DIY dry cleaning can save you money at the cleaners

The first item of "dry clean only" clothing I bought was a heavily discounted men's cashmere sweater I'm sure was mispriced. So obviously, I bought it. After a few wears, I took it to my local dry cleaner, who told me it would be about $15 to get the garment cleaned. 

But how closely must you follow those "dry clean only" (DCO) instructions? As it turns out, there's some flexibility behind the label.

  • Wool, silk, cotton, polyester and cashmere make the cut for what can be cleaned at home. 

Here's how to get your fanciest 'fits clean in your laundry room at home:

  • Test the garment. Before you start the process, do a spot water test on an inconspicuous part of the garment. Drop some water and watch if the fabric bleeds colour by wiping a cotton swab across it. If colour transfers, leave it to the pros to clean.

  • Water temperature. Always use cool or cold water to wash DCO items—even warm water can warp materials or affect the fabric's weave. 

  • Don't agitate. Hand washing is recommended as the least aggressive method, but experts say front-loading washing machines on a gentle cycle will work too. 

  • Use the correct detergent. When it comes to DCO clothes, you've got to treat them like Taylor Swift—delicately. Use a washing formula that is fabric specific and doesn't have harsh chemicals. 

  • Let them dry on their own time. No dryers for DCO (weird, no?) Again, heat is the enemy here, so gently ring excess water out and dry according to fabric—here are guides for silk, wool, polyester and cotton.

Yes, but: There are some items worth paying to clean. The duo behind The Laundress advises that "anything made with viscose, polyamide, items with manufactured pleating, structured pieces like neckties and blazers with shoulder pads, suede, and non-washable leather" should all be cleaned professionally.