Do You Trust Your Drycleaner?

This question came from last week’s post where I showed off my lovely glass button. A couple of people said ‘That’s nice – but how are you going to wash it?’ Which is a pretty good question. How am I going to wash it?

Simple – I won’t! I’ll take it to the drycleaner and let them wash it. Problem solved!

But what if they ruin it? In fact, what if they ruin the dress in general?

Which raises a really good question: do you trust your drycleaner with your handmade clothing?

vintage glass button

I thought about it, and I realized that some of my projects take days to complete. Maybe even weeks, if you added up all of the hours involved! And I know how easily wool can be ruined by overpressing, or how my glass button might crack or shatter if dropped. Which made me want to keep my dress safe from harm at the drycleaners.

Except, now what? Now how do I get it clean?

Granted, I don’t have to wash a dress like this very frequently. It’s a cold-weather dress, so I won’t be sweating that often. But what if I’m out for dinner and spill? What if someone’s kid spills on me? What if I trip and fall in a puddle? Basically, what if life happens to my dress. I’m going to need to wash it somehow!

In theory, drycleaners are supposed to be cleaning experts. So why am I worried? So far, nothing’s ever come back ruined. Am I being paranoid?

What about you? Do you trust your drycleaner with your beautiful handmade garments? Do you make only washable garments? Has your drycleaner ever wrecked something of yours?

I’m afraid to hear horror stories now – but would still love to hear your thoughts! Do you trust your drycleaner?

PS. Keep the great ideas coming on what to do with your fabric scraps! I plan on summarizing them in a post, so all your great suggestions are in one place.

PPS. I know you’re waiting for a couple of things from me.  Sew-Along questions and answers, metric envelope back for the Crescent Skirt, and officially loading the Crescent Skirt in the pattern shop will all be taken care of soon! Thanks for your patience – you guys are the best!


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53 Responses to Do You Trust Your Drycleaner?

  1. Christine March 24, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    Your post really hit home!! This is something I’ve fought with a fair bit recently. I definitely do not trust my current neighborhood drycleaners. I’ve had a wide variety of experiences: In the town where I grew up, you had to smell them when you got them back…it was easy to tell if they’d just pressed them and not sent them to get cleaned at all. Special instructions were ignored (my mother’s heirloom lace and embroidery ruined despite discussion with the cleaners in advance). However, then I moved to various cities and never had much problem. Now I live in DC, and I again feel like the service is pretty bad. My cleaners look at me like I’m an alien when I ask about having a stain removed. So I was a bit leery when I needed to clean a handmade grey silk dress. I had spent many hours in hand sewing and it was a dry run for sewing my wedding gown. I decided to take it to the cleaners but ask them not to press it afterwards. Again the alien look. They said they could send along the special request, but no guarantees that it would be fulfilled. Right. So I took it to another neighborhood cleaners, who told me it was too risky in the big vats of chemicals where the garments are washed (this comment I appreciated – honesty is awesome). These are like super-size laundry machines…still tough on fabrics just without water, chemicals instead. Then the cleaner proceeded to lecture me on my garment construction, basically telling me that I needed to use a serger to finish my seam allowances (which I had painstakingly hand overcast; this comment I did not appreciate). So, I searched around for a cleaner that could handle handmade garments. And I found one: Parkway Cleaners in NW Washington, DC. The catch is that it is EXPENSIVE! Multiply what you would normally pay for cleaning by about 10, then you’re in the ballpark. They remove the buttons before cleaning and resew them afterwards, garments are cleaned individually, etc. Anyway, a longer post (hard to believe, I know, sorry!) is at So all of my store-bought items will still go to the neighborhood cleaners, but my wedding gown is going to Parkway. I will handwash most of my handmade garments, including the silks.

