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To Dry Clean or Not to Dry Clean, That is the Question

We can’t deny that clean, smooth clothing that is rich in color is something that most all of us want.  Beginning decades ago, it seemed that the answer to achieving instant beauty in clothing has been to “dry clean” our garments.

Let’s look at the good, bad, and even ugly parts of the dry cleaning choice:


  • A fresh, crisp, clean look to clothing
  • Instant results and practically labor-free effort


  • high drying temperatures and chemicals used in the dry-cleaning process can damage garments.
  • Chemicals and temperatures used in the process decrease the life-span of the product.
  • Garments run the risk of being lost or stolen


  • Clothes may have a chemical odor.
  • Critics against dry-cleaning suggest chemicals in dry cleaning may cause cancer. PERC (perchloroethylenes ) is used by 3 out of 4 dry cleaners nationwide. California has banned the entire state from its use. Massachusetts, New York and Texas are also considering a ban.  The EPA states “Breathing PERC for short periods of time can adversely affect the human nervous system with symptoms ranging from dizziness, fatigue, headaches and sweating, to lack of coordination and unconsciousness.” The World Health Organization (WHO), states that PERC is a “probable human carcinogen.”  U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services has stated that large doses of PERC may damage liver and kidneys and affect reproductive organs.  Better techniques use carbon dioxide and water.  Using CO2 under pressure is also a superior cleaning method, but is more expensive.



The newer front-loading washers with gentle cycles can handle even cashmere with care!  And certain modern dryers can steam away dirt and odors.  Tossing a damp cloth in the dryer with dry clothes can also refresh wrinkled clothing.


Most clothes labeled with the recommendation to “dry clean” can be hand-washed or put in the gentle cycle of the washing machine with a mild soap.  Afterwards, they can be gently air-dried either naturally or in a gentle cooler dry cycle in a machine, according to how delicate the garment may be.


Many clothes can be “spot cleaned”.  Immediately after soiling an item, the quicker you apply cold water to the stain, the better the potential for success in removing the stain.   Other options for removing stains include, using a pre-treatment spray or stain-stick and using a soft clean towel to clean the area.  A home treatment of using a mixture of baking soda and vinegar may also do the trick.


Some Cleaners offers non-perc dry cleaning. Here are some alternative methods offered:

. high-pressure cleaning using liquid carbon dioxide,

. silicone-based cleaners, like Green Earth,

. computer-controlled wet washing.

Liquid CO2 yielded better results that PERC cleaned clothing, according to Consumer Reports and Green Earth came in a close second.


If you have the good fortune to own tailor-made clothes, hopefully you have chosen a clothier that offers cleaning maintenance for your items for a nominal fee or even free of charge.

One thought on “To Dry Clean or Not to Dry Clean, That is the Question Leave a comment

  1. Lord Cleaners: The biggest rip off dry cleaner in the upper east side, back in the day.
    Laundry? No problem: Pearl took it home and did it with our laundry.
    THen brought it back to Lord Cleaners to have Armando press it.

    Carpets: Mom brought them home and beat the crap out of it with something(?) and then sprayed it so it would smell clean.

    THe best was finding diamonds in pockets. With a perfectly straight face Phil and Pearl denied ever seeing them.

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