A lot of clothes that _say_ dry clean are actually able to be washed in water. Most fabrics that we conventionally think of being dry clean only actually wash fine in water, except for two things:
1. Did the manufacturer pre-wash the fabric? Often, they don't. When you pre-wash fabric, it gets smaller, so if your clothes have not been pre-washed, your garment _may_ get smaller. Fabrics that are really bad for this are rayon and wool. Linen, silk, and _woven_ cotton (not knitted!) tend to be better.
2. Is the garment made out of a lot of fabrics that don't wash the same way. For example, polyester and linen shrink in completely different ways. If your garment is all of one fabric, you have a better chance of getting a garment through a wash unscathed. Also, sometimes the innards, interfaces, shoulder pads, etc. may get twisted in a wash. A less structured garment is more likely to survive water.
So, if you are willing to risk your clothes, you can often get away with "never" dry cleaning. I wear silks, rayons and wools all the time and I only go to the dry cleaners for my husband's suits (which I'm NOT willing to risk).
Obviously, if you wish to try this, HAND-WASH the garment first and let air dry.
By Kathleen K.
I am a believer in not dry cleaning, but recently I washed some Dry Clean Only clothes, in cold water on the gentle cycle, and had some problems with mild shrinking. The pieces didn't shrink a lot, but just enough. This is probably a silly question, but does anyone know of any real way to un-shrink clothing that has been shrunk? Clothing made of wool or viscose or rayon, which can be very delicate, but not always! Sometimes it turns out fine when washed gently in cold water.
I have heard that soaking the item in cold water with hair conditioner and then stretching it out helps, but maybe nothing really does.
I'd appreciate any tips anyone might have! (05/17/2005)
I was wondering if you ever found a solution to your shrunken garment problem. I've been searching the web and so far all I've learned is that washing the garment in cold water and then drying in high (yes, high) heat and then ironing is the best solution. Supposedly it's warm WATER and the TUMBLING that shrinks clothes, not heat from the dryer. Heat from the dryer and ironing is supposed to aid in stretching. I don't want to risk this though if you've found a better solution. (11/04/2005)
You can 'un-shrink' something by getting it wet again, if you're brave, use a little warm water.
Then, fold a towel and reshape the item on the towel. Place another folded towel ontop of the item and press. Let dry this way.
If it's really shrunken, maybe do this twice. The second time, let dry for a bit and then stretch and reshape again.
I worked at a dry cleaning firm for 3 years where I was the owner's assistant. I dabbled in just about all of the dry cleaning process.
First of all, dry cleaning is an oil-based cleaning solution (usually percloroethylene) where upon the cleaner is "shot" into the washer and then sucked back out again by a "dryer". The cleaner adheres itself to many particles (that are NOT sugar-based or contain chemicals) which is why it works. However, there are so many iffy things that can occur.
For example, if you get the smallest spot of any kind liquid (but water) on your garment, it can react to the heat and/or dry cleaning fluid used which may result in a stain you did not notice before leaving the item. For example, Sprite, which dries clear but contains sugar, will turn a dark brown in dry cleaning because the heat caramelizes the sugar in it. Likewise, perspiration, hairspray, etc. all damage the color and/or fibers in a garment which can go unnoticed by you, until the mechanical action of the cleaning machine washes away the top layer of damaged color or washes out the damaged fibers.
I, too, would not recommend taking anything with sequins, glitter, or other added on accoutrements because in my years there, we found most of these things, despite what the label says, would NOT hold up to the dry cleaning process.
Remember that if you request a cleaning method other than the one on the label, the dry cleaner cannot be held responsible if something goes wrong. Likewise, if stain of some sort does appear such as the above, or in the underarm area, it is most likely NOT the result of mishandling by the dry cleaner, but of an unknown stain prior to cleaning, or simply a mislabeled cleaning method.
You would be surprised at how many garments are mislabeled in foreign countries simply because the manufacturers just want their money from the sale. Once you buy it, the manufacturer may disappear or refuse to back up its garments, and while there are laws that supposedly protect you, the consumer, against this, it may take weeks, months, or years to get any compensation out of the company.
The dry cleaning process simply does not create stains, it just may not be able to remove them. If you know of a stain, tell the counter person or dry cleaner and have them mark it with tape to be spotted prior to cleaning. They use a high-powered steam gun that can push the stain out of the fabric without damaging the fibers but if it is not gotten prior to cleaning, again, a stain will probably result. Just thought I'd let you all know.
By Wendy Cabler
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