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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Many clothes labeled "dry clean" wash beautifully

Cutting back on dry cleaning saves you a bundle, and many items labeled "dry clean" can be washed and air dried. Clothing manufacturers will recommend "dry clean" on a label if it’s the best way to care for the garment, but it also means that you can probably wash the item carefully at home. According to the Federal Trade Commission, many items including cashmere sweaters are mislabeled Dry Clean Only when in fact they may be washable.

I've put this to the test: For decades, except for lined wool or silk suits, coats or blazers labeled "dry clean only" I dry clean my family's new garments labeled "dry clean" the first few times they need cleaning; after that I hand wash or toss them in the washing machine with great results. (I wouldn't risk this with big ticket Gucci, Chanel or Prada originals; I'm referring to more moderately priced pieces that cost under $200). Consider this: Once you have spent nearly as much dry cleaning a garment as you paid to buy it, do you continue to invest in professional cleaning or take a risk by hand washing or machine washing it? From my experience, the risk pays off; even wool lined pants from Express and silk shirts from Ann Taylor launder beautifully on a cool gentle cycle, and wool and cashmere sweaters from Lord & Taylor that I hand wash still look like new.

Dry cleaning at home: home dry cleaning kits let you launder your delicates in a clothes dryer, and this way you avoid perc, the potentially dangerous chemical solvent used by a majority of commercial dry cleaners . Using Clorox FreshCare or P&G Dryer, you can clean 16 garments for about what you'd pay for one garment to be professionally dry cleaned.

Exception: Tackling a stained garment is best left to a professional dry cleaner.