Here’s a bit of insider laundry intel: If the care tag on a garment says “dry clean only,” then yes, you need to take it to dry cleaner. But if the tag says “dry clean,” you can often get away with washing or freshening it at home. Carolyn Forte, director of the Cleaning Lab in the Good Housekeeping Institute, on the best way to give these items a DIY cleaning (and keep some extra cash in your wallet).
1. Down-filled items
As long as your washing machine doesn’t have an agitator, you can wash down-filled comforters and pillows yourself. Use warm water on the gentle cycle with a high-efficiency detergent, and run an extra cold water rinse. If you have a newer machine, check to see if it has a bedding cycle. Dry on a low setting and toss a new tennis ball into the dryer to keep the down fluffy.
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You don’t need to lug your curtains to the cleaners to get rid of pesky dust and pet hair. Put the curtains in the dryer on the air-only option for 10 minutes and then remove immediately. Shake them out and hang them up so they don’t wrinkle. If you’re in a rush, wrap masking or duct tape around your hand with the sticky side out and pat the curtain to remove debris. A damp sponge or lint roller also works.
Get a few extra wears before your next trip to the cleaners with a home dry-cleaning kit. They freshen, eliminate some odors and remove light stains (but leave heavily stained or soiled clothing to the professionals). To improve the results at home, button and zip all garments before placing them in the dryer bag. Remove items from the dryer right away, shake them out, and hang them to avoid moisture retention and wrinkling. If you are packing away the sweaters for the season, Forte recommends taking them to the cleaners for a thorough cleaning first.
4. Wool and cashmere items
Don’t assume that your wool blanket will be costly to clean. Check the label first since not all wool and cashmere items are “dry clean only.” If the tag gives you the green light, follow it carefully, which usually means washing wool in cold water on a delicate cycle with low spin and tumble dry on low. You should also skip standard stain-fighting detergents with enzymes they can eat the fibers, so check the package and use a gentle detergent instead. For cashmere, it’s best to hand wash and air dry.
Own some silk shirts? Double check their tags: Some may say “dry clean,” not “dry clean only.” Try hand washing them in cool water.
While Forte says it’s best to dry clean both pieces in a suit together, you can save money by bringing in the jacket every second or third time, especially if it isn’t stained or just lightly worn the bottom half generally needs a cleaning more than the top.
7. Clothes that need to be pressed
If your main reason for taking an item to the cleaners is to get it pressed, consider buying a garment steamer and dewrinkling it yourself, says Forte. Make sure to hold the garment taut and go over it lightly, allowing the steam to penetrate the fabric.
TELL US: What’s your trick for avoiding the dry cleaners?
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