  2. Sallie March 24, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    In general I think drycleaners do a fine job on most garments. I usually feel that my clothes never get really clean though. I usually have sweaters that come back still smelling like armpits or with still visible stains! Also – I have lost several buttons or had them broken at the drycleaners. If you dryclean your dress, I would take your glass button off.
    Or you could just bathe it – fill your kitchen sink with cold water and a little bit of gentle detergent (I use woolite, but I know some people use a little bit of dawn) and let it sit in there for about an hour, gently swishing now and again. It will be enough to lift dirt out of the fibers. If you have a really gnarly stain, spot clean ahead of time. Rinse your dress and lay it in between two fluffy towels and roll it up. Let it hang out like that for awhile. Then lay your dress somewhere flat to dry, flipping it over occasionally. This process takes awhile – I usually do a bunch of my stuff at once – but like you said, this type of clothing doesn’t need to be cleaned all that often, and this method is cheap and safe.

  3. Catherine March 24, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    I try and make sure most of my garments are washable at home – however… that being said, I have had some of my wools etc dry cleaned and most of hubby’s work clothes. The prices are great, and Sam (yes we are on a first name basis) is excellent. He also does all the alterations himself, in-house, and is one of the rare people who truly seems to love what he does!

  4. Katharina March 24, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    Dont worry, you wont have to wash a wooldress often. Thats the nice thing about wool – it doenst easily absorb smell or dirt. Just wipe away the spills before they are absorbed. If this is not enough I recommend getting a clothbrush, this should be fine to remove most stains. Let it air to remove smells such as smoke etc.
    In case you really cant avoid washing the dress, i would ripp off the button and wash it at home (if the fabric is washable). I dont wanna give my goodies to the drycleaner because i wanna have them close to myself in case i wanna wear THAT dress tonight. Would be horrible if i dont have the time to go to the drycleaner for a week or so…

  5. Gemma March 24, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    No real horror stories but a few stains not being gotten out and trims coming off! I rarely take my things to the cleaners though – I really don’t have faith in them to take care of the things I’ve made the way I would. It’s also insanely expensive (at least in Greece and the UK) and there is always a risk they’ll destroy stuff.

    I totally agree with Sallie’s comment about taking care of your dress – I washed a wool coat like that and it worked just fine! Most fabrics can be handwashed really – you just need to be extra careful and learn a few good tricks.

  6. CGCouture March 24, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    After my last experience where my expensive (at least to me) Ann Taylor dress pants came back smelling like burnt wool/hair/something, I’m thinking I’m going to try the tips above me about washing them in the sink. Wool is hardier than people give it credit for, and I’ll take more care with it. As for the clothes I sew myself? I try really hard not to buy any fabric that can’t be washed, and if I end up with something like that on accident, I toss it in the washing machine before I sew it up to see how it does. Silks and wools are tougher than they look, though I wouldn’t machine wash them once a week and expect them to hold up for years or anything like that. :-)

  7. TanitIsis March 24, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    The dry cleaners triggers my generalized anxiety (not to mention we’re chronically poor) so pretty much the only thing I’ll ever take to get cleaned is a coat, and even then it’s once in a blue moon. With my hand made stuff I prewash everything (yes, even the wool, so far, so good) so I hope that a gentle hand wash will suffice for even the most delicate garments. To be honest, unless it’s a rarely-worn show piece, if I can’t wash it myself I don’t really want to own it. The dry cleaners just seems like it has too many downsides—cost, environmentally unfriendly, worry about what they actually will do with the garments… I’ve heard the odd horror stories, too, about precious buttons being “taken off for cleaning” and the cheap ones sewn back on, stuff like that… I doubt it’s common, though, but how would I know ;)

  8. Madelaine March 24, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    I semi-hand-wash about half my clothing, including my non-cotton handmade dresses and my precious handknits. If you have access to a top loading washer it’s super easy. You fill up the basin with lukewarm water and your gentle soap or no rinse wool wash of choice and plop in your clothes after it’s full. You need to let them soak for a while to lift the dirt, and gently agitate by hand once in a while (press the dirt out, don’t shake stuff around). Once they’re done, run the spin cycle without adding more water or machine agitation. It gets all the water out and the spin process is surprisingly gentle. If you need to rinse, gently take out the clothes while supporting them, fill up the basin without soap and do it all again. Lay your clothes flat and reshaped to dry.

    I haven’t been back to the dry cleaner since my cashmere came back stiff as a board and they melted the buttons on my then boyfriend’s coat right into the fabric :(

  9. Liz March 24, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    I do trust my dry cleaners. The cleaner I actually go to is a ‘green’ dry cleaner too, so they never use the bad, harsh chemicals.
    That being said, I don’t have any horror stories nor has anything been ruined by all the dry cleaners I’ve been to in Chicago.
    (Knocking on wood….)

