Laundered vs. Dry Cleaned: Which is Better for Clothes?
When it’s time to clean dress shirts, formal gowns, suits and other clothing, two options exist – laundering or dry cleaning. But what are the differences between laundered and dry cleaned clothes and which method is best? Read on for a comparison of the effects of laundering versus dry cleaning on fabric care.
How Laundering Works
First, let’s review the laundering process:
Water, Detergent, and Agitation
Clothes are soaked and scrubbed in water, detergent, and agitators to dissolve and remove dirt, oils, and debris.
Rinse cycles remove all traces of suds and detergents which can otherwise leave residue.
Tumbling in a heated dryer evaporates all remaining moisture to fully dry clothes.
Ironing and steaming at home provides finishing to smooth wrinkles and reset fabric shape.
Laundering uses water, soap, and mechanical scrubbing to deeply clean fabrics.
How Dry Cleaning Works
In contrast, here is how dry cleaning garments works:
Items are soaked in chemical solvents that dissolve grease and oils but contain no water. Common options are hydrocarbon or silicone-based.
Gentle tumbling and agitation in solvents loosens dirt. There is no harsh scrubbing or wringing.
Once cleaned, garments are aerated to evaporate solvents which are recovered and filtered for reuse.
Commercial steam irons, presses and form finishers create crisp, wrinkle-free results.
Dry cleaning relies on chemical solvents and evaporation to avoid shrinkage risks of water.
How Fabrics Are Affected
Now let’s examine how fabrics are impacted by laundering versus dry cleaning.
Laundering in hot water results in shrinkage, especially for wool and natural fibers. Dry cleaning prevents shrinkage.
Dyes leach and fade over time when clothes are laundered. Dry cleaning preserves vibrant colors longer.
Harsh agitation and wringing from home washing machines can damage delicate fabrics. Dry cleaning is a gentler process.
Wrinkling is common with home laundering. Dry cleaned clothes hold their press and shape better.
Laundering fully eliminates odors that dry cleaning cannot. Some chemical smell may linger after dry cleaning.
Laundering removes more dirt and grime through the power of detergents and scrubbing. Dry cleaning cannot clean as deeply.
Each method impacts fabrics differently.
When to Choose Laundering
Given the effects, laundering makes most sense for:
Bedding, towels, t-shirts, underwear and other high usage basic fabrics handle frequent laundering well.
Hardy fabrics like denim, corduroy, canvas cotton blends hold up fine to being machine washed and dried.
Heavily stained or soiled everyday clothes and linens require the deep cleaning only laundering provides.
Gym clothes, athletic wear, and uniforms prone to heavy odor buildup laundering more effectively.
Kids’ clothing takes a beating and holds up well to regular machine washing and drying.
The bleaching and whitening agents in laundry detergent keeps whites their brightest.
When fabrics can withstand the heavy duty process, laundering is ideal.
When to Choose Dry Cleaning
In contrast, these are cases where dry cleaning is best:
Sheer and Ultra-Delicate Fabrics
Washing risks shredding wispy silks, chiffons, and lace. The gentler dry cleaning process is safer.
The tumbling and agitation of washing mats and shrinks delicate cashmere fibers irreparably. Dry cleaning preserves the fluff.
Fitted blazers, suits, dresses with structure and lining look better over time with dry cleaning.
Sequined and Beaded Pieces
Intricate embellishments get torn and warped in washing. The smooth motions of dry cleaning prevents snags and damage.
Leather, Suede, Fur
Only professional leather cleaners used by dry cleaners can clean these skins safely.
Vintage and Heirlooms
Both methods risk damage, but dry cleaning provides more controlled conditions for cherished fabrics.
When in doubt, dry cleaning is the safer choice.
Laundry vs. Dry Cleaning Pros and Cons
Here is a quick pros and cons comparison:
Removes odors fully
Prevents musty smells
Keeps clothes hygienic
Can damage delicates
Fades dark dyes
Wears clothes faster
Dry Cleaning Pros
Preserves fabric structure
Keeps colors vibrant
Better for delicates
Dry Cleaning Cons
Less deep cleaning
Cannot remove all odors
Still risks color loss
Handle delicates can still be damaged
Chemical waste and pollution
Laundry vs Dry Cleaning FAQs
Here are some commonly asked questions:
What happens if you wash dry clean only clothes?
Best to avoid – dry clean only instructions are there for a reason. Washing risks shrinkage, dye loss, and irreparable damage.
Can you put wool suits in the washing machine?
Only if specifically labeled “machine washable wool.” Traditional wool suiting fabric will shrink disastrously in the washing machine. Dry clean only.
How do you wash silk?
Look for “machine washable silk” and use a mesh bag on gentle cycle. Most silks require dry cleaning to avoid snagging, wrinkling, and tearing issues.
What ruins clothes in the washing machine?
Improper sorting leading to colors bleeding and transferring. Overloading leads to wear and tear. Insufficient rinsing leaves detergent residue on clothes.
Why does my clean laundry smell musty?
Leaving laundry in the machine too long before drying breeds mold and bacteria causing stinky odors. Promptly move to dryer after washing.
Can you put polyester in the dryer?
Yes, polyester is fine for machine washing and drying. Just avoid high heat, which can cause pilling. Use medium heat instead.
Understand the effects of each cleaning method to make the best choice for your fabrics. Ultimately, reading garment care labels and knowing your fabrics will determine if laundering or dry cleaning is ideal. Gently worn delicates and specialty textiles thrive with dry cleaning, while everyday cottons and sturdy linens withstand regular laundering. Work with a reputable cleaner to keep all your garments looking their best.