How to Wash Dry Clean Only Clothing


Question: I am washing a dress that is 95% polyester and 5% spandex. The tag on the dress says to dry clean, can this piece be washed?

Washing “dry clean only” clothing is taking a bit of a chance. Though for many of us, it’s worth the risk to avoid the high cleaning costs or when we simply don’t have the time to take our clothing to the dry cleaners. While some fabrics respond just fine to a gentle wash, others shrink or lose their shape from the washing process and exposure to water. There are also kits available to dry clean your clothing at home. Regardless of the method you choose, here are the steps and information you need to know.

DIY Dry Cleaning

You Will Need:

  • Dry Cleaning kit such as Dryel
  • Dryer

Steps to Clean the Clothing:

  1. Dryel has developed a way for consumers to clean their dry clean only pieces at home using similar methods that the dry cleaners use. Essentially this kit comes with the dry cleaning solution and cleans your piece without exposing it to water.
  2. Dryel is available at most stores that carry laundry cleaning products such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, etc..
  3. Follow the directions provided on the packaging for proper use.

Washing Dry Clean Only Clothing

You Will Need:

  • Mild detergent such as Woolite or
  • Dishwashing liquid such as Ivory
  • Cool water
  • Towels
  • Hair dryer

Steps to Wash the Clothing:

  1. Though some garments can tolerate the agitation of the washing machine, most are better off being hand-washed.
  2. Fill a sink with cool water and add a small amount of mild detergent or dish soap.
  3. Agitate the water to disperse the detergent and make a few suds.
  4. Place the garment carefully into the water.
  5. Move the garment gently a few times, but avoid swishing or rubbing the fabric. Often times, dry clean only fabrics require gentler handling than washable items.
  6. If there are soiled areas, allow the piece to soak to remove the dirt.
  7. When the piece is cleaned, lift it out of the water and squeeze it gently to remove some of the excess water. Do not wring or twist the fabric as this can cause it to lose its shape.
  8. Spread out an absorbent towel and lay the piece flat on top of the towel.
  9. Roll the towel and garment, pressing gently to remove any excess water.
  10. Repeat with a dry towel until most of the water is removed.
  11. To dry the piece, lay it flat on a clean, dry towel and allow it to air dry.
  12. To speed up the drying process, a hair dryer can be used on the cool setting.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Know your garments before attempting to wash silk, wool or linen pieces that are labeled as “dry clean only.” In these cases, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and either utilize a DIY dry cleaning kit or take it to the cleaners.
  • Some wool items will shrink greatly if exposed to water.
  • Testing a small hidden area first is a crucial step to ensure that the water does not cause any unwanted effects to the fabric.
  • If you choose to wash your dry clean only clothing, always be prepared for the worst. While many pieces may come out just fine, there always seems to be one piece that should have been taken to the dry cleaners. Take it as a lesson learned.
  • If the clothing is valuable or of high importance, you’re better off not chancing it and following the cleaning instructions on the label or contacting a professional.


  1. I bought a shirt made of polyester and spandex, and the label reads dry clean only. Why does the manufacturer feel it’s necessary to dry clean a garment made primarily out of polyester? I always thought that polyester was a durable material. After all, I used to hear jokes that if there were to be a nuclear war, the only two things to survive would be scraps of polyester and cockroaches.

  2. I just noticed the same thing. Had I REALLY looked at the wash label, I wouldn’t have purchased the shirt. A 95% polyester and 5% spandex shirt SHOULD be washable.

    Dear Calvin Klein: If you want to use this fabric combo, make it hand-washable! Comfortable shirt, but I’m VERY disappointed that you’ve not produced a good garment that can be properly cleaned.

  3. I need to clean gum out of my pants. Any suggestions?

  4. Which type of dry wash do you recommend? What would be a bit different cloth dry cleaning?

  5. Chris,
    Scrape off as much of the gum as you can, then place the pants in a plastic grocery bag and set the bag in the freezer for about an hour. Scrape off the frozen gum with a plastic knife or your fingernail carefully so as not to damage the fabric and use a toothbrush to scrub away any remaining residue.

    Source: – How to Remove Gum

  6. I totally agree Tammy!

  7. Thank you for the article. I too have noticed that some synthetic fabrics that say ‘dry clean only’ can withstand being washed.

  8. I am wondering if I can gently hand-wash a designer ‘dry clean only’ 94% viscose/6% elastane pink and red printed bodycon dress?

    Please advise, as I love this dress and have worn it a lot, but don’t have the time or money to keep dry cleaning it.

    Please advise.

  9. I make my cosplay (costume play for short) for conventions by hand buying fabrics. I bought the light pink party taffeta and white party taffeta for my outfit and it turned out great, though after three days (and accidentally stepping on the white skirt some), the white part is dirty and I am wondering if the Dryel method would work with the type of fabric I used?

  10. Can I use a machine to dry clean? If yes, what is the process of using a machine to dry clean? Somebody help me with an answer please.

  11. What is the best way to clean my “dry clean only” white coat? It is 100% cotton lining and 100% polyester. I have taken it to the dry cleaners many times and it just doesn’t ever seem to clean well. I don’t wear it anymore because the stains are unsightly, so I’m about ready to venture into hand washing it. Worst case, I don’t wear it anymore – hey, that’s already happening! I love this coat; what should I do?

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