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.