How to wash ‘dry clean only’ clothing (and the times that you shouldn't).

When we take into account the cost of rent or mortgage repayments, general inflation and avocado toast, life is pretty damn expensive.

The good news is there are some shortcuts to save a bit of coin that we can follow while still living our best lives, and knowing how to wash ‘dry clean only’ clothes is one of them.

With that in mind we asked a few experts how to best care for our best clothes.

Dimitri Janakis and Anna Janakis from Blue & White Dry Cleaners in Sydney’s Neutral Bay explained that modern manufacturing often skips parts of the quality-control process, which is why it’s sometimes hard to guess how to best launder a garment.

Clothes today are being made cheaper compared to those from older times. A lot more synthetics are being used and garment manufacturers are not doing the necessary testing like they used to to ensure they are free from colour-run and bleeding during the cleaning process,” Janakis told Mamamia.

“For example, we recommend people stay away from white garments with black trimmings, or leather trimmings, as any colour migration from the cleaning process is very difficult to remove.”

Video by Mamamia

Can I hand wash ‘dry clean only’ clothes?

We asked Janakis if we are allowed to wash some dry clean-only garments at home or if we’ll get a slap on the wrist. The answer wasn’t all bad (and comes down to how precious the piece is to you).

“Yes and no. It is item-dependent. We regularly receive items that state they are dry clean only but that bleed in the dry cleaning process, so experience is key in these situations. If there is any hesitation, come and see us or your local dry cleaner and we will gladly give you advice or tips on how to safety wet clean at home.”

How to wash ‘dry clean only’ clothes.

Stylist Lydia-Jane Saunders works with really fancy garments on the regular and as a result, has a pretty good handle on how to care for them.

“You can absolutely wash a lot of items that say ‘dry clean only’. Fabrics such as cottons, linens, nylon, cashmere and durable polyesters can be washed with a small amount of detergent, in cold water and on the most delicate spin cycle,” Saunders said.

“To dry, first remove excess water by rolling in a towel, then lay flat on a dry towel. Do not use a tumble dryer, unless it is cotton or polyester and then make sure it is on the cold setting.”


“Most fabrics can also be hand washed, again in cold water. If you are unsure about a fabric, particularly a colourful piece, grab a wet cotton bud with a small amount of detergent on it and do a spot test on a hidden area such as an armpit or hem. If the colour comes off, you will need to have it dry cleaned,” Saunders said.

LISTEN: Real talk. How often do you wash your pillow case… weekly? Monthly? Here is how often we SHOULD be washing them…. gulp. Post continues after audio.

What detergent and water temperature should I use on ‘dry clean only’ clothes?

Okay, so if we’re going to attempt to do this at home, what do we use?

“It’s always best to have both a wool wash and a powder at home. In terms of powders, we feel that Omo Ultimate provides the best cleaning solution. A good wool wash is great for all your delicates,” Janakis said.

“Generally speaking, cold water is always the safest way to clean, in saying that, the warmer the water the more effective the cleaning is.”

“Depending on the stains on the garment, items should be analysed individually. For example, towels, socks and underwear can be cleaned on a warmer temperature as opposed to other delicate items which should be cleaned at colder temperatures,” Janakis said.

What should I do if I get a stain?

Red wine is delicious but it is also red which means it stains. Less delicious but also stain-causing is baby vomit and dirt, but thankfully both Janakis and Saunders have some really great advice on dealing with accidents when they happen.

“With red wine, it’s always best to leave it. No soda water, no salt,” Janakis said.

“Depending on the material, if someone tries to remove the wine it could cause chaffing and fabric damage. In some cases it could make it harder for the dry cleaner as they won’t only be removing the red wine stain, they would have to remove any stain caused by your attempt to remove it.”

“Wet cleaning is required to remove the red wine so any dry cleaning only garments need the owners permission to proceed with this treat as we are going against the care label.”

Care label symbols and what they mean. Image: Getty.

Saunders has a magic pen she keeps on her at all times.

“I have an emergency stain removing pen on hand, there are plenty on the market. However always do a spot test on an unnoticeable area first, such as the armpit or crotch area.”

“Luckily stains happen very rarely on photo shoots and if it does it is usually makeup from when the model is changing. Makeup, luckily, is easy to remove. If you're out and have no access to a stain pen, a little bit of soda water dabbed onto the stain will work wonders too,” Saunders said.

What clothes have to be dry cleaned?

As for garments that absolutely, without a doubt need to be professionally dry cleaned?

“I would take silks and velvets to the dry cleaner. Personally I also use a dry cleaner for anything beaded or embellished. Anything sentimental, such as a wedding dress, should 100 per cent be dry cleaned and stored correctly," Saunders said.


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