When it comes to taking care of your clothes, there are very specific rules you've likely followed for as long as you can remember. Separate your colors to prevent bleeding in the washer, be careful about what water temperature you use, turn your jeans inside out, and be mindful of "dry clean only" tags. However, the latter (as you've probably heard by now) is a little bit murkier than once presumed. Enter The Laundress—an eco-friendly line of detergent, fabric care, and home cleaning products that works to dispell the notion that you're required to take everything to the dry cleaner if the tag says so.
On the contrary, the founders argue that there are plenty of pieces in your wardrobe that don't have to go to the dry cleaner at all (up to 90%, they say). To help unpack and demystify the process, we tapped the founders to get the low-down on the dry clean only items hanging in your wardrobe that you can actually wash at home as well as a ton of other helpful tips and tricks. Continue ahead to hear directly from these experts and to save yourself time and, most important, money.
What are the benefits of washing your clothing at home where possible?
"Washing items at home means you aren't exposing your garments or yourself to the harsh chemicals, toxins, and, of course, the expense of dry cleaning. Dry cleaning also tends to set in stains and odors instead of removing them. By pretreating stains and washing items such as wool, silk, and other delicate fabrics at home, you can effectively clean and extend the life of your favorite pieces."
What fabrics that may say dry clean only can you actually wash at home?
"The instructions found on care tags aren't necessarily the best way to clean an item. When manufacturers default to dry cleaning care instructions, it’s to push the responsibility to the dry cleaners rather than themselves. In fact, you can actually wash up to 90% of your 'dry clean' items. The key to a successful wash lies in learning a few fabric fundamentals. Cotton and linen are some of the most washable fabrics, and natural fibers such as wool, cashmere, and silk are also washable. If you’re unsure, you can easily test an inconspicuous area of the garment to check for adverse water reactions (like puckering, color bleeding, and shrinking) before washing."
Are there any materials that you truly shouldn't chance it and just take to the dry cleaner?
"We never wash leather, fur, and structured items such as a blazer with shoulder pads. Also, keep a lookout for tricky viscose/rayon and polyamide fabrics, as they can be unpredictable. We tend to take these items to the dry cleaner as it’s better safe than sorry."
What are your top tips for fashion dry clean only clothes at home?
"Knowing from our textile studies that 90% of clothes labeled 'dry clean only' can be washed at home, we developed solutions specific to the fabric—like silk, wool, and denim—that solved the most common problems like premature fading, dinginess, and stubborn pit stains while eliminating the need for dry cleaning. You can use the Wool & Cashmere Shampoo and Delicate Wash to thoroughly clean and preserve your cashmere sweaters and silk blouses. We prefer hand washing or machine washing on a delicate cycle in a mesh bag. Learn how to start washing at home with our How-To guides."
What if you're just trying to refresh a piece of clothing—any tips for doing that at home?
"When you can’t wash an item, you can still reduce trips to the dry cleaner by steaming and freshening with our Fabric Fresh—it has antibacterial properties to remove odors while adding scent. This method is also a way to rescue clothes from 'the chair'—that place of purgatory for clothes that could use a refresh before wearing again.
"Steaming is one of the easiest, most natural ways to freshen up a previously worn piece. On high heat, steam works to kill germs and bacteria, which can, in turn, eliminate odors. If you don't own a steamer, you can achieve similar results by setting an iron to the steam-setting and hovering your iron over the item. Follow by spraying garments with one of our nontoxic fabric sprays to freshen up. Each adds a fresh scent while eliminating odors. We recommend the Wool & Cashmere Spray for sweaters, suits, scarves, blankets, and other knits. Delicate Spray is perfect for lingerie, hosiery, and items labeled dry clean only like silk and chiffon."