I’ve just started a job that requires me to look smart and all the clothes I bought say “dry clean only”. Is dry cleaning really necessary? How often do I have to do it? I have a tight budget.
Alas, like the morning commute, dry cleaning is an unavoidable part of professional life. A dry cleaner washes your clothes in a machine much like the one you have at home, but uses a special solvent to remove dirt and odour. So the process is actually not “dry”, and thus not quite the miracle it sounds to be. But fabrics that can’t tolerate normal home washing definitely need the attention of a pro. First, look carefully at your labels.
Some clothes say “dry clean/hand wash only”. These you can wash in cold water with a mild washing liquid, like Ecover Delicate. We also suspect that designers sometimes mark clothes “dry clean” just to make their brand seem fancier.
We’re comfortable washing delicate-weave cotton by hand, and some silk and wool clothes as well. But if in doubt about the fabric, leave it to the experts.
As for how often to bring your clothes in, Ask Londonist has yet to make a friend wealthy enough to do it after each wearing. In fact, most people like to put off dry cleaning as long as possible, either to save money or to avoid putting their clothes through too much stress.
Basically, if the article is stained, take it in as soon as you can. The longer you wait the harder stains are to remove. Make sure you point out specifics when you drop your clothes off too, because a careless cleaner may not inspect thoroughly and could set a spot for good during the cleaning process. Otherwise, bring a garment in when it’s lost its shape, or completely stinks. And clean an entire suit at once, so the trousers and jacket will still match after any potential fading.
To maximise the length of time between launderings, air your clothes as much as possible, especially after being in a smoky pub. The posh cleaners Jeeves of Belgravia recommend hanging your clothes in the bathroom after you’ve taken a shower “to absorb the freshness.” They also say avoid plastic garment bags at all cost, and suggest using an old sheet if you can’t afford to buy lots of fabric suit covers.
If all this sounds like too much work for you, check out Marks and Spencer’s line of machine-washable shirts, ties, and, yes, even suits.