  10. Jessica March 24, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    I hardly dryclean anything – mostly winter coats. I make sure to pretreat things pretty roughly so that they can handle my treatment. I use the handwash cycle on my frontloader pretty often – I can even send through wool handknit sweaters without any felting. That washing machine was worth every penny!

    Before I had the washer I would handwash all wool garments in Eucalen (specially designed for woolens, it doesn’t require rinsing.) Then I would roll spin out the water in the washing machine (on spin only) and let them air dry.

    I do the same with silk and rayon, both of which are technically supposed to be dry clean only. I find that a lot of RTW clothing says that it’s dry clean only, simply because the fabrics weren’t properly pretreated (they shrink if washed, but I’d rather that than a lifetime of drycleaning!)

  11. Nuranar March 24, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    I second the recommendation to take your buttons off. It used to be common practice for people to remove buttons and trims before water- or chemical-washing clothes anyway. That reduces the risk to the actual fabric and construction.

    I do reasonably trust my local dry cleaners. They seem to be people of integrity, and while not heirloom cleaners by any means, they’re honest and we haven’t had difficulties with any ordinary clothing. I’ve had spottier luck with some vintage clothing, but that’s attributed more to the more fragile nature of vintage. I’ve had seams come undone, rhinestones come out of buttons (another good reason to remove valuable buttons!), and sequins come off (I halfway expected that one). The biggest surprise was a 1930s coat with a silk lining that came back in absolute shreds; but I knew at the time that the silk was in poor shape. And once silk starts to shatter, it’s irreversible and pretty catastrophic. For me, the greater certainty of preventing a Moth Invasion is worth it to me to continuing dry cleaning new-to-me wools. Speaking of, I just got a 1940s girl’s high school letter jacket that needs to go in…

  12. Darci March 24, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    @TanitIsis: I’m right there with you, Tanit-Isis. Unless it’s a coat, I wash my clothes at home. Prewashing/drying the fabric before sewing seems to head off a lot of trouble.

  13. Jenna March 24, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    I live in a small town sans dry cleaner but I do go to “the city” often enough to do dry cleaning. I never have, though. With the 2 little ones running amuck, if it ain’t washable, it ain’t welcome. :D Including diaper bags. ;)

    I use Dryel on my husband’s suits sometimes, but mostly they’ve survived just fine in the washer & dryer.

  14. Thea March 24, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    I took one dress (which was not handmade) to the dry cleaners and they ruined it even though I had told them how to care for it. NEVER AGAIN!
    I also refuse to spend a huge amount of money on dry cleaning. All the clothes I sew are made of washable fabrics. I know that I am missing something by staying away from fabrics such as silk but I can’t help it.
    One of the main benefits of sewing for me is that I know for sure how my garment has to be handled and it lasts longer than any H&M garment. It may happen that I have something woolen or lace but I handwash it. The only thing I would give to a dry cleaner is my woolen coat if it had a stain. But only if I can find a dry cleaner that has been recommended by someone who has to deal a lot with dry cleaning and never made bad experiences.

  15. Cheryl March 24, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    I have actually worked in a drycleaners, and I have seen the things that can happen to clothing, so I would never take my precious handmade stuff there. I have sent RTW clothing to the drycleaners, and had it come back looking worse than before, and some peices looked like they had cut out the stain and then washed it.
    Prewashing and using sturdy fabrics are the best way to go, in my opinion. And if you are scared of silks, there are some beautiful silk-cotton blends to be found that sew and wash like a dream!

  16. msmodiste March 24, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    I think a lot of people accept things to do with dry cleaning at face value, when they could really use some further examination. First, the notion of “dry clean only” – which really raises the question: how did we deal with silk and wool before the invention of dry cleaning? (And for an extra bit of irony: think about how many washer-dryer friendly fabrics, i.e. polyester, didn’t come into existence until around the same time dry cleaning did. Hmm.) Why is it that we accept “Dry Clean only” and don’t ask, “says who?”

