If seeing the phrase "Dry Clean" on new garments makes you cringe -- either because of the toxic chemicals most cleaners use, or the prices they charge -- there's hope. Many delicate items labeled this way can safely be washed by hand at home using a gentle detergent. Follow these steps to make your clothes clean and green.

Decode the Care Labels

If a garment can be washed or dry cleaned, manufacturers need only list one method. To prevent mishaps, they'll usually print "Dry Clean." These items can typically be hand washed. "Dry Clean Only," however, means exactly that.

Note the Fabric and Detailing

Simple, solid-color cotton, wool, linen, rayon, and "washable silk" items can generally tolerate hand washing. Let the pros handle anything with bright prints or colors that may bleed, clothing made of traditional silk, or anything with delicate stitching or beading.

Wash Carefully

Fill a clean sink or washbasin with lukewarm water, then add a few drops of detergent, preferably one made for delicates. Add the garment and swish for three to five minutes. Avoid excess agitation, which causes shrinkage. Rinse the item in fresh water, then gently squeeze out the excess water. Do not wring it out, as this can damage the fabric.

Dry Right

Place the item flat on a clean bath towel and reshape. Roll the towel up, pressing the remaining moisture out of the garment as you go. Unroll, transfer to a fresh towel, and repeat. Unroll, and lay the item flat on a drying rack or another clean towel to air dry, flipping it halfway through.

Text by Donna Garlough

Comments (2)

Martha Stewart Member
August 26, 2017
You might be able to use a Dry-El bag in your dryer for "dry clean only" items. Also, an HE washer uses much less water and less agitation, so may be safer or even equivalent to hand washing, especially if you have a "delicates" or " hand wash" cycle.
Martha Stewart Member
February 1, 2015
You can dry delicates by laying them out on one of those microfibre mats that are now sold for drying pots and pans. They dry much faster than a terrycloth towel!