“Dry Clean Only” (Don’t Believe Everything You Read)

As I was doing my laundry yesterday, most of which I line-dried, I thought about the fact that I have not been to the dry cleaner in nearly a decade. This is one of the small things I have chosen in order to be a little kinder to the environment.

Some of my clothes, especially things I bought several years ago, say “dry clean only.”  This includes knits made of wool, tencel, modal, or rayon (all of which are natural fibers) and linen and silk unconstructed clothing.  All of these do fine with hand washing (or on the gentle cycle in the washing machine) and being hung up to dry (this also applies to cotton, button-down shirts).   Of course, if it doesn’t say to dry clean then you definitely don’t need to dry clean.

Always believed the label?  How was clothing made of natural fibers cleaned before there was such a thing as a dry cleaner?  Think they look better or it is easier to get them dry cleaned?  Think about the solvents, the plastic, the energy for the cleaning method, and whether you drive to the dry cleaners.  Then make a decision.

Most things do not need to be cleaned by use of poisonous solvents (just because a solvent is “organic” or “natural” doesn’t mean it is good for the environment) and then wrapped in non-recyclable plastic to take home (many dry cleaners will take back the hangers, but will say they need to use the plastic wrap because their premises are too dusty for your clothes to stay clean outside the plastic wrapper).

So look for clothes that say “gentle wash, line dry” instead of “dry clean only.”  If it says “dry clean only” think about whether it really applies.  It will not apply for a wool sweater, most knits, or unlined clothes.  A business suit — yes, it won’t keep its shape unless you dry clean.  Do you really need to wear a business suit?  Will a choice not to wear a suit impact whether some people think you are truly “professional”?  Possibly.  If you decide you need to wear a suit regularly, how many times can you wear it before taking it to the dry cleaners?

PS.  Don’t experiment with things that are new and expensive.  Try it on older clothes and discover whether you need to believe everything you read.

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