Why You Shouldn’t Machine Wash Dry Clean Only

A growing number of people these days are questioning whether garments labeled “Dry clean only” really need to be dry cleaned. The Internet is overrun with life hacking sites touting methods to machine-wash your dry-clean-only clothing. But regardless of what these sites tell you, it’s not a good idea. Here’s why.


The care instruction label on any garment is placed there by the manufacturer in compliance with Federal Trade Commission rules. In effect, the government requires the manufacturer to put this label on the garment to tell consumers how to care for the article of clothing without damaging or ruining it. For any garment that says, “Dry clean only” on the label, conventional washing of any kind can ruin it. Here are just a few ways in which machine washing can damage a dry-clean-only garment:dry clean only


The garment may be too small after machine washing.
Fading or bleeding colors. Colorfastness is a huge issue with dry-clean-only garments. Not only can your garment fade, but the dye can ruin your other clothes, as well.
Pilling. In some cases, machine washing can cause “pilling,” or balling up of the material. These fabric pills are difficult to remove and can ruin the look of the garment.
Changing the fabric’s texture. A dry-clean-only garment that is soft to the touch can turn coarse in the wash.
Losing its shape. The garment might stretch or fit unevenly due to partial shrinkage in the wash.
Tearing. The stitching of the garment or any lining might not hold up in a machine washer.


Just to be clear, you are likely to see one of two types of notifications on the garment care label regarding dry cleaning. “Dry cleaning recommended” means dry cleaning is optional; the garment may hold up to machine or hand washing, but it will likely remain in better shape if you dry clean it. “Dry clean only,” however, means that any form of hand or machine washing can permanently damage the garment.

Whenever you purchase a piece of clothing, you should pay attention to the care instruction label. If the label says, “Dry clean only,” don’t risk machine washing it; protect your garment by taking it to a trusted dry cleaning service.