    Second, the idea that it’s environmentally unfriendly or toxic. A lot of people mention this but then do it anyway – it makes me wonder if most people have taken the time to really look into the process. Tetrachloroethylene (dry cleaning fluid) is a known carcinogen and nervous system depressant, which can enter the body through the skin. It’s also a soil and water contaminant, and its estimated that as much of 85% of the chemical used is released into the atmosphere. If it spills, it’s more difficult to clean up than an oil spill.

    I’m not saying I think it’s inherently wrong to dry-clean an outfit. Particularly one that doesn’t get cleaned often (i.e. a winter wool coat, a wedding dress) or something extra special purchased vintage or RTW, when you have no idea how the fabric will respond to water. But I think, as sewists, we have the advantage of being able to pre-treat our fabrics. What a gift! We can submerge our silks and wools in water and pre-shrink and then move forward knowing that a soak in a cold bath and lying flat or hanging to dry most likely won’t have any consequences. (Though, I’d also like to note that I’ve hand-washed every piece of store-bought wool and silk clothing I’ve ever owned, and never once ruined anything.)

    (But, to answer your question – if I had special buttons on my wool coat, I would probably remove them before dry cleaning. In fact, once I had the cleaners remove them, and then sew them on afterward… that was a great idea, the closures were so much sturdier afterward!)

  17. Wendy H. March 24, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    For me, it’s not a question of whether or not I trust the drycleaner. My problem is the smell. My nose is kinda sensitive, and it gives me headaches to wear my clothes when they come back from the drycleaner…for weeks, months even! I was reading in a magazine (SHAPE, maybe?) about how getting your clothes drycleaned is a cancer trigger because of the fumes. No joke! I wonder if the home drycleaning packs are less fumey? I might try that next time.

  18. Angela March 24, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    I do trust my dry cleaners since my aunt owned one growing up… we gave her all our clothes that need to be dry cleaned. After I moved away, I found a cleaner that I really love… they’re a little bit more expensive, but I don’t go too often and only go when needed and totally think it’s worth the price.

    I thought this was interesting, too.

  19. Val March 24, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    I trusted them with my handmade wedding gown 23 years ago. Granted I haven’t seen it yet because they also boxed it up for me and sealed it… But most items I make are washable. I just make sure I don’t put them in the dryer. Almost everything I sew gets air dried.

  20. Alex March 24, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    I have never been to a dry cleaner in my life. I occasionally hand wash, but usually I just use the “hand wash” cycle on my machine. I have the most experience with wool – I wash it in cold water in the machine and line dry it. Nothing has ever gone wrong. (The wool has probably felted a bit, but it doesn’t bother me– could be an issue for a fancy dress in very fine wool, but I’d still just hand wash that).

    I didn’t own any silk until recently. My first few silk blouses (thrifted) went right into the washer without any thought, they came out fine, but now that I’ve got several of them I’ll probably start hand washing.

  21. Lisa March 24, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    Sometimes when you buy shank buttons, they are attached to the button card with a funny looking safety pin type pin. I save these and then use them with special buttons on garments. You could attach your beautiful button with one of those pins and simply remove the button for cleaning. If you can’t find one or don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m happy to send you one.

    Also, on the subject of dry cleaning. I try to avoid it but if something absolutely has to be dry cleaned, I seek a “green” cleaner which as I understand it, uses chemicals that are more environmentally friendly.

  22. Irene March 24, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    I have a few horror stories from over the years, but generally, I have always shopped around for a good cleaner, and have usually been happy with the results. I find that “mom and pop” cleaners try harder to please, as opposed to the big companies with multiple outlets around town. If ever I’m worried about a button or trim, I’ll ask what the risk is, and take it off before leaving the garment for cleaning. (Yes, I come armed with a seam ripper in my purse.) On the whole, though, I do try to wash as much as possible at home, but I am NOT willing to deal with the likes of winter coats and tailored jackets.

  23. Dei March 24, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    I try to launder as much as I possibly can at home, but yes, I trust my dry cleaner with my finer garments. Mainly because of the weeding process. I’ve been to a few and checked prices and the way they handle special requests. Overtime, the cream rises to the top. They do things without me asking. Foil around pearl button, special attention to marks. They gained my respect when they handled cleaning a suede jacket that I cherish.

