When caring for fine fabrics and delicate garments, dry cleaning is a popular choice. But can every item of clothing be safely sent to the dry cleaner? While many clothes clear for dry cleaning, some fabrics and construction features require different treatment. Read on to learn which garments to dry clean with confidence – and which to keep far away from those potent solvents.

How Dry Cleaning Works

First, let’s review the dry cleaning process:

Non-Aqueous Solvents

Dry cleaning uses chemical solvents rather than water for cleaning clothes. Common options are petroleum-based or glycol ether.

Removes Stains/Dirt

These solvents dissolve grease and oils to lift dirt and stains from fabric. Some also contain cleaning agents.

No Shrinkage or Fading

Since no water is involved, the dry cleaning process prevents shrinkage and water-based dye loss.

Gentler Agitation

The machines gently tumble clothes rather than vigorously scrubbing and wringing like home washing.

Filtered Impurities

After cleaning, clothes are aerated to evaporate solvents which are condensed and filtered for reuse.

The lack of water and gentler motion makes dry cleaning ideal for delicates.

But not every garment can withstand the chemical process…

Clothing Unsafe for Dry Cleaning

Many fabrics and garments become damaged when exposed to dry cleaning solutions. Avoid dry cleaning:

Anything Labeled “Do Not Dry Clean”

Strictly follow any warnings on garment labels not to dry clean. The manufacturer determines safety.

Rubber, Plastic, Vinyl

Rubber, PVC, vinyl and latex decompose and melt due to chemical sensitivity.

Spandex, Lycra

Spandex and elastic fabrics lose stretch and become brittle when the fibers degrade.

Viscose, Acetate

Solvents strip the sizing on viscose and acetate causing extreme shrinkage and misshaping.

Unlined Suits, Coats

The agitation and heat can distort the shape of unlined tailored garments lacking inner structure.

Faux Leather

Faux leather and pleather contain plastic coatings that dissolve and smear with dry cleaning.

Decorative Trims

Sequins, beads, metallic embroidery and other embellishments get torn off by dry cleaning machines.

Athletic Wear

Stretchy athletic wear contains spandex, latex and plasticized screen prints that react poorly to solvents.

New/Unwashed Items

Brand new clothing may shrink, bleed dyes or lose embellishments the first time dry cleaned.

These fabrics and notions pose risks for disastrous results with dry cleaning.

Fabrics Safe for Dry Cleaning

On the other hand, these clothing types are prime candidates for dry cleaning:


Natural silk fibers preserve their sheen and texture beautifully through the gentle dry cleaning process.

Wool Suits and Coats

Wool garments maintain their shape and structure when dry cleaned as the fibers do not shrink.


Cashmere knits hold their softness and bounce when dry cleaned with care compared to frequent washing.


The nap and pile on velvet remains intact when dry cleaned versus possible crushing from home washing.


Though durable, linen clothing resists wrinkling and shrinking when dry cleaned versus high heat machine drying.

Down and Feathers

Down filled coats and feather trims retain their fluffiness when dry cleaned instead of clumping.


Fur garments both faux and real shed and matt significantly less when professionally dry cleaned.


Dry cleaners safely clean leather and suede with special leather treatment chemicals unavailable for home use.

When in doubt if an item can be washed, dry cleaning is usually a safe bet.

Maximizing Dry Cleaning Benefits

Follow these tips to get the most out of dry cleaning for fine fabrics:

  • Read labels closely – if unsure, ask the manufacturer directly about dry cleaning safety.
  • Sort lights from darks – separate colors to prevent dye transfer disasters.
  • Close all fasteners – so buttons, snaps, hooks and zippers don’t catch on other garments.
  • Empty pockets fully – debris causes abrasion and holes during cleaning.
  • Do a stain pre-treatment – for best results, deal with spots at home before dry cleaning the item.
  • Point out stains – alert staff of extra troublesome spots needing attention.
  • Be consistent – frequent cleaning at the same location gives best long-term results.
  • Store carefully afterwards – dry cleaned clothes still need protection from light, pests, dust, etc.
  • Follow up on issues – inspect items closely and notify the cleaner about problems.

With some prep work and awareness, dry cleaning offers major benefits for fine fabrics.

Can All Clothes Be Dry Cleaned? FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about dry cleaning:

Can you dry clean clothes at home?

Not recommended – home dry cleaning kits lack the power of professional solutions and equipment. The chemicals used are also toxic and flammable.

What if care labels conflict on an item?

Defer to the more delicate instructions. So if the fabric says dry clean but notions say hand wash, hand wash separately.

How often should you dry clean clothes?

As infrequently as possible – maybe once every 5-10 wears for delicate fabrics, or only when truly dirty. Over-dry cleaning wears out clothes.

Why shouldn’t you dry clean rubber, spandex or plastic?

These polymers and synthetic materials react poorly to dry cleaning chemicals which can cause deformation, melting, and embrittlement.

Can you put dry clean only clothes in the washer?

Only with great caution – hand wash delicately alone in a mesh bag using a very gentle cleaner. Do not machine wash or dry.

What if clothes are still dirty after dry cleaning?

Notify the cleaner about the issue. Pre-treat stains at home next time before bringing items in. For tough stains, additional treatment cycles may be required.

Can the dry cleaner shrink clothes?

Excessive heat during the drying stage or over-agitation can potentially cause shrinkage on some materials. Proper settings and handling is key.

How long do dry cleaned clothes last?

With periodic cleaning every 5-10 wears, delicate dry clean fabrics typically last for many years given proper storage between uses.

Get the full scoop on which duds keep their splendor with dry cleaning! Bring your delicate designer garments into Laundry Pile in Austin, TX for expert professional dry cleaning. Our knowledgeable staff will evaluate each item and determine if dry cleaning is safe or if hand washing makes more sense. We’re equipped to handle the most luxurious silks, suedes, beaded dresses and cashmere coats. Trust Laundry Pile for customized cleaning to maximize the longevity of your wardrobe investments.

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