You Can Wash Dry Clean Only Clothes, Here’s How

Dry Clean VS Dry Clean ONLY VS Launder and Press

This may sound shocking, but dry clean clothing doesn’t always need to be dry cleaned, and sometimes when you take your dry cleaning to your local dry cleaner, they are washed, much like you would wash them at home, and given a professional press.

Clothing labels have quite a lot of information if you understand the symbols. There are two classifications of dry cleaning: dry clean and dry clean ONLY. If your label says dry clean, it’s often an indicator that it’s a delicate fabric that should be handled with extra care. Even some dry clean only garments can be washed. In fact, if you drop off a good dress shirt at the cleaners and do not specify dry clean only, your shirt will likely be laundered and pressed. 

Why do garment manufacturers mislead you? Frankly, it’s easy to make mistakes while home washing delicate fabrics, and a dry clean label cuts down on returns due to user error. 

To be sure your garment is washable, check the care label for the fabric content. That’s your next clue.

Can you wear dry clean only clothes in the rain?

Dry Clean Only Clothes Should Be Dry Before Being Put Away

You can‘t always keep your clothes from getting wet. It’s sometimes impossible to avoid things like rain, sweat, and humidity. The key thing to remember is that the clothes should never stay wet.


Front loading washing machines vs. top loading

Advances in washing machine technology really take the guess work out of laundry day. “Front loading washing machines tend to be gentler on fabrics and use less water than most top loaders that use a central agitator, which causes more wear and tear,” explain Whiting and Boyd.

What you should always dry clean

Hand washing and delicate cycles can only go so far. For a handful of special fabrics, it is best to call in the experts. Anything made with viscose, polyamide, items with manufactured pleating, structured pieces like neckties and blazers with shoulder pads, suede, and non-washable leather are all considered dry clean only, according to The Laundress ladies.

Tullio-Pow also recommends considering factors beyond the fibres. Are there special finishes to the fabric that may come off if washed in water? Decorative beading, flocking and sequins applied by glue (rather than sewing) are no-gos in terms of home care and must be handled by the pros.

Hand Washing Your Dry Clean Only Clothes

Most lingerie and delicate fabrics, even those marked dry clean only, can be hand washed with a gentle detergent like Woolite Delicates. The Laundress has a line of good quality detergents formulated for specific types of fabric. 

To hand wash:

  1. Check your delicates for stains, and pretreat according to the type of stain.
  2. Fill a sink or large bowl with cold water and add the amount of detergent specified by package directions. 
  3. Completely submerge your garment in the soapy water and swish gently. 
  4. Let soak for at least 30 minutes; soak overnight if it’s heavily soiled.
  5. Rinse thoroughly and check to make sure stains are gone.
  6. Lay each garment on a clean towel and roll to up to remove excess water.
  7. Hang or spread on netting to dry.

Steam your clothes

If your dry clean only clothes aren’t filthy, steaming is a great solution. At the very least, a good steaming will extend the number of wearings you get between cleanings. It’s chemical-free, kills most germs, and quashes odors, according to The Laundress.


Use a handheld steamer

Hold the steamer over the garment, going from top to bottom. If there’s a lining, steam it before you do the outside. Be cautious, because a steam burn hurts. Don’t even think of steaming clothes while you have them on.

Steam clothes in the dryer

Don’t panic! We’re not suggesting that you take your cherished clothing for an unprotected spin in a hot dryer. We would never do that. But if your dryer has a steam refresh cycle, you should use it to perk up a lightly-soiled garment. It’s not a true wash, but fine for stuff that’s not really dirty.

        Credit:                      Reviewed / Jo

Credit: Reviewed / Jonathan Chan

If you’re fortunate enough to have a dryer with a refresh cycle like this Electrolux model, you can give dry clean only clothes a quick shot of steam.

Buy home dry cleaning kits

Kits like Dryel’s can be safe for clothes as long as you follow the directions to clean at home. The reusable cleaning bag steams your clothes. Martha Stewart says these clean at-home kits do a refresh, are good for removing water-based stains, and that the clothes come out soft and unwrinkled.

        Credit:                      Amazon

Credit: Amazon

You can buy a kit like this one from Dryel to do your dry cleaning at home, in the dryer

But don’t toss in your good navy blazer in the bag and plan wear it to a job interview that same day. It will need pressing before it’s fit to wear, and you’ll also have to give it a thorough airing before you put it on to get rid of the kit’s perfumey smell.


Do a Spot Test

Now, test for colorfastness. Silk fabrics are especially prone to losing color when washed. Find an inconspicuous section on the wrong side of the garment (inside a seam is good) and dot on a bit of water using a Q-tip or a white washcloth. Rub very gently. If any of the dye comes off, stop right there. If there’s no dye on the swab, move on.

        Credit:                      Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images / piikcoro

Use a white washcloth or cotton swab to test clothing for colorfastness, because you don’t want the color to run when you wash it. Silk is usually washable, but since it is not usually colorfast, it can be risky to wash.


  • Always be sure to read the instructions. Take your pants to the cleaners if you don’t feel comfortable machine or hand washing on your own.

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Should you prewash curtain fabric?

Also, take shrink-prone clothes out of the dryer before they have a chance to completely dry out. Then, hang them up or lay them flat to finish air drying. A label that says “pre-shrunk” doesn’t necessarily mean it was prewashed.