Why Do Some Clothes Have to Be Dry Cleaned?

Dry cleaning is a technique for washing clothing and fabrics that uses a chemical solution in the place of water. This chemical solution, which is commonly composed of tetrachloroethylene, is a much gentler way of ridding a fabric of stains, dirt, and other debris, when compared to traditional washing.

The dry cleaning process appears similar to using a regular washing machine, except that it is gentler, uses less heat, replaces water with the chemical solvent, and can also dry it’s contents. After a textile has been washed in the chemical solution, it is then rinsed, and the chemical solvent is removed from the fabrics. When all of the solvent has been removed, the machine will then dry the textiles using a lower heat than traditional machines.

During the dry cleaning process, workers ensure that all garments are free of pens, lipsticks, and other objects that could damage the fabrics. They also check for seams and closures that have been damaged during the washing process, and repair any damages. While dry cleaning cannot remove every stain, it will remove a larger amount of dirt and residue than traditional washing.

Many fabrics are dry clean only and can be damaged with traditional washing. These fabrics will shrink, stretch, or become worn and damaged if they are put through a regular washer and dryer. Some examples of these fabrics are suede and imitation suede, smooth leather and imitation leather, cashmere, angora, acetate, some knits, and clothing with beading, sequins, and other embellishments.

However, there are also some fabrics that can be dry cleaned or washed in a regular washer and dryer. These fabrics are linen, rayon, wool, Lyocel, Polyolefin, silk, and triacetate. While dry cleaning is the best option whenever possible, they can also be washed if necessary. When washing these fabrics, it is important to use gentle cycles, cold temperatures, or even hand wash these textiles.

Even if a blouse or pair of trousers says dry clean only, many consumers still wish to wash their own clothing in order to save money. Many times, this will lead to a fabric being damaged or shrinking, therefore rendering it unwearable. If an article of clothing says that it should be dry cleaned, it is usually with good reason. To ignore these instructions is to possibly ruin your clothing.

If it is impossible to have an article of clothing or other textile dry cleaned, than it is important to at least wash the fabric in cold water, on a gentle cycle, and use gentle detergent. While this may still damage the fabric, it lessens the chance than the clothing will be irreparably damaged. However, some clothing, like suits, formal dresses, and leather jackets, should never be machine washed, regardless of the price of dry cleaning. It is more cost effective to dry clean an article of clothing than to ruin it sufficiently so that it must be replaced.