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Can I Machine Wash "Dry Clean Only" Clothing?

A gentle wash cycle may be appropriate for clothing marked "dry cleaning suggested".
Machine washing can be damaging for some heavy clothing such as wool sweaters and jackets.
Fabric softener can damage the finish on some dry clean only garments or even stain them.
A washing machine.
Suede generally doesn't do well in washing machines.
A tuxedo, which should always be taken to a dry cleaner.
A dry clean only gown.
A brush for cleaning suede shoes.
A dry clean only dress.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Revised By: Mary Ellen Popolo
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 June 2014
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Articles of clothing with a "Dry Clean Only" label really should be taken to a dry cleaner. Though you can sometimes machine wash dry clean only clothing without any problems, other times you can damage the fabric or cause the colors to bleed. Generally speaking, you can machine wash sturdy clothes that are all one color and made out of fabrics like cotton or linen as long as you turn them inside out, put the washer on a gentle cycle with cool water, and hang the clothes up to dry. It's a risk though, so you shouldn't try to machine wash any clothing you have that is expensive or has sentimental value.

What to Consider Before Machine Washing

The first thing to think about if you want to machine wash dry clean only clothing is the type of fabric the clothing is made out of. For instance, wool is notorious for shrinking and rayon can become wrinkled beyond repair. Suede and leather generally don't do well in a washing machine, since suede can be stained and damaged by water and leather may shrink and take on a distressed look. Materials like silk and linen may also recommend dry cleaning, since washing them in a machine can tear or shrink them or cause their dyes to bleed.

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You should also consider the construction of the garment, and they way it's dyed. Garments that are delicate may get torn up in a normal washing machine, and can also be damaged by bleach. Additionally, many dry clean only garments are not colorfast, which means that their colors may run when washed or bleached. You can check to see if a garment is colorfast before washing by wetting a cotton ball and dabbing at a hidden part of the garment to see if any dye comes off. Fabric softener should be avoided as well, since it can damage the finish on some dry clean only garments or stain them.

You can look at the label too, for ideas as to whether something will wash well. If the care label says, “Dry Cleaning Suggested,” instead of “Dry Clean Only,” this usually means you can wash the garment. Manufacturers are required to put a method of cleaning, and they tend to put a safer one just in case.

Items to Always Dry Clean

You should not machine wash dry clean only clothing of certain types. For instance, suits or tuxedos should be taken to the cleaners, and never thrown in a washing machine. Anything you paid a lot of money for or that has sentimental value should not be washed if the label says "Dry Clean Only." Additionally, other items that most likely should not be washed in a machine include your wedding dress, formal gowns, winter coats, and the like. Fabrics with very delicate lace, beading, or special creases, stitching, or ruching probably won’t survive your washing machine either.

Tips for Cleaning

If you do decide to machine wash dry clean only fabric, always use a cool or cold water cycle and a mild detergent. Make sure to set your washing machine on a short, gentle cycle, and put any items that you're washing in a mesh bag. You should never dry the clothing in a dryer, since this can shrink and damage it. Instead, after you remove the items from the washing machine, gently shake the garments to remove some of the wrinkles and hang them up or lay them flat to air dry.

Alternatives

There are other ways to clean dry clean only clothing at home besides machine washing. You can handwash many dry clean only garments with cool water and a gentle detergent, and you can use a hand steamer to clean garments that you know are colorfast. Some companies also sell dry cleaning kits for use at home, which generally consist of a stain remover, a dryer activated cloth containing solvents and perfumes, and a dryer bag to protect the garments during the process. These kits aren't suitable for garments that can be damaged by steam, however, including non-colorfast garments, leather and suede, or fur.

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Discuss this Article

anon945385
Post 40

71 percent polyester; 27 percent Viscose; 2 percent Elastane. Can you wash a dress with this combination, rather than dry clean it?

AvsFan
Post 38

My favorite winter sweater is 58 percent silk, 30 percent nylon, and 12 percent angora rabbit hair. The label says "dry clean" which I have always done. However, it has begun to lose shape and needs reshaping.

