Monday, March 1, 2010

Don't-Bleed-Your-Wallet-Dry Cleaning

There's a reason the expression "taken to the cleaners" means ripped off. And that reason is that dry cleaning, while a necessary part of life if you want to look presentable, can be insanely expensive. Sometimes I literally find myself thinking, I bought this sweater at H&M for $19. Am I really about to spend $10 to get it cleaned? Because I'm cheap like that. It's a fierce battle, but usually my cheapness trumps my laziness, and I end up washing the darn thing myself. And while, for your sanity, certain garments are best left to the professionals (like suits, anything with heavy beading or embellishments or a ton of pleats) there are ways to limit the amount of dough you have to shell out, and take some shortcuts at home.* Plus, dry cleaning chemicals are toxic (do you really want them all over your clothes?) and harmful to the environment, so limiting your dry cleaning habit is good for your bank account, your health and the planet. Here are the techniques I employ at home to keep my wallet from getting cleaned out.

1. Read the Labels: If the label says "dry clean" that means you can definitely wash it at home. If it says "dry clean only" there's still a chance that you can clean it yourself. A general rule is that wool, acrylic, cashmere, cotton and polyester can be easily washed at home. Silk and rayon require a little more care, but can sometimes be hand-washed.

2. Use Your Dryer: If the clothes are unstained and just kind of maloderous (due to last night's trip to a cigar bar, or your sprint for the bus), you can use one of the at-home dry cleaning kits at work in your dryer: Dryel or FreshCare. Read the instructions, but they are generally safe with most fabrics, and will leave your clothes unwrinkled, and smelling fresher than if you spray them with Febreze.

3. Handwash Your Sweaters: Here's a secret- hand-washing actually will make your wool and cashmere sweaters softer. Just fill a deep sink or bathtub with room temperature water (not hot!), and add your sweater to it. Put in a small amount of soap (Woolite is nice, but you can also use a gentle shampoo), and gently spot treat just using your hands and by rubbing the fabric against itself. After the sweater has soaked for a while and is clean, rinse them with cool water and lay them flat on a clean towel, then roll the towel to dry. Allow the sweater to lay flat until dry. To save time, do several sweaters at once.

4. Silky tops: Use the same method as with sweaters to wash your silk items, but after you rinse them, pat them dry with a towel and hang on a padded hanger to dry.

*I also take personal umbrage that our dry cleaning establishment will wash and press my husband's shirts for $1.50 each, while my button-up collared shirts are categorized as "blouses" and cost $6. If I were less lazy, I would start a boycott based on the sexism inherent in that, but then I'd be stuck washing and pressing all JM's shirts myself. And they deliver for free, so I'll give them a pass.

photo credit: - a site dedicated to the idea of using nanotechnology to create self-cleaning fabrics. So hopefully this whole post will soon be moot.

1 comment:

tootie said...

I agree with you! It's crazy to pay almost as much in dry cleaning as the shirt cost! I've cleaned a couple things at home, which turned out (thankfully!) successful.