Dry Clean Only: To Buy or Not to Buy

Dry Clean Only Tag

Have you ever avoided purchasing an article of clothing that you really liked because it said those three dreaded words, “Dry Clean Only”?  Even if something very nice is on sale at a great discount, we sometimes decide not to buy it because it costs so much to have it dry cleaned.

This is where home dry cleaning kits can make your life easier.

Dry cleaning is a misnomer. It is not a dry process. When clothes are cleaned at a professional dry cleaning establishment they are immersed in a solvent that really gets into the fibers and releases the stains and dirt that cause odor and discoloration.

In a home dry cleaning kit you get cloths infused with a chemical solution in them and a large bag in which to put the clothing. Some kits contain a separate bottle of stain remover for pre-treating spots before placing the clothing in the bag. Other kits suggest using the cloth with the chemical solution to gently rub the stain, then toss the same sheet in the bag with your clothes. You then take the whole bag and put it in the dryer for the time indicated in the kit instructions. To be on the safe side, it is a good idea to try the pre-treating solution on a hidden spot on the garment to check color-fastness before using it on a visible area.

If there are greasy stains that are set, the home dry cleaning kits may not be a great option for you. The sheets tend to work better for water-based stains than for oily or buttery stains. Some kits have petroleum based solvents while others are basically soap. Determining the cleaning agent each particular kit uses is difficult, as it is considered proprietary information and the particular cleaning agent is not listed. It may be better to take a garment with a large oily stain to a professional where the solvents are able to penetrate the fibers of the garment and lift the stain out.

If the garment is velvet, suede, leather or fur you will need to take it to a professional dry cleaner.

However, if your clothing just needs to be freshened up or has small food stains or even mildew, the home dry cleaning kits work remarkably well. The sheets also leave a pleasant scent on the clothing. If after removing the garment you see a stain that had gone unnoticed the first time, simply take the sheet (which is probably still damp) and go over the stain then toss it back in the bag and dryer. It will not harm the fabric to clean it again.

Often, our dry clean only clothes are things we wear only for special occasions. They don’t get ground in dirt or body odor that needs to be deeply laundered. For that the home dry cleaning kit is an absolutely perfect solution at a fraction of the cost for a professional dry cleaner.

When to use home dry cleaning kits:

  • When the garment has a small or medium food stain.
  • When the garment has acquired a musty or smoky odor.
  • When the garment needs some freshening up.
  • When the garment is lightly wrinkled. The steam generated from the dry cleaning sheets and the heat of the dryer will remove slight wrinkling.
  • When the garment has somehow managed to become mildewed. The home dry cleaning kits work very well at removing the smell and the residue.

When to use a professional dry cleaner:

  • When there is a very large stain.
  • When the stain is oil-based.
  • When mending is needed in addition to cleaning (unless you want to do the mending as well.)
  • When the garment is very wrinkled. The home dry cleaning cloths will remove small wrinkles with the steam created in the drying process, however, clothes that have been on the bottom of your closet probably need to be taken to a professional.
  • When the garment is covered in pet hair. The home dry cleaning cloths will not remove hair.

Home dry cleaning kits are particularly effective on outer garments. Blazers, jackets and coats seldom make contact with skin oil or perspiration. They, basically, need to be refreshed. Having a winter coat dry cleaned by a professional can cost a lot. For a fraction of the cost and a half hour’s time you can put your coat into a bag with a little sheet and toss it in the dryer and still have sheets left over for other things. Most home dry cleaning kit instructions suggest putting three to four items in a bag together. It is better to place a winter coat in the bag alone, due to its size. However, for blazers and other things, three to four items at a time works beautifully. The bag itself can be used again and again.

The next time you’re agonizing over that beautiful new Dry Clean Only item that would go just perfectly with that pair of pants you just bought, remember that you have the option to Dry Clean at home.

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