What Fabrics Can and Cannot be Dry Cleaned?

Proper cleaning and care ensures that clothing will last longer and remain looking like new throughout its lifecycle. A variety of different cleaning techniques exist include typical laundering as well as dry cleaning; however, selecting the appropriate method may be slightly confusing or difficult. The main consideration for laundering care is the type of fabric being washed.

By definition, dry cleaning is a cleaning method that utilizes a chemical solvent other than water. The typical solvent selected for dry cleaning is tetrachloroethylene also known in the industry as “perc.” Dry cleaning is a process used to cleanse delicate fabrics that cannot tolerate the intensive washing of a regular machine wash. A gentler method cleaning option, dry cleaning offers an advantage in labor required compared to hand washing.

While dry cleaning is a method designed to cleanse and care for delicate fabric types, a few fabric types cannot withstand the processing associated with dry cleaning. As dry cleaning employs the use of a chemical cleaning agent, certain materials cannot hold up to the processing of this agent. Typical fabrics that cannot be dry cleaned safely include fabrics containing or made up of plastic, PVC, or polyurethane. Fabrics composed of these materials would deteriorate during the cleaning process.

While it may be difficult to tell what items must or should be dry cleaned, following a few simple guidelines helps. An obvious place to look is the tag; however, this article is just a suggestion. The first determination is whether or not the fabric can be submersed in water. Fabrics such as cashmere and wool are susceptible to losing shape in full submersion and will likely shrink, so typical washing should be avoided. Another gentle fabric is silk. An extremely delicate material, silk can be hand washed; however, it should never be complete submerged nor agitated in a washing machine.

Typical, everyday fabrics such as cotton and polyester blends can usually be washed in a normal machine, but when they are included as components in more complicated designs, even these materials should be dry cleaned. When cotton and polyester are included in men’s and women’s suits or other sophisticated styles, these materials are more likely to be sensitive to losing shape. As such, these items must be dry cleaned and laundered carefully.

Even aside from laundering, additional care such as ironing and pressing must also be considered. Materials that are sensitive to washing are often also sensitive to other treatment techniques. Extra care and effort must be taken for determining proper pressing techniques. While some fabrics may be washed, like certain chiffon, satin, and lace articles, additional care must be taken when ironing. A dry cleaning process offers a safer alternative to typical ironing, making it more effective for a wider variety of products.

When trying to determine what to dry clean or not to dry clean, understanding the process, material type, and associated cleaning agents is important. While most fabrics can be dry cleaned safely, those that cannot include synthetic materials composed of plastic, PVC, and polyurethane. In any event, seeking advice from a certified professional can also offer valuable information.