  24. Rachel March 24, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    This is a link to the product I use to wash my hand knit garments (and very delicate ready to wear garments) – it leaves your clothing smelling very fresh and you don’t have to rinse it out before drying. My husband and I both have very sensitive skin and this product doesn’t bother either of us.

    My washing routine is similar to the one described by Sallie above.

  25. msmodiste March 24, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Rachel – Yes! I also use Soak, although the ingredients aren’t quite as good (they include SLS, and the scented varieties use “parfum” rather than essential oils. But, they don’t include lanolin, which may be a bonus for some people)

  26. Funnygrrl March 24, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I don’t have horror stories but you do have to be chosey. I wouldn’t bring an heirloom or handmade item to a drycleaners unless they had done other work for me.
    That being said a lot can be spot cleaned. Just cleaning spots, around the collar and arm area.
    Good discussion. I guess its like anything else. There are good drycleaners and there are bad drycleaners. Hopefully you find a good one.
    It REALLY helps to ask around.

  27. Victoria R March 24, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    I have found that you often get what you pay for with drycleaning. When I got married I made my dress. I took it to a cleaner’s that specializes in wedding dresses and they did a fine job. My husband wore a suit that he had for several years but had paid quite a bit for. It was to be his go-to suit for time to come. (Clearly, he rarely has need to wear a suit.) After the wedding I took it to the neighborhood, inexpensive, cleaner which I had used with success before. It came back and was put into the closet. About a year later my husband needed to wear the suit. He put it on and the cleaner had shrunk it!!!. The sleves were shorter and it couldn’t be buttoned. (He had not gained weight.) At that point we did not have the receipt and couldn’t go back to the cleaner to complain. Needless to say we have not gone back since. I guess this is a precaution to look closely at the garmet when it comes back AND put it on! (The suit looked fine on the hanger and looked clean.) I’m very cautious about this now. I think it is important to know the cleaner’s policy for damage before having it cleaned.

  28. Tiffany March 24, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Although I have only used my neighborhood cleaners once, I feel good about them. The man is very nice and remembered me when I came back to pick up my clothing. He also talked to me about a coat I was bringing in, explaining the process and the added cost…even though I did not ask him anything. I was just going to drop the items off and leave….but he stopped me to talk about it. It was a vintage coat with mink collar. That reminded me that it smelled like old people (not my term, an actual elderly lady I used to work with term) and so I told him all about this coat. How I found it very inexpensively at a thrift store, marked down…etc etc. When I picked the clothes up, as the man was taking my clothes to the car (!!!) he told me the cost of cleaning the coat was more than I paid for it…he remembered all of that. His place did a very good job on my hubbies vintage cabana shirts and my coat was perfect. Another cleaners I used for pressing my wedding dress before my bridal shots was also very good, but they are a bit far for my to “drop things off”….so I am pretty cool with my experience in the last few years. Again, I just do not need their services enough to really make a difference, I am sure.

    What I would do is take the button off before dropping off the dress. As much time as some of us spend with needle in hand, it will take no time out of our busy sewing time to replace the button on the few times a year you might have the dress drycleaned.


  29. Christina March 24, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    I trust my local drycleaner, but rarely dryclean wool. I’m a knitter, so if I did that, it would be most of my wardrobe (including all my socks and my husband’s socks)!

    For really delicate items, I use my kitchen sink and use Soak or Eucalan – both are intended for wool and aren’t detergents, which aid in the felting process. They also don’t need to be rinsed out and treat the wool, so you have less agitation.

    I also tend to use the handwash cycle on my frontloader, but always use Soak, since I’ve found that regular detergent tends to cause more pilling and felting.

  30. K March 24, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    I generally don’t go to the dry cleaners. I wash my wools and silks by hand, and twice a season I take everything to my local cleaner’s- it’s one of maybe ten in the whole state, and it’s run by the nicest woman ever. She handwrites your instructions on the sheet and her family does the cleaning. I trust them but they’re so expensive I only bring stuff there when I have to!

