How to dry clean clothes at home – laundry experts share their expertise

Save on your laundry bills with these rules for dry cleaning clothes at home

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Dry cleaning can seem like a mythical process, but it is fairly simple to give it a go yourself. So how do you dry clean clothes at home? 

When doing laundry, adding a dry-clean-only garment is always a bit of a curveball. 

There may be a temptation to pop it in your washing machine and hope for the best but this risks ruining your best clothing.

How to dry clean clothes at home 

Here, we ask cleaning and laundry experts for their advice on dry cleaning at home, and how you can get a similar effect yourself.

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Although you can certainly clean dry clean clothes at home yourself as a laundry hack to save time, it may not be quite the same as the process they use at the dry cleaners, explains Laura Avila, cleaning expert and founder of CleaningFan. This is because professionals have access to powerful chemicals that regular homeowners can’t pick up at the grocery store for safety. ‘There are, however, some alternatives that can help freshen up and deodorize clothes without water,’ Laura assures. 

Laura Avila
Laura Avila

Laura Avila, the cleaning enthusiast, has years of cleaning experience, and now provides practical tips to her clients on how to maintain a clean and organized home. 

1. Use a dry cleaning kit

If you are looking to save money on your laundry, then a home dry cleaning kit can be a cheaper alternative to professional dry cleaning,’ suggests Johanes Bangao Godoy, laundry and cleaning expert at Liox dry cleaners. ‘A dry cleaning kit usually comes with a stain remover and cleaning solvent. After spot-treating any stains with the remover, the solvent can dissolve dirt and odors from the fabric,’ he explains. 

‘Finally, toss the clothes with a dryer sheet to remove any remaining dirt and leave a pleasant scent. It's crucial to read the instructions to avoid damaging your clothes,’ Johanes warns.

Dryel At-Home Dry Cleaning Starter Kit | $24.99 at Amazon

Dryel At-Home Dry Cleaning Starter Kit | $24.99 at Amazon
This dry cleaning starter kit comes with all the products you need for a good home clean. It even includes a steam cleaning bag, wrinkle spray, and cloth for silk and rayon.

2. Air out clothes without stains

When sorting your clothes for laundry and dry cleaning, pick out anything dry-clean only that doesn't have any stains. If it only needs a quick refresh, then airing it out could do the trick. Especially for those made of natural fibers. ‘Many fabrics including wool, cashmere, and silk can be aired out on a nice day as an alternative to washing,’ assures Frej Lewenhaupt, textile expert, co-founder, and CEO of Steamery.  

Frej Lewenhaupt
Frej Lewenhaupt

Frej Lewenhaupt is the dedicated and creative Co-founder & CEO of Steamery, with a long history of working in textile design which he uses to design the best, most effective clothing care devices for household use.

3. Simply use a steamer

There are plenty of things you can clean with a steamer, and your dry-clean laundry is one of them, particularly those with no stains, continues Frej Lewenhaupt, textile expert, as the process removes bad odors and kills surface bacteria. ‘Steaming is an especially great option for bulkier items that are more difficult to wash, as a steamer can dramatically help to reshape something like a shrunken sweater,’ he adds. ‘The hot steam makes the textile fibers swell and regain their natural shape.’

We have compiled a list of the best steam cleaners for you, so you can make your dry cleaning ten times easier at home.  

4. Mist with perchloroethylene and water

Perchloroethylene is the most commonly used chemical solvent used for dry cleaning in the US, however, it is not as easy to come by as a home dry cleaning kit. If you do get a hold of it, then it is important to use it safely, warns Justin Carpenter, cleaning expert and owner of Modern Maids in Houston. 

‘Always wear protective gear such as a ventilator mask, gloves, eye protection, and long sleeves, and follow the manufacturer's instructions,’ he says. ‘It can save you money and time, but it is important to make sure that the procedure is done properly. Dry cleaning solvents are highly flammable and should be used carefully. If you don't feel comfortable using them, it's best to leave the job to professionals or find an alternative method of cleaning your clothes.

‘Use a spray bottle to lightly mist your clothes,’ he explains. ‘Allow them to hang dry before wearing them.’

Some chemical cleaners such as perchloroethylene are banned in some parts of the world and states, however, such as California, so make sure you check your local rules before trying to purchase it.

Think twice before dry cleaning certain garments

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Doing dry cleaning at home is not a common cleaning tip that should be tried lightly, and should never be used on certain garments you may have around your home. Some delicate fabrics require special care that can only be provided by professional dry cleaners, for example, says cleaning expert Laura Avila.

‘Although it may seem like a cost-effective solution, it's worth noting that at-home dry cleaning may not be as effective as professional services,’ agrees Johanes Bangao Godoy, laundry and cleaning expert at Liox. ‘Specialists use unique equipment and solvents not readily available to the public, providing better stain and odor removal. Improper dry cleaning may also harm delicate fabrics, leading to costly repairs or replacements.’

Why dry cleaning clothes properly is important

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There is often an important reason why the ‘dry-clean’ label is added to the laundry symbols on your garment. ‘Correct dry cleaning is essential for several reasons. It can eliminate stains, dirt, and odors that can't be addressed using traditional cleaning methods, particularly for high-end or delicate materials that are susceptible to water damage,’ laundry expert Johanes explains. 

‘Dry cleaning can also prolong clothing lifespan by preventing fading, shrinkage, and other common washing-related problems. Additionally, it can prevent bacteria and germs from spreading, which is especially important during cold and flu season.’ 

FAQs

What happens if I wash an item that is dry clean only?

If you put a dry clean only garment in a regular laundry load, the garment is at risk of shrinking, stretching, or discoloration, leaving it unwearable. As it is often more expensive garments that require dry cleaning, it is important to invest in their care to prevent irreversible damage. 

Is dry clean only really necessary?

There are two versions of a ‘dry clean’ label on clothing. If a garment says ‘dry clean’, then it is a manufacturer's recommendation and you may be able to get away with a delicate or hand wash at home. If the label specified ‘dry clean only’, however, then dry cleaning is essential and the garment should not be washed with water. 


Overall, dry cleaning at home is possible, but not necessarily recommended for proper cleaning and expensive garments.

Chiana Dickson
Writer

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.