4 Ways You Can Save Big Bucks on Dry Cleaning

There's nothing like the fresh, pressed, and clean clothes you pick up at the dry cleaners.  

Americans spend nearly $8 billion each year at the dry cleaners.  But could you save big bucks by washing some clothes at home, even when the garment label says, Dry Clean Only?  Would it really ruin your clothes?

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We put the idea to the test with the help of an expert in cleaning clothes, Steve Boorstein of

“Just because a garment says Dry Clean Only, does that really mean that I can only dry clean it?”  INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero asked.

He said, “It usually means that you can only dry clean it.  But some of these things can be hand washed.”

Or gently machine washed.  The trick is carefully picking what should never be washed at home. Like cashmere, for example.

“So, this is a cashmere blend and you should not try to wash it at home?”  Guerrero asked. Steve said, “No.”

If you’re wondering, why, that’s because it shrunk! “We lost 3" in the sleeves, we lost 4 or 5" in the length and probably a good amount across the bust as well,” Guerrero observed.

So don't wash cashmere, never wash anything with a lining. The lining won't shrink, but the exterior will.

We tried washing one jacket and dry cleaning another. The jacket we dry cleaned looked great. But when Guerrero tried to wash it, it wrinkled. The shoulder pads were lumpy and it shrunk.

And how about a hot coral-colored party dress?  It could cost a whopping $40 to dry clean. It was just pennies to wash at home. We washed two of them, and just to stir up a little trouble, we threw one in with a pair of new jeans.

When we washed out the polyester party dress it turned out great. The color is still bright and it kept its shape. But when we washed the dress with blue jeans, it got completely ruined and had stains. 

But there is a trick to washing some Dry Clean Only clothes. The No. 1 tip:  Keep it simple.  Two blouses, one silk and the other rayon, did pretty well with a gentle wash and air dry.  But a sequin dress, shrunk. 

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Guerrero asked, “So, we don’t have to pay for dry cleaning on these blouses?”  

Boorstein replied, “That's right.”

Here are a few more tips that may save you money:

1. DON’T machine-wash an expensive Dry Clean Only garment unless you know it will survive.  (If you’re not sure, try to hand-wash it instead.)  You can turn the garment inside out, put it in a mesh bag and choose the delicate cycle. Always use cold water and a mild detergent.

2. Don't wash cashmere and never wash anything with a lining. Also, don't wash anything with sequins and shoulder pads.

3. DO NOT PUT THE GARMENT IN THE DRYER!  It can harm the fibers and cause severe shrinkage.  Gently push out any excess water but DO NOT wring or twist it.  Lay it flat to dry on a white towel.

4. You can save money by waiting longer between trips to the dry cleaner.  Wear the suit or sweater a few more times before cleaning – over cleaning can harm the fibers. 

Originally broadcasted May 2014.

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