  31. Rhia March 24, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Here in Finland drycleaners don’t take any responsibility of any clothing. If clothing doesn’t have cleaning instructions (like self made very seldom do) they might even make you sign a paper to prove that you take the full responsibility yourself. I have heard stories when wool clothing has been completely ruined by unprofessional drycleaners. I happen to know that small companies (in Finland atleast) are likely to take better care of your clothing since it’s not such mass-production-cleaning but more individual. Plus, they can’t afford to loose customers that much.

    I’ve never used drycleaners myself, since I tend to do all washing myself. However now I acquired a vintage silk taffeta dress with velvet printing that I can’t wash myself since ironing it would be pure hell. Fortunately I know a reliable drycleaners closeby so I’m going to take the dress there. I’ve heard about this drycleaners from other vintage-collectors. They seem to be very happy on their services.
    When I make my own clothes, I usually wash or rinse the fabric before sewing. That way I make sure it doesn’t shrink in the first wash and I can wash it without any hesitation myself later on. Wool I obviously wash on wool program and cool temperature. Washing silk I always determine by the quality of the silk. Some silks are washable and some are not.

  32. Corinne March 24, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    I pre-treat all my fabrics in the method it will be cared for in the finished garment. I have also washed wool, rayon, silk, bamboo, various blends without difficulty in yardage and ready to wear. Using the hand-wash or gentle cycle in my machine works well. One other thing I do is “airing.” The works particularly well with wools. I put the garment on a good, sturdy, padded hanger and hang it outside, out of the sun. A gentle breeze, fresh air will always freshen the fabric. Sometimes spot cleaning can be done with very dilute detergent. I put a couple drops of Dawn dish washing liquid in filtered water and dab with a slightly damp white cloth. works every time.

  33. Becky March 24, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    I don’t bother with dry-cleaning. For both my handmade and my thrifted stuff, I just go ahead and throw it in the washing machine anyway. I will hang things to dry if they’re of a more delicate nature (or pre-made knits or jeans that actually fit me), but for all of my fabrics I also pre-wash and throw them in the dryer. I tend to wash everything the same way–cold water to save energy, and the lowest heat setting on the dryer, and I’ve found that a lot of the fabrics that claim to be dry-clean only wash up just fine. Honestly, I’m the most lazy person when it comes to laundry, I’d rather sew something new than wash a load, so I don’t want to bother if it’s not easy to care for. And I’d also spend my money on more sewing stuff than laundry, so paying for a dry cleaner? Meh!

  34. Joolz March 24, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    I haven’t used a drycleaner for years. I do have one coat that I might take in when I’ve had it a couple more years, but that is it.

    I’m another one who pre-washes all my fabric before sewing. I’d much rather find out that I can’t wash the garment before sewing it. This does occasionally have its drawbacks though. Just a week or so ago I bought some absolutely gorgeous lightweight coat fabric to make into a skirt. It was the most expensive fabric I’ve bought (only ¬£6 per metre, but I usually buy cheaper) and I got the last two metres on the bolt. I threw it in the washing machine and it didn’t come out well – one of the fibres in it went very fluffy and it now looks strange. Fortunately, the wrong side of the fabric doesn’t look too bad so I’ll probably still use it with the wrong side out. What would have been an absolutely gorgeous skirt, is now going to be on OK skirt. I can live with that. If I had to get it drycleaned then I’d proably wear it twice and it would sit in my spare room for a year or more before I got round to getting it cleaned.


  35. Amy March 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    I don’t know how you read through all of these comments!

    My horror stories have to do with cleaners not returning clothing I’d dropped off. This happened when I was living with parents and siblings and things got lost int he shuffle.. but at the cleaners! at one point they actually sent some of my things to the wrong people

  36. Ryan March 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    I have several RTW ITY knit dresses that are label dry clean only. I machine wash them and hang to dry. I do that with a lot of my clothes, but will handwash nicer wool sweaters so they won’t felt. I just can’ afford the dry cleaners. I’ll take a tailored suit there, but I don’t really know if it’s worth it and I’m considering trying to hand wash suyits myself in the bathtub.
    I know I need to be more vigilant about washing my wools though after I had a pretty bad moth attack in the closet ruining several sweaters and mens suits.

    Silk fabric gets hand washed before sewing. Some silks may loose their sheen but it’s worth it to me to not dry clean later.

