Which Fabrics Dry Clean the Best

Which Fabrics Dry Clean the Best? | CorporetteWhich fabrics dry clean the best? Are there any to AVOID at all costs because they don’t launder well? Reader A wonders:

I noticed that some of my dry clean only clothes seem fine to wear for a few times without dry cleaning and others look (or even small) bad after wearing them once so I feel I need to take them to the dry cleaners. What can I look for before I buy something to know if I’ll be able to wear it a few times between dry cleanings? Any fabrics, colors, cuts or brands that help with this?

Great question, and I’m curious to see what readers have to say.   We’ve talked a lot about laundry (and I still like our guide to drycleaning suits), but we haven’t talked about this particular question. For my $.02:

  • Be wary of blends.  Sometimes blends are good — yay for cashmere and silk!  Sometimes blends — particularly with rayon or polyester — are bad, bad, bad.
  • Avoid drycleaning for as long as you can.  The chemicals aren’t good for you or the clothes — readers have recommended vodka sprays; Febreeze also comes in an unscented version now.  Hang your clothes up as soon as you take them off, and let them “air out” a bit before you put them back in your closet (or on your body).
  • Know the difference between a tag instructing you to “dry clean” versus “dry clean only.”  What a “dry clean” tag means is that you CAN dry clean it, but you can also possibly wash it.  In fact, the more “pure” a fabric blend is, I think the odds are better that the tag will say “dry clean” rather than “dry clean only.”  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I’ve thrown wool and cashmere sweaters in the washer (gentle cycle, with Woolite) and almost always had good results; I’ve even washed wool pants that said “dry clean” instead of “dry clean only.”  For me the biggest assessment here is whether there’s ironing involved (I don’t iron).  If I think something will look like a crumpled mess after coming out of my washing machine, I’ll continue dry cleaning it.  If not, I usually throw it in the washer.  Proceed at your own risk here, of course, and you may want to consider a “waiting period” of one year before you wash a “dry clean” item.
  • Layer smartly.  We talked yesterday about using camisoles and t-shirts with sleeves to “extend” the wear — because any residue from your deodorant, as well as sweat, are going on the sleeves of the washable t-shirt, the sweater stays mostly pristine. Similarly, you may want to consider boyshorts instead of thongs beneath wool trousers if you want/need more coverage.

Readers, what are your tips on which fabrics dryclean the best?  Are there any that you avoid outright (or any brands you avoid outright) because you’ve found they don’t launder well?

Pictured: dry cleaning only!! / united arrows yokohama, originally uploaded to Flickr by puamelia.


  1. I have alway’s found that WOOL COAT’s are the best and easiest to dry clean. On the other hand, I had a down comforter that I had to dry clean (after Alan), and the dry cleaner did NOT want to dry clean it b/c it was kind of comeing thru in a number of places, but I said just try b/c I realy wanted his scent OFF my clotheing and beddeing. So they tried, but alot of the feather’s came out and they said it was b/c the fabric was weakened by alot of use. So I told them just keep it b/c I did NOT realy even want that comforter on my bed b/c it reminded me of Alan. FOOEY!

    I got a text today from Alan. He apologised for haveing his mother call me and said that he did NOT want to get me involved. But he did. He said he was seeing some new woman and did not want his mom to know he was sleepeing over at her place, so he used my name. What a dope! Of course his mom was worried and called me. She was so happy b/c she thought we had made up and he was sleepeing HERE, but he was NOT. No thank you, no more Sheketovits for me! FOOEY! But I felt bad for his mom b/c the new woman can NOT be a profesional like me, nor have the L/T prospects I do. Mrs. Sheketovits was thrilled I became a Partner, and asked about the manageing partner. She thought that Mabye Alan could be our acountant, but I reminded her that we already had Frank.

    I hope all goe’s well with Alan, but that Chapter in My life is CLOSED! DOUBEL FOOEY for wasteing all that time for Alan to become a man, but all he wanted was to sleep in my bed and eat my food. That is NOT for me. YAY!!!!

  2. I know what not to dry clean – cashmere. Takes the knitted in shape right out.

  3. Good Afternoon hive,

    I am wanting some wrinkle resistant pants for work. I currently have some Eddie Bauer that are okay. I have had Brooks Brothers (okay, but I don’t fit a size 2 anymore!!) Any suggestions? Washable is preferred!

    • I love the Gap perfect trousers. They are not wrinkle resistant per se, but I hang them upsdide down to dry and have never felt the need to iron them.

  4. Does anyone know if Tippi sweaters can be washed at home. I have a few and paying for dry cleaning for them is annoying, but preferable to ruining them.

    • Yes. But don’t tumble dry. They may shrink a bit (or I gained weight, which is more likely) and don’t wear around your cats (learned the hard way).

    • Definitely. I prefer washing them to dry cleaning them.

      I’m kinda crazy, so I usually put them in the washing machine alone or only with other things that are exactly the same color and have no buttons, zippers, hooks, or snaps. I put them in a bag and only wash them for half of the delicate cycle. I don’t use Woolite because of the scent. I use the 7th generation free-of-everything detergent (like questionable whether it’s actually detergent) in the weird recyclable cardboard container. Works great though.

      Also… I may like the J Crew Factory Tippi (Charley/Charlie) better than the original. It’s thinner and less fuzzy which is perfect for Atlanta where it’s usually 60 in the winter except when we’re heading into a possible ice-storm-of-the-century (tonight)… and I already have cabin fever which is why I have enough time and craziness to detail my sweater laundering procedure in a comment maybe 2 people will read.

  5. I love Banana Republic’s Sloan pants (ankle and full length) but the blend holds stink so bad. I feel like I have to Febreeze it having worn them for just an hour or two. Any body else have this problem w/ that fabric?

  6. Dry-cleaning is not only expensive, it takes-up a lot of time, is bad for the environment, and not great for our bodies! And yes..depending on the fabric, it can ruin a garment. I’ve had items I swear shrunk from dry-cleaning, even though they said “dry-clean only.” Grrrrr.
    I had enough. So, I quit my job as a news anchor, and patented my own women’s undershirt. It fixes the dry-cleaning woes enough to wear I only dry-clean maybe once-a-season now.. unless I spill. ;)
    Not sure if corporate is okay with me posting my website. And.. I do not want to taunt Happy Fun Ball (LOL commenting policy) If not, my apologies. I just really see a need here. www.annienymotee.com