8 tips to avoid the dry cleaners

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There is one question that comes very often, on the internet or during vintage markets : How do I wash the clothes ? Do I have to bring them to the dry cleaner ?

So here are a few tips about how to clean « dry clean only » clothes, but also any other item.

First of all, how does dry cleaning work ?

Dry cleaning is a cleaning process for clothing and textiles using a chemical solvent other than water.

Despite its name, dry cleaning is not a « dry » process. Clothes are soaked in a liquid solvent. Tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), which the industry calls « perc », is the most widely used solvent. Alternative solvents are trichloroethane and petroleum spirits. (Wikipedia)

In short, dry cleaning should be called « chemical cleaning ». It would sound less glamorous…

Chemical products are bad for your health and for the planet. But dry cleaning is also super expensive…

Can water damage my clothes ?

This question sounds strange, but it is the most common question I get ! Many people still believe that « dry clean only » means that the item must never get in contact with water. But don’t worry, if you drop a glass of water or get out in the rain with your dress, it will not melt. Because like I said, dry cleaning is not a dry process.

Can I handwash them ?

Handwashing is the easiest way to clean your delicate clothes.
For the little story, I started to handwash when I first started to wear gothic and japanese fashions when I was a teen.

Most of the items were « dry clean only ».

I asked my mom how to wash them as I did not want to go to the dry cleaners. So I used liquid soap for wool and lingerie.
It takes some time, but it works.

Handwashing is very easy : Just fill your washbasin or bathtub (for the larger items) with water, and then add soap and conditioner if you want. Soak the clothes for 15-30 minutes (if you wash your clothes just because you have worn them and they are not dirty) and then rinse and put them on hangers to dry.
I strongly advise not to wring they out too strongly, or even not at all.

I used this method for years, but now I have to admit that I don’t do it anymore, at all. Because it takes too much time and uses too much water. I prefer to use the handwash option of my machine with a 20°C temperature.

Can I put the clothes in the washing machine ?

So let’s talk about this.
At the beginning when I started to wear Gothic Lolita clothes, I was handwashing them carefully because I was so afraid to damage these « precious luxury fabrics », because they were super expensive. But after a few years I ended up putting ALL of them in the machine. I added a color catcher sheet just in case.

I was already machine washing all of my vintage clothes. Most of them are handmade so they don’t even have a tag, or care instructions did not exist at the time of the item. The most important for me is that I still have them and they are in perfect condition. It’s just that I was a bit more worried about a 300€ japanese dress than a 10 € one I got from the local thrift store.

When I talk about this with people, most of them say that they simply throw everything in the washer without looking at the tag.
I don’t know if they get some surprises sometimes, but I still recommend you to take a look to the tag. Avoid to wash a leather jacket. It would be better to give it to a professional leather cleaner.

So yes, you can machine wash your clothes, but choose the program carefully !


Which machine program should I use ?

Avoid hot programs. Don’t wash your delicate dress at 60°C ! This is for bed sheets…

What I use the most is « Delicate 30 » or « Handwash / Wool » .

For clothes or lingerie that you usually take hours to handwash, I recommand the wool/handwash program, with the coldest temperature possible. It is the least agressive program.

Can I use a dryer ?

Sometimes, when I am travelling, it happens that I put some clothes in the dryer. But to be honest I don’t recommend it.
I avoid it as much as possible, and I don’t even have a dryer at home.

Will my clothes last longer if I bring them to the dry cleaner instead of washing them myself ?

I heard that many clothing brands recommend dry cleaning because it is supposed to make the clothes last longer.

I have huge doubts about this. We are in a fast, throw-away fashion era, you see what I mean. I sounds kind of strange that a brand says « Keep your clothes longer you will buy less ! »
This is my personal opinion, so you are free to disagree with it.

By the way I have a little story about dry cleaning.
I wanted to buy a Gothic Lolita dress to a girl years ago. Before shipping, she insisted to bring it to the dry cleaners. I said that I did not want, that I will wash it anyway. But no, she brought it to the dry cleaner because it’s written on the tag.

2 days later, she got the dress back and messaged me because the dress had been damaged (it was the first time she brought it to a dry cleaner, because she never wore the dress), like burned in some places. I had photo proofs that the dress was new, so the damage was from the cleaning.

Of course I did not wanted the dress anymore and she had to refund me.

I then bought the same dress from another girl, and machine washed it like all the other similar chiffon dresses I had.

So maybe this was an exception or a bad dry cleaner, but this would not have happened if the girl would not have believed that there was no other cleaning option.


How to iron your clothes ?

Ironing is very important. If you don’t, your clothes will look bad, and also can be damaged.

I recommend to take a look to the tag. If there is no tag, I always make a test on a non visible part on a low temperature.

If the tag says « do not iron », DO NOT IRON. It means that the fabric is going to burn or melt. Yes. I did the mistake.

Do you often throw away damaged clothes ?

I am not the throw-away type of person. I keep my clothes for years. Believe it or not, I own some of my lingerie and swimsuits since over 10 years. Plus most of my clothes are already second hand.
When I get rid of an item, it’s because I don’t like it anymore or the size does not fit anymore, so I prefer to sell it.

Good quality items are long lasting.

All the tips I give in this post are things that I do every day, for my clothes, and also the ones I’m selling in my vintage online shop.

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