  37. Gardenia Girl March 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    In a word, NO! At least, not here. I had a fabulous dry cleaner in Houston ,McGowan Cleaners.

  38. Kate March 24, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    I’m so wary of dry cleaners! Being a new sewist I don’t have many made by me clothes and have tried to pick fabrics that will allow me to avoid the drycleaners, mainly because I have had loads of problems with drycleaning my ready to wear clothes! I have actually had stains put in to dresses at the drycleaners – very frustrating. Plus the expense can really add up!

    @ Christine – I’m in DC too and it’s good to know there is at least one high quality place around even if it’s pricey.

  39. Maureen March 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    I don’t use dry cleaners. I used to believe the labels that said “Dry Clean Only” and would faithfully take these garments in to the local establishment. Then I realized that before dry cleaners, people washed their garments, brushed them, spotted them if they got stained and hung them outside to “air”. What was I thinking!?! So, now I hand wash what is delicate, wash in the machine what is not, spot clean anything that get a stain and hang things out to air. I pre-wash/ pre-shrink every fabric before I start sewing and cutting. Is it more time consuming than dropping clothes off at the dry cleaner? Yes, but it is very satisfying and much, much easier on the pocket book.

  40. Nuranar March 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    In drycleaners’ defense, I must say that non-water-cleaning has been around for at least a century. I also have a home economics book from the 1930s that gives instruction on how to dry clean at home.

  41. Bethany Small March 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Yes! I trust my dry cleaner implicitly!

    It started when the second time I went to them I took back my safety pins and the hangers they had given me when I’d picked up my first lot of drycleaning there.

    After that I always got a brilliant service. They put separates together so I could pay for them as a suit savng me money, and when they couldn’t get the water marks out of a dress for me (which they had dry cleaned twice) they offered to wash is specially for me for free!

    The one thing I would say is that this was at a dry cleaners in my small local village in Britain, so things might be a little different over here! They probably had more time to take care then they would in a city centre dry cleaners.

    I would say that for me, the couple of items I do get drycleaned it is totally worth it, I can’t tell you how many RTW and handmade items I’ve ruined by not washing them properly at home, and as I use drycleaning as the exception rather than the rule, it isn’t too hard on the purse!

  42. gina March 24, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    Don’t dry clean anymore! Everything I ever dry clean still had body odor when it came back. I do it at home now, better results!

  43. The Cupcake Goddess March 24, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    I’ve had things ruined by dry cleaners before! It’s not fun. I’ve had fabric, not ruined, but come back smelling like moths balls to the point of disgust. I have found a dry cleaner that I trust now, but still I don’t use dry cleaners all that often. In fact, I only use them for certain types of garments, like jackets that have a lot of structure that would literally fall apart if I were to wash it myself. Otherwise, to be honest I do my own cleaning. I wash all my wool, silks and natural fibers myself before cutting to get it shrunk up. Sometimes I hand wash and sometimes I throw it in the washer on gentle with cold and then line dry. I’ve never actually ruined any fabric or garment myself this way and find that it keeps the chemicals they use at the cleaners at bay. Sometimes its just best to spot clean things too. Even though I shrink up my woolens first, I’ve found that certain wools if washed again and again will keep shrinking bit by bit. Those I’ll take to the cleaners unless I can spot clean or even steam clean myself. But I’ve also found that everyone has their own system that works for them. Pre-washing fabrics is a seriously hot debate with very strong opinions! ha ha ha! So, in the end, I think it’s what works for you and what you are comfortable with.


  44. The Cupcake Goddess March 24, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    @msmodiste: In fact, I TOTALLY second msmodiste!

  45. Sarah March 24, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    The only thing I’ve ever taken to the dry-cleaners was a suit jacket of my husband’s. After wearing for 12+ hours straight in mid summer, it smelled just the teensiest bit of armpit (/end sarcasm) and he didn’t want it ruined by throwing it in the machine. So now it sits in the wardrobe still smelling of armpit and we have that much less money.