Does anyone know of a way to safely hand-wash this material so that I can flat-dry/reshape? Thanks!

anon351952
Post 37

@Post 33: I have the same dress. Did you hand or machine wash? I am thinking the same.

anon346615
Post 36

I have dark blue curtains that are 70 percent Rayon and 30 percent Polyester. Can I machine wash them?

anon346195
Post 35

How should I wash my DVF 93 percent viscose, 7 percent spandex dress? Please advise.

anon345629
Post 34

If I have a pair of Abercrombie and Fitch shorts that are 48 percent wool, 28 percent polyester and 24 percent acrylic, can I hand wash it? They're a navy blue and red plaid patterned.

anon338570
Post 33

I have an Anne Klein dress, A line dress. The only dress that fits me well. It says dry clean. It's made of 62 percent polyester/ 36 percent viscose/ 2 percent elastane. The fabric is heavy and seems very strong and durable. It is mostly dark blue except for a pink and red stripe running across the bottom. Since it looks so durable, I am tempted to hand wash it and hang dry to save some money on dry cleaning. But I don't want to ruin its shape. It doesn't have anything that can come off, it doesn't seem delicate, but it is my best fitting dress. I've only worn it three times and I don't have money to buy another nice dress similar to this. It's not the most expensive, but it's not the cheapest at $50.

anon335522
Post 32

I have a dress that is 90 percent polyester and 10 percent elastic. Can I wash it by hand instead of dry cleaning?

anon328477
Post 30

Can I machine wash (on delicate) my white coat?

It's 89 percent polyester, 1 percent elastane, 10 percent viscose. The reason why I'm asking is I sent it out for dry cleaning and it seems nothing happened. It still looks the same (dirty) and I paid so much.

anon321291
Post 29

I note the various "never put wool in your machine" comments. Some machines are specifically designed to run wool/hand wash programs. These are endorsed by organisations representing producers, manufacturers and promoting wool, such as Woolmark in Australia - who are expert in their product.

I was initially doubtful about mine, however provided you use the right sort of detergent (a specific wool wash- without an extra fabric softener, or the gentle hand wash solution you normally would when hand washing) for almost every garment, this has worked out very well for me. The exceptions have been things with hook and eyes or other clasps which have caught unexpectedly, or large loads where items have tangled.

To avoid this. I usually place each garment inside a lingerie bag when using these cycles. (The exceptions are size related) I find it allows me to wear light weight woolens and woolen/silk scarves have the comfort of knowing they're always clean, without the dry cleaning bill.

If your machine does not have these special cycles, however, it is not the right way to wash these garments. It is a hand wash or dry clean task.

anon320902
Post 28

I have a 100 percent cotton bed comforter that says dry clean only. Any suggestions to keep me from spending a fortune on this king sized bed spread?

anon310326
Post 26

Can I wash my coat? It says shell 50 percent cotton, 45 percent polyamide, 5 percebt metal fiber, lining 100 percent polyamide.

anon309336
Post 25

I ordered a pair of winter white pants online. In the description it said that they were machine washable, but when they arrived the tag said dry clean. They are 62 percent polyester, 34 percent rayon and 4 percent spandex. The lining is 100 percent polyester. Can I hand wash or machine wash them without a problem? And if so, can I use my normal detergent (Tide)?

anon287629
Post 23

I have a pair of leggings that are 65 percent rayon/30 percent nylon/5 percent spandex for the main part, and 94 percent polyester/6 percent spandex for one contrast, and 60 percent polyurethane/40 percent rayon for the second contrast. I know I'm dumb for asking, but I take it I can't hand wash this, right?

anon283521
Post 22

I have a jacket that is made up of:

80 percent polyester; 11 percent wool; 4 percent acrylic; 3 percent viscose; 2 percent polyamide.

Would you say this would be OK to machine wash on the hand wash or on the delicates or wool cycle? I'm hoping that because the wool content is only 11 percent that it should be O.K.

anon272287
Post 21

One other thing the fabric stores and sewing teachers will tell you: it's probably best to dry clean any silk prints. For some reason, the dye doesn't hold really well, and silk prints tend to bleed.

On the other hand, if it's a solid silk that isn't satin, and if you don't mind a slightly sandwashed feel and possible slight change in color, you may be able to hand wash. Do not spot treat - wash the entire garment so the whole thing becomes a giant water "stain." I've done silk shells this way for years with no problems.

anon271808
Post 20

I've had no problem washing dry-clean only 100 percent rayon designer print in cold water, on hand wash cycle. I made sure to drip dry.

