Remember my dress? I still love it.
A few years ago, I had a bad experience at the dry cleaners. Two cotton, black velvet blazers came back ruined and tinted red. On another trip to a different dry cleaner, a coat was returned without any of its buttons. (What the ?!?!) I've also had fancy buttons crack, as a dry cleaner cleaned a blouse and a stiff hat returned misshaped and limp. About this time, news reports raised concerns about the safety of the chemicals used in the dry cleaning process. This lead me to take measures (as well as a few risks) in order to limit my need for dry cleaning. Perhaps what I do will benefit you:
1. Stop buying clothes requiring dry cleaning in the first place. Examine fabrics and read labels before the purchase. Look for garments that can be washed and/or dried by you.
2. Wear tanks and camisoles under your dresses. On sweaty days, you can wash the tank and spare your dress.
3. A source at a famous fashion house told me designers often label garments “Dry Clean Only” as a precaution even when articles can be washed. By taking calculated risks, I have successfully washed silk, rayon, polyester and cotton dresses and blouses by hand, in cold water and Woolite. If I fear the color will fade, I substitute Ivory dishwashing liquid. It is especially mild. I let the dress or top (1) soak for 3-5 minutes, (2) swish it around a bit (3) raise with cold water, and (4) gently extract the moisture without twisting it. (5) Then depending on the fabric, I either lay or hang the article to dry, so it won't stretch out of shape.
So far, I have not ruined anything and have saved big bucks. My dresses feel and smell clean too. Minus harmful chemicals. [4 dresses = $48 in savings]
What I still take to the cleaners:
1) Wool if it says: Dry Clean Only – Too risky. Wool shrinks.
2) Business suits and blazers – But these days, designers offer options you can wash also.
3) Winter coats - Every other year, unless they truly get dirty. Winter coats rarely touch our skin, or get food stains. We clean our outerwear more out of habit than need. Extra tip: The goose down coats at Lands' End are machine washable and can be thrown in a dryer.
4) Anything special like a prom or wedding dress, or tuxedo, obviously.
5) Despite my bad luck, I'd still take clothing with intricate designs, stitches, or fancy buttons to a trusted dry cleaner. But I also buy these high maintenance items less often.
6) A much loved garment with a freakishly, tough stain also gets dropped off. Then you have to pay the piper for his expertise to save it.
When it comes to a clean wardrobe, I like my new self-sufficiency. Hand washing dresses is more convenient than taking them outside the home. Life is about cutting down and balance. Nowadays, I dry clean out of real necessity and not so much out of ignorance. I also look for dry cleaners who use green solvents.
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