    Everything I own gets thrown in the machine. Silk & wool get washed with woolwash instead of detergent and washed on gentle (or by hand if they’re extraordinarily delicate), and dried in the shade, but thats the only difference. All fabric coming into my house gets pre-washed, rougher than I plan on washing the finished item. So silk fabric gets spun faster than a shirt, and cottons/linens/polys get a capful of stain treatment thrown in and washed hot, and occasionally even tumble-dried instead of being hung. Just to make sure they can handle being washed once they’re made up. So far, nothing has been ruined. and I don’t have to worry about whether a dry-cleaner is going to ruin my clothes, or even get them clean. (I’m still anoyed about the stinky jacket.)

  46. Trisha March 25, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    I sent the very first dress I ever made to the dry cleaners. They charged me $15 to clean it (which I thought was outrageous!), and the satin fabric came back with a weird water-like stain all over it. Grrr! It was ruined.

    I’ve never been back to the dry cleaners after that. I handwash everything that can’t go in the washer. And it’s all worked out fine.

  47. Heather March 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    I found an absolutely gorgeous blue alpaca vintage 60s coat with bound button holes, curved pockets, spare button, for $15, no holes, no smell, but thought I should have it cleaned because of its age. WELL. The dry cleaner sprayed the whole thing with some sort of scent (I’m very allergic) without asking me. It was so saturated I could feel it with my fingers. I had to hang it outside for a couple of weeks because having it in my house made me sick. I took it to a different cleaner to have the scent mostly removed. Then I put it in the dryer on air only every day for a couple more weeks, then hung it in a downstairs closet. After a year, I was finally able to wear it.

    Needless to say, I will not return to that cleaner as she was also very rude. Final cost of $15 coat: about $70. Argh.

    I recommend dress shields for handmade wool items and will only visit a dry cleaner for actual spill stains.

    I have a couple of vintage sewing books that recommend making a shell to wear under sweaters and other things, that has the dress shields attached to the shell. It also recommends putting shoulder pads on the shell for under your sweaters (!)

  48. AJ March 26, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    Not since I was 12 years old! First, they “lost” a very beautiful creme silk blouse with vintage buttons my mother bought me. I went back everyday for a week with my receipt in hand while the manager faked a look through. The last time I went in the manager told me they never had the blouse to begin with, and she was the one who took the cleaning order for my blouse and wrote the receipt! I have hand washed or gentle cycled everything ever since. I still have some lovely vintage cashmere sweaters I invested in that winter 22 years ago!

  49. Eleanor (undeadgoat) March 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    I don’t dry-clean much, but I don’t trust my local dry-clean chain to know anything about clothing, because I had them do some repair for me (confession: I read sewing blogs mostly as a spectator sport) and it came undone nearly immediately. Of course, they don’t do repairs in-house, so I had to wait a week to have three buttons sewn on . . .

  50. Hilary April 1, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    I’d read this a while back. And I knew that I’d seen a way to deal with pretty buttons and cleaning — but couldn’t pull it out of my tired memory bank.

    You can buy special safety pins. Here’s a sample:

    Just pin the pretty button on. Then easily take it off prior to sending for cleaning, or hand washing, or what have you.

    Or find some other pretty buttons — and switch them out as suits your current mood & spirit….

  51. Cindy April 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    I never dry clean things, as a rule. I find that with most fabrics, if you prewash before sewing and then hand wash them gently, you have no trouble. (And with tougher fabrics, like jersey, I just throw it in the usual wash/dry cycle with all my RTW stuff.)

    That said, my wife and I both sewed our wedding dresses, and we HAD to get them cleaned. I had a red wine stain on mine and we both had dirty hems from our walk through the city, beachfront wedding. My boss happens to be the daughter of parents who run a dry cleaning supply business, so I was able to get a good recommendation from them. They did a great job cleaning our dresses, got the stains out and didn’t even muss up my hand-ruched bodice!

    So, I would say – you can trust a dry cleaner, as long as it comes highly recommended from people who know what they’re talking about.

  52. Stephanie May 3, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    My mother-in-law works at a dry cleaners so I usually take my stuff to her. I know she’ll do a good job plus she’ll do it for me for cheap. Mostly, I just take jackets or vintage that arrives with some kind of smell. When I sew for myself, I stick to things that I can throw in the wash. I also wear camis under garments I want to not have to wash all the time.


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