The Closet

Which Pieces You Should (and Shouldn’t) Dry Clean

It’s always exciting to add a new piece to your wardrobe but once you’ve worn it, you need to know how to wash it. Is it a “Hand Wash” or “Dry Clean Only” item? Does it lay flat or hang to dry? Different fabrics require different types of treatment. Clothing labels are the first point of reference when it comes to clothing care—the little tag on your favorite sweater provides helpful washing instructions to ensure your cherished item gets the proper care it needs. Let's have a look at a few common fabrics that should be dry cleaned professionally and which ones you can take care of in your own laundry room.

Fabrics that need professional cleaning: silk, velvet, wool, leather and more

If you've finally scooped up that vintage leather jacket you've been eyeing all season, you'll want to make sure it lasts. For a quick fix to take care of any stains, start by scraping off the residue, but make sure to keep it away from water, which can damage the material. After that, trust it to an experienced dry cleaner for long-term maintenance. The same rules apply for other delicate pieces like your silk scarf. Defer to the professionals when it comes to taking care of fragile fabrics.

Besides silk and leather, other upscale fabrics—including chiffon, velvet and merino wool—should be brought to a professional cleaning service to preserve their natural luster and form. You'll also want to entrust suits and most professional wear—especially wool pieces—to the care of a professional.

Fabrics that can be washed at home: cotton and knits

Just because an item can be machine washed doesn't mean that you should subject it to a hot soak—heat can cause colors to fade. Cotton can be washed in warm or cool water with a regular detergent. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon are safe for a machine wash in warm water on either the delicate or permanent press cycle, but take care when drying these items to avoid permanent wrinkling.

More luxurious pieces such as cashmere blends should always be washed by hand in cold or lukewarm water with a gentle laundry soap. Don't wring the fabric as it may ruin the material. Instead, take care to dry flat or use a drying mesh rack to help the clothing keep its shape. If you're pressed for time, place the item in a laundry bag and select the most delicate cycle on your machine to mimic the hand wash process when laundering at home.

If you're ever unsure about your clothes, check the label. Our handy clothing label guide breaks down common symbols and instructions so you can avoid any laundry mishaps.

Care guide for denim: the real deal about at-home care

Contrary to popular belief, denim isn’t the sort of fabric you can put through the ringer—or in this case, the dryer. Despite being a very durable material, proper jean care is actually quite particular. Most jeans should be washed inside-out in cold water and hung to dry, although some high-end denim would even benefit from dry cleaning. And when it comes to raw denim, which means denim in its purest, non-distressed form, the best washing practice is not to wash at all. If you find yourself with a stain, simply wipe it away with a damp cloth, or take it to the experts for extra help.

Care guide for special items: accessories and embellishments

There are certain pieces in your closet that require special attention, like that suede fringed dress or straw sun hat. Use a damp cloth to wipe away dirt, dust or sweat stains from your hats, and be sure to keep them in a cool, dry spot rather than out in the sun to avoid color damage. The embellishments on that dress can make it extra difficult to care for. Most sensitive details like fringes and sequins require hand washing in a gentle detergent, while embroidered pieces should be machine washed inside-out and placed in a mesh laundry bag on the delicate cycle.

When in doubt, visit your trusted dry cleaner for proper care of any attire. Most modern services offer a full menu of options to suit all your clothing care needs, but if your neighborhood cleaner doesn't have the resources in-house, they'll likely know about a great specialty cleaning service in town and can outsource your item to ensure it's well-treated.


Photos: Irene Lasus, Matthew Wiebe, Kasia Serbin, Eranicle, Alex Blăjan