For whatever reason, I hate going to the dry cleaner. To start with, it’s a bit of a hassle to get myself there, but what really makes my skin crawl is forking over 10 bucks apiece—I’d much (much!) rather be spending cash on more clothes, not a boring wash job. There are the items marked as dry-clean only that I totally get: heavy embellishments, light-as-air silks, and buttery leathers. I’d never dream of tossing those in my washer. It’s the seemingly normal fabrics that I’m more annoyed about, especially if the shirt itself cost the price of two pricey cleanings.
I’ve accepted thing that part of the dry-clean-happy labeling has to do with a sort of insurance. If I tossed a 100 percent cotton dress in with the rest of my laundry, a totally normal thing, and it came out somehow mangled, the brand’s almost protected against complaints (you know, “well, it’s clearly marked as dry-clean only, so we can’t really do much for you if it went through a wash cycle.”)
Many are the times I’ve stood in front of my laundry room, cell phone in hand, trying to figure out if I can throw something in or not. Happily, the folks at the Telegraph chatted with laundry pro Francesca Salih and got the lowdown on a few fabrications that are A-OK for at-home washing. When reading labels, look for “cotton, polyester, or nylon, all of which are washable at home, as is acrylic,” she wrote.
Most of this spring’s biggest trends are silhouette-based (rather than material), which is good news for your dry-cleaning bill. As I chatted about my cleaning phobia with Sophia, she referenced her fresh-for-the-season acetate pants, a pair with a confusing care label that might make you nervous when it comes time to clean. It’s another manmade fabric, like poly and acrylic, and the rule on those is that they’re generally washer-safe.
For acetate, and anything that carries a dry-clean-only tag, just be a little more cautious than normal. Turn things inside out and use cold water and a gentle detergent; depending on your machine’s settings, put it on hand-wash or low spin cycle. Skip the dryer and arrange items on a drying rack instead. My mom’s been a long-time fan of the Dryel kit and stuffed my Christmas stocking with one this year—I tried and was satisfied. The biggest rule is that before you do anything, consider how destroyed you’d be if it did get ruined. If it’s your all-time favorite, don’t risk making it unwearable: Take those pieces to the cleaners.