For no. 15: Handwashing 100 percent poly should be fine. At fabric stores, all of the 100 percent poly is at least handwashable. May want to drip dry to be safe.

For no. 16: I would not use the machine, mostly because of the stretch in the dress, which could get tweaked if it gets jammed at all. However, based on the fabric content, I think handwashing in the sink and drip dry would be fine.

For no. 17: Nnone of the fibers are the sort that freak out when introduced to water, so handwash/drip dry probably should be ok.

The way my sewing teacher explained it to me, most of the time, the fiber content controls whether you can hand wash or not. The one time this rule doesn't work well is if there is a lot of structure to the garment, such as a tailored jacket. Thus, for the person with the rayon suit, I would probably dry clean. Also, if you are talking something with matching pieces (such as the suit) where one part needs to be dry cleaned, even if you could wash the skirt/pants by hand, you may not want to because the top and bottom may fade or react differently, so that they won't look like a suit if the parts are cleaned separately.

The other thing to keep in mind is that high heat is horrible for spandex/elastane and elastic in general. If you have a garment that depends heavily on spandex (like that DVF dress or a nice bra), it will last much longer if washed in cold and dripped dry. Not sure if it was the heat or the chlorine, but I have had the spandex in some really good swimsuits basically melt after only a couple of trips into a hot tub. I personally use the dryer for some of my jeans with spandex because the heavy cotton takes forever to dry, but I try to take them out damp and let them air dry at the end (and I don't buy expensive jeans).

anon266458
Post 19

I have a polyester track suit that is white, and it has a stain on the sleeve from rubbing makeup off of my face, and a little dirt at the bottom.

It has a big foil design and a bunch of sequins on it. It says dry cleaning recommended. I am not concerned about the fabric stretching or shrinking; it's more the design I am concerned about. Is it safe to bleach and/or handwash this item? I will lay it flat to dry, of course.

anon265020
Post 18

There is so much confusing information on the internet about washing wool clothing, so I wanted to post. I got red wine on a 100 percent wool dress that is lined with 100 percent polyester. I pre-sprayed the stains with Shout, left for 10 minutes, then washed it in my (clean) kitchen sink with 1/2 teaspoon Woolite (barely produced suds) and 2 ounces of clear white vinegar. Just enough water to cover the dress.

I let it soak about 20 minutes, drained the water, rinsed with cold water, then recovered the dress and let it sit another 10 minutes. I drained and rinsed again and inspected for the stains. Because I saw no hints of the stains, I carefully rolled the dress, then pressed out all the water I could. I then rolled the dress into a large towel and pressed again. Do not wring.

Because the wool is pretty thick and strong, I hung it on a hanger, on my porch out of direct sunlight. I wanted it to dry quickly so it would not mildew. I pulled the seams slightly to re-lengthen, but only had to do this on one seam. It is nearly dry, perfectly clean and will only need to be steamed with a steamer or pressed through a towel.

anon223608
Post 17

Just bought a skirt, cut the price tag off, and then realized it says to dry clean only. I have those Dryel things I could use, but it's 74 percent rayon, 23 percent nylon and 3 percent spandex, so I'm wondering if I were to gently hand wash it if it would be ok.

anon220742
Post 16

I have a DVF tight fitting stretchy dress that is 70 percent cotton polyamide and elastane.

It says dry clean only, but it seems most labels say that these days, because it less costly to say so for everything. Can I machine wash?

anon193546
Post 15

I have a dress that has a 100 percent polyester lining and a 100 percent polyester outer fabric/shell. It has an elastic top. The tag says to dry clean.

Can I put it in the hand wash cycle of my washing machine, and lay it flat to dry of course? Do I risk doing ruining this type of garment. It has a black and white floral motif. It was made in China and is from White House/Black Market.

anon152533
Post 14

To post 13. You should never use shampoo on wool, as it is a harsh detergent. A good detergent to use is tide gentle, which contains no perfumes or dyes. Furthermore, wool in the washing machine should be avoided unless the machine isn't entirely automated - that is to say, you can stop the machine before it attempts to drain all the water when it is finished, as this will clog the machine up with collected lint.

