My mom was nice enough to take my black wool coat to the cleaners so I could wear it this winter. It needed some cleaning. She came back a few days later with my cleaned coat, to only ask me if it looked clean. It looked slightly cleaner than when she took it in, but not much. After wearing it a few times and noticing how dirty it looked in different lights I decided to do some research. Is dry cleaning really necessary? Also does it really get items clean? Will washing certain fabrics at home do any harm or is it not as bad as we think?
The answer is dry cleaning isn’t always or really all that necessary; not to mention chemicals/solvents (perchloroethylene) are used to clean the clothes, often leaving a residue on the clothes causing allergic reactions or releasing toxins into the environment. Here is an interesting fact from Pat McNee’s Washington Post article, Coming Clean About Cleaning: A Practical Guide to Preserving Your Wardrobe. “The Federal Trade Commission has required that manufacturers of finished garments sold in the United States affix a permanent label giving care instructions. Under this rule, if the consumer follows the care instructions and the garment is made "unsuitable," the manufacturer has to replace or recompense the consumer for it.”
Here is how to clean without dry cleaning, I did it on my wool coat and it looked great.
1. Use a lent brush to get current lent off
2. Wash on a gentle or non-agitating cycle. Hand washing is also an option.
3. Line dry or lay flat
4. Steam out any wrinkles with a steamer or have pressed
A few other notes when washing fabrics dubbed, “dry clean only”:
- With questionable or gentle fabrics always hand wash and line dry.
- Avoid harsh detergents and use something like Woolite, GrabGreen Delicate Laundry Detergent or Forever New.
- Use a net zipper laundry bag for delicates.