General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Does dry cleaning get clothes as clean as soap and water?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (30391points) April 11th, 2013

There are obviously some items which are dry clean only. I can think of men’s suits, for example. Let’s leave those out of this discussion.

I have some nice shirts that give instructions for washing, and then they add “dry cleaning recommended.” It seems almost instinctual that washing with soap and water would render a cleaner garment. Does it?

I also have some linen shirts that give washing instructions while other linen shirts demand dry cleaning. Why is there a difference?

Do some fabrics wear better from washing while others from dry cleaning?

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19 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

As far as different washing intructions on items that are the same fabric, sometimes manufacturers put in dry clean recommended as a failsafe. Meaning there is less likelihood something will go wrong if you dry clean it, but you can wash it in soap and water. I have seen dry clean labels on polyester, which is ridiculous. Many cotton things, like cotton sweaters, you can machine wash, but need to be very careul not to shrink the garment and it may not look the same afterwards, same with silk. They might lose their shape a little. Athough, both often you can wash them and lie flat to dry.

I have seen rayon items that are labeled machine was, and my recommendation is never wash rayon, always dry clean, I always kick myself when rayon gets into my washing machine by accident. In fact, I hate rayon! I try not to buy it at all. They use that fabric for everything now, drives me crazy.

I’m interested to see what jellies say about the first part of your question, I don’t know the answer. I guess the chemicals and heat maybe kill off any germs? I really have no idea and I do want to know.

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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@JLeslie One of my favorite clothing manufacturers makes everything out of rayon, and I throw the stuff in the washing machine on delicate cycle. It comes out with crinkles, but I kind of like it. I understand your frustration, though. It’s not crisp.

Your thoughts about recommending dry cleaning as a fail safe has some merit. I can see the marketing department asking for that.

@larry_cma Thank you and welcome to Fluther. I can understand that some fabrics loose their luster after repeated washing. And thank you for the idea to ask the dry cleaner for pretreating stains from antiperspirant.

JLeslie's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake I am not careful when I wash and things accidentally get into the dryer, and then rayon is ruined. Shrinks up like crazy. I loathe the fabric. But, different strokes for different folks. I have a friend who likes the feel of rayon. I just don’t get it.

What @larry_cma said about the sheen is true, especially on older garments. The process for some fabrics has changed and worry about the sheen is less of an issue now, but when in doubt, dry clean.

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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@JLeslie You are correct about drying rayon. I never use the machine and always drip dry rayon.

@larry_cma Thank you again. I will look that up.

JLeslie's avatar

I think there are natural “chemicals” some dry cleaners use that are supposed to be better on underarm stains and odor. I wish I knew more, I just know my mom used to use a dry cleaner who used those products.

glacial's avatar

@larry_cma You are arguing that acid will somehow cause cancer, yet cancer needs “needs low ph”? You are not a chemist. The lower the ph, the higher the acidity.

Great question @Hawaii_Jake. I’ve always wondered this, and always been a little suspicious of the dry cleaning process.

marinelife's avatar

Dry cleaning ues a ton of chemicals. It can be hard on the environment, Also some residues of the chemicals stay in your clothes and thus are exposed to your skin when you where them.

hearkat's avatar

I prefer natural fabrics: Cotton, Linen, Wool, Silk, and Bamboo; I feel like my skin can breathe in them. I avoid ‘Dry Clean Only’ garments because of the cost and environmental impact – not only of dry-cleaning itself, but having to drive the stuff to and from the dry cleaners. Winter coats are about the only things I bring to the dry-cleaners.

Most of my clothes I wash in cold water (including silks and linens labelled ‘dry clean only’), and then I put all but a few in the dryer on low to fluff and remove wrinkles, then pull them out within 5–20 minutes depending on the fabric weave and potential for shrinking. I then shape and smooth them out and hang them to dry on a garment rack in my laundry room. I detest ironing, so I also avoid items that need to look ‘crisp’. Thankfully, I don’t deal with dressy situations very often.

cazzie's avatar

@larry_cma… putting aside your absolute rubbish misinformation for a moment….
Yes… dry cleaning uses a mix of very dangerous chemicals, actually. There are some items that recommend dry-cleaning that can still be hand washed, if done carefully. Never put a ‘dry clean only’ garment in the dryer after you hand wash it.

The items that absolutely need dry cleaning are those items that use fabrics that do not react to water and agitation in the same way. If you like a suit made of a sensitive wool fabric and line it with an acetate type fabric, there is no way that garment is going to tolerate water and soap and come out the other end resembling the fit and look you purchased. Some dresses, that are silk and lined with polyester or acetate, can be carefully handwashed, but never ever put in the dryer. Reshaping is required at times because silk fabric is a crap shoot… seriously. Colour and structure can be lost because the two fabrics simply do not react to being washed in the same manner. Structure is the most noticeable because the two fabrics shrink at different percentages and the seams and fit are never, ever the same.

JLeslie's avatar

@cazzie Great point about items that are lined, I had not even been thinking in that direction, I was just thinking of items that you can possibly wash or dry clean. GA.

hearkat's avatar

@cazzie – that is why I won’t buy lined articles! I have silk undergarments from for when I have outfits that need it.

cazzie's avatar

I was married to a family of dry cleaners in New Zealand. I know a bit about what I am talking about. (Taylors drycleaning in New Zealand…)

JLeslie's avatar

@hearkat Funny, I was complaining the other day that things aren’t lined and slips are hard to find. Not that I want everything lined, but some tailored clothing I prefer it.

hearkat's avatar

@JLeslie – foot that website… they have slips and pants liners.

Tina823's avatar

For me, i would prefer soap and water.

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