How to Dry Clean at Home in 3 Ways

Updated: Jan. 12, 2024

Learn how to dry clean at home without shrinking or damaging your delicate clothing.

Taking your clothes to the dry cleaner every month (or every week!) can be an expensive hassle. That’s why it’s useful to know the dos and don’ts of washing delicate clothing at home.

Keep in mind, sometimes it’s safer to follow the rules (please, don’t throw your wool three-piece suit in the washer), but some fabrics do have a little more wiggle room when it comes to their care. For those garments, here’s how to dry clean at home.

Can You Wash Dry Clean Only Clothes?

If the care label on your clothing says “dry clean only,” don’t put it into your washing machine. However, clothing tags marked “dry clean” or “dry clean recommended” may be washed at home if you follow the right steps.

Take a look at the type of fabric as well. Clothing made of suede, leather, sequined items, velvet and anything with fur should be dry cleaned. Cotton, polyester, linen and even silk and wool can usually be safely washed at home. Here are a few tips to clean your suede shoes.

How to Wash Dry Clean Only Clothes at Home

Machine Wash

To machine wash your dry clean items at home, turn them inside out and place them in the washer. Wash on the gentle or delicate cycle, with cold water and a mild detergent. The gentle cycle uses a low-speed spin and mild wash action to reduce the risk of damaging or tangling clothes. And cold water makes clothes less likely to shrink, fade or pill. Remove the clothing from the machine as soon as the cycle ends, and then lay flat to dry.

Hand Wash

For extra delicate clothing, skip the washing machine and hand wash instead. Fill a clean sink or washing tub with cold water and add a small amount of detergent, stir the water by hand to activate the suds. Immerse clothing into the soapy water and gently swish it around with your hands. Empty the sink or tub, then fill it again with cold, clean water. Rinse the clothing, and repeat as needed until all the soap is gone.

Then, gently squeeze out the excess water (do not wring) and lay flat to dry. If needed, you can also roll the garment up in a dry towel to gently remove the water before air drying.

Dry Cleaning Kit

At-home dry cleaning kits like the Woolite At-Home Dry Cleaner refresh clothes in the dryer. They can work well on lightly soiled clothes you’ve only worn once or twice for a short period of time. First, spot-clean the garment with the included stain wipes. Then place the clothes in the dryer along with one of the dryer-activated cleaning cloths. Tumble dry on medium heat for 20 minutes. The cleaning cloth will help lift away odors and release wrinkles. Remove clothes immediately after the dryer cycle has stopped.