Luckily, it’s been a few years since I've had a job that required me to wear a suit to work. But I still remember those dry cleaning bills very well! Today, while I wear my dry-clean-only favorites less frequently, I also take them to the dry cleaners far less frequently. This is because, today, I have plenty of cheaper options. My mom just happens to be not only a master couponer, but also a master in the laundry department. I hope these tips she has passed along to me can save you cash too!

Cost comparison: professional dry cleaning vs. at home “dry cleaning” 

For men's garments, the price is typically lower to dry clean shirts and pants. But for women's garments, the price can often double or triple! Here, let's look at the difference between dry cleaning some typical items, and home cleaning those same items.

Typical dry cleaning prices:

  • Shirt (women): $5-$6
  • Shirt (men): $1-$3
  • Pants (both): $5-$6
  • Skirts: $5-$6
  • Suits (both): $10-$12
  • Sweater (both): $5-$6
  • Specialty: $15+

Home "dry cleaning" price estimate per wash:

  • Woolite 16oz (8-10 loads; 10-12 basin washes): $7 average price
  • $0.70 per wash!

The gentlest detergents

These detergents are all great alternatives to expensive dry cleaning services.

Great tips to “dry clean” any fabric at home

These tips are listed by fabric type. Also be aware that some garments may only need to be dry cleaned the first time—after that you can get away with hand washing or the delicate wash cycle. You can also look to see whether the tag says “dry clean” or “dry clean only”—when it comes to at-home dry cleaning alternatives, there’s a difference!

1. For silk

Silk fabric is perhaps the most fragile and problematic to clean. The key with silk and at-home "dry cleaning" is to only try this at home if your silk item is one solid color. For multi-colored silk, the bleed may destroy your garment.

If your silk garment fits the "one color requirement," here’s what to do:

  • Heat the water to around 100 degrees.
  • Put on some gloves to protect your hands from the heat.
  • Swirl in a gentle detergent (any from the list above will work).
  • Immerse your silk garment and move it about in the water.
  • Let the water out and refill the basin with cool clean water.
  • Immerse your silk garment again and move it about to remove the detergent.
  • Hang it indoors—in a more humid room like a sunroom or bathroom is best.

2. For rayon

Rayon fabric is quite a bit hardier than silk—thankfully.

Here’s how to clean it:

  • Fill the basin with cool, clean water.
  • Add in a bit of detergent.
  • Swirl the garment around in the water.
  • Refill the basin with cool, clean water.
  • Swirl the garment around to remove the detergent.
  • Press the excess water out of the garment with a towel.
  • Lay the garment flat or hang it to dry somewhere indoors.

3. For wool

All kinds of wool—angora, cashmere, et al—respond well to at-home washing so long as you make sure to reshape it before setting it out to dry.

Here’s what to do:

  • Swirl in some detergent with 100-degree water.
  • Add in the garment and gently move it about in the water.
  • For the rinse water, add one capful of white vinegar.
  • Lay the item out flat on a towel, reshaping it carefully to its original shape and size.
  • Dry it indoors only for best results.

4. For delicates

Delicates—panties, bras, anything with lace—don't typically need to be dry cleaned, but they do need to be washed with TLC. Always use a mesh bag if you plan to put delicates into the washer. The best plan, however, is to follow the hand-washing instructions for rayon fabric.

Note: As an equally inexpensive alternative, you can also use a bit of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo and wash your delicates in the shower with you, then simply hang them to dry.

Other at-home options

You can also use a home dry-cleaning pack if you prefer. These packs are a bit pricier than simple detergent and water, but may be a better fit for truly sensitive fabrics or worn delicates.

1. Dryel

Dryel is an at-home dry cleaning alternative that uses steam power to clean your sensitive fabrics. Each pack costs around $7-$10 (depending on where you purchase) and will clean about 24 garments (four per wash). Sign up for the Dryel newsletter to be alerted about coupons and special offers.

2. Dry Cleaner's Secret

Dry Cleaner’s Secret is an at-home dry cleaning alternative and is also a Woolite product. The pricing and wash capacity is about the same as for Dryel.

3. The "damp towel" method

For a quick-and-dirty at-home dry cleaning option, simply place the garment and a damp towel into the dryer and run for 20-30 minutes, then remove and allow the garment to hang to remove any wrinkles.

4. The delicate wash cycle

Rayon, delicates, wool fabrics and cotton/synthetic blends can all withstand the gentle cycle with cold water. Use mesh bags for delicates.

5. When in serious doubt, opt to dry clean

There may be a few instances when only professional dry cleaning will do.  For instance, for very special garments (such as wedding dresses or heirloom pieces), fine linen, multicolored silk, very worn or delicate items, leather and suede are all examples of items where the cost of dry cleaning may be justified. If you spend judiciously on dry cleaning when you really need it, you can safeguard truly precious garments without overspending on items that are easily cleaned more inexpensively at home!




Save Money on "Dry Clean Only" Fabrics with These Cheaper At-Home Helps