from the early 1990s that look brand new because I’ve always sent them out to the dry cleaner to be cleaned. They are about five or six brightly colored short-sleeve shirts that I only wear in summer. I know that if I’d tried to wash them myself, I could have saved money in the short term but those shirts by now would simply not have been worth keeping. Their colors would have faded, and they would have gotten that rough, washed-at-home look.

Colleen Dunn has written a very reasonable article called Save Money on Dry Cleaning. Says she (my edit),

Some items marked “Dry Clean Only” can be safely home laundered. The Care Labeling law states only one method of cleaning must be communicated to the consumer, not all acceptable methods.
What will affect the success of home laundering are the following: fiber type, garment construction, fabric construction, dyes, printing processes, finishings, trimmings (example: beads), soil, and stains.

When washing at home remember to always use cold water, a hand process (machine washing may be too rough), and a gentle cleanser ( I have used Dove Dishwashing liquid). Never use bleaches, regular laundry cleansers, fabric softeners, or rinse additives. Do not twist or wring the garment as some items can be damaged by twisting or wringing them.

Dunn goes on to provide many more caveats. She also gives a long list of garments NOT to try to wash at home, a few of which are:

  • The garment has a lot of structure, such as a suit. This would be extremely difficult to iron and not worth saving a few dollars. This also applies to a garment which requires a lot of attention when ironing (pleats).
  • The garment is leather or suede.
  • The garment is special to you.

This last item pretty much says it all! Saving money is a noble goal, but time spent washing is money and wear and tear on a garment is money, too. We advise following care labels and erring on the side of caution in choosing when to use a professional dry cleaner!

The Classic Cleaners Blog Team