To post 11, please never attempt to wash a suit of any kind, as it will destroy the garment. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the fact that when something that is dry clean only is put in the wash, it does not only shrink, but also frays and falls apart. This is especially true with rayon fibres, which are notorious for fraying. And lastly, anything that is under 50 percent wool will not felt and/or shrink, ergo a 70 percent acrylic sweater will not felt and is fully machine washable, though it is recommended that it is put only on gentle cycle.

anon144399
Post 13

Rayon in your fabric? Dry Clean only rayon will shrink and tear in water.

Polyester/Nylon/Acrylic/Lycra Home/machine wash without a care, but watch out for color-running (though unlikely), or decorations that might come off in the machine. Also, the finish or polish might wash off, but the fabric will be fine. Put dry woven fabric in the dryer, and lay knits flat to dry (though usually they dry fine in the dryer, as well).

Cotton: home/machine wash colored fabric in cold water, whites in hot, colors might run in dark colored fabrics. Poor quality cottons might shrink on the first washing - (ideally cottons fabric must be pre-shrunk before garment construction). Dry in the dryer. Starch or polish on cottons may wash off, cottons can be restarched easily (follow instructions on store-bought starch)

Wool? machine wash cold with woolite, lay flat to dry or for delicate knits agitate in a bucket of cold water with some woolite/shampoo, rinse, do not wring and lay flat to dry on newspaper/cotton towels.

100 percent silk and silk blends are best hand-washed in cold water with a gentle shampoo and can be maintained for many years like this. The fibres are similar to hair and hate acid, so never use vinegar. Watch out for colors running in the first few washes. Silk will not shrink and can be hung to dry or dried in the drier. thin silks tear easily when wet - be gentle. Fabrics might lose polish/starch on washing, so silks can be restarched same as cottons.

anon138788
Post 12

If the fabric is 100 percent cotton, it is machine washable. however, if the item is very precious to me, I'd rather hand-wash it. dry cleaning, unless it's specialist (i.e. it's done item by item, not in bulk like most laundrette), is bad for most fabric, incl. designer cotton. i have a few overpriced designer cotton dresses, I've always been handwashing them and they turn out fine.

anon132066
Post 11

I have a rayon suit, there are no washing instructions. can i hand wash it?

anon125729
Post 10

At an Indian fire-eating spectacle, the chap blew out the fire liquid in his mouth and it stained a cream jacket my husband was wearing. Do you have any ideas for removing these splashes which are all over the sleeve? Dry cleaning didn't help.

anon108127
Post 9

I have a jacket that is 70 percent polyester and 30 percent rayon, and says "Dry Clean Only" and it's mustard yellow.

Could I put it in the wash under cold water and gentle cycle and wash it at the same time with a black knit dress (will the colors bleed?)

anon102346
Post 8

I have a comforter that is 100 percent polyester and it says dry clean only. How can I spot clean it, when water leaves a mark?

anon90768
Post 7

what about a bandage dress which is 79 percent viscose, 15 percent nylon and 6 percent elastane?

anon86481
Post 6

if the dress is 100 percent silk, don't machine wash. I have my deb's dress and i gave it to the dry cleaners and some beads fell out, so i found a way to wash it. I used light body wash without fragrance.

i left my dress in the bath with cold water (but not too cold) and put some body wash on the places which i needed to wash, then mixed the water around, then let my dress hang over the bath and water dripping and let it dry like this. It turned out great. Hope it helps.

anon83257
Post 5

#2 & #3, it contains wool - absolutely do not machine wash it. You might, however, get away with a hand-washing in cool water, lay flat to dry.

anon72592
Post 4

the dress is 100 percent silk, lining: 100 percent polyester. will it be okay to machine wash it?

anon60074
Post 3

I bought dress pants that say dry clean only and it is 63 percent polyester, 27 percent viscose, 8 percent wool, 2 percent spandex. I also have a front loader that has a wool/hand wash option.

mathisangie
Post 2

i just got a 70 percent acrylic, 30 percent wool sweater and it is dry clean only. can i machine wash it?

anon31606
Post 1

If a fabric is 100% cotton and is a "designer fabric" and says dry clean only, can I machine wash it?

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