How to Clean Do Not Wash Dry Clean Only Clothes

ways to treat stains on dry clean only clothes at home

Help is at hand if you have a dress or jacket that says “dry clean only” and you have just discovered a small stain. Discover tips and hacks to avoid a costly trip to the dry cleaners by tackling the stain at home.

One of the common challenges people have is figuring out how to clean clothes that are labeled as “dry clean only.” This can be difficult if you don’t have a lot of money and can’t afford to keep taking take your clothes to the dry cleaners. Especially if the stain is small and the rest of the item is still clean and in good condition.

If you’re doing your laundry and you come across a piece of clothing that’s labeled “dry clean only.” You know you can’t just toss it in the washing machine, or else you’ll permanently ruin the garment. Here are some options before you take a trip to the dry cleaners.

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What Does “Dry Clean Only” Mean?

Dry cleaning is a process that cleans clothes without using water. The clothes are instead placed in a machine with a solvent (usually perchloroethylene) that breaks down the dirt and stains. Dry cleaning is often used for delicate fabrics or garments that cannot be washed in water, such as suits or formal dresses.

Have you ever noticed the strong chemical smell you encounter when you walk into a dry cleaner? That’s because the smell from the solvent that’s used in the machines still lingers in the air.

Read the Label to Check the Care Instructions

Most people don’t realize the importance of reading the care labels of clothes before washing. But this is very important, as it can prevent you from ruining your clothes. Many people assume that they can just toss all their clothes in the washing machine, regardless of what the care label says. But this can permanently damage your clothes!

It’s important to take the time to read the care instructions on the label. This will tell you what types of cleaning methods are safe for the clothing-such as hand washing, machine washing, or dry cleaning. This website has a clear and simple explanation of all the different care label systems.

Diagram Showing the Different Clothing Care Symbols Relating to Dry Cleaning

If you see a circle on a clothing care label it will indicate the garment needs to be cleaned by professional cleaners. Sometimes the circle will have a letter inside this indicates the type of solvent that needs to be used.

examples of cleaning symbols for dry cleaning clothes

How to Get Started with Home Dry Cleaning

There are a number of ways to remove stains, wrinkles, and odors from “dry clean only” clothes at home. However, there are limitations as there is no way to actually dry clean whole garments at home following the methods a professional dry cleaner would. Professional cleaners are able to remove stubborn stains that at-home dry cleaner kits and steaming are unable to.

However, dealing with a few small stains yourself may delay taking your clothes to the dry cleaner will give you a few more wears between cleaning trips. Eventually, however, the clothes will have to go to the cleaners.

The Benefits of Drying Cleaning at Home

The good news is that there are definite benefits to drying cleaning your clothes at home, even if it’s not a 100% solution.

  • Reducing costs is one big benefit: home dry cleaning methods and kits cost significantly less than professional dry cleaning.
  • Time-saving and convenient, for example when organizing your work clothes for the following morning you notice a small stain, this can be dealt with straight away.
  • There’s also no need to worry about your clothes being lost or damaged in the laundry.
  • Eco-friendly chemicals used for dry cleaning are bad for the environment. So any reduction in the number of trips you make to the cleaners will help.

How to Clean Dry Clean Only Clothes with Rubbing Alcohol

A great way to remove small greasy stains like makeup or small food spills from jackets and pants is by rubbing alcohol and cotton wool.

Before you start you must do a test on an inconspicuous area, for example behind the lapel of a suit. Always test the stain remover on a hidden spot of fabric and look for spots of color loss or other damage. Manmade fibers like nylon & rayon may be permanently damaged by the alcohol. I would also be cautious of using this method on fine silk garments.

  • try not to over-wet the material, however if you do leave it to dry in a well-ventilated area.
  • don’t wear the clothes until the alcohol has fully evaporated
  • I recommend using this method in a well-ventilated room or even outdoors if practical.

This method can gently lift off the stains, and you have avoided another trip to the dry cleaners.

Step 1

Gather the rubbing alcohol and cotton wool balls.

Can I wash do not wash clothes

Step 2

The method is easy, just lay the garment out on a flat surface so you have access to the stain. Place a white towel underneath the affected area to soak up any excess alcohol. 

how to deal with lipstick on jacket collar

Step 3

Gently dab at the stain with a cotton wool ball dipped in the alcohol. Don’t rub or over wet.

dab lipstick stain with the alcohol

Step 4

Once the alcohol has evaporated you should see the stain gone. However, if the stain remains try the treatment again. Stubborn stains will need to be treated by professional dry cleaners.

picture shoewing lipstick stain removed

Steaming and Pressing

One of the best ways to reduce the number of times you need to go to the dry cleaners is by steaming and pressing your clothes at home. Steaming is a safe and gentle way to remove wrinkles and release odors, while pressing will remove creases and improve the appearance of a garment between trips to the dry cleaners.

Steaming vs Pressing

When it comes to steaming clothes vs. ironing them, not only does steaming avoid any risks posed by ironing (such as burning and unintended creasing), but the steam also kills most germs and bacteria, which helps eliminate odors.

However, pressing is still a good option for some items, such as cotton and linen trousers, which can be safely ironed without fear of creasing or burning. A great tip for businessmen is to place their suit pants in a press like this one from The pants will come out like new the following morning ready for another day at the office.

Steaming won’t produce crisp creases or flatten the cloth, in the same way, pressing will.

How to Steam Clothes Tips

Steaming your clothes if done correctly, can remove wrinkles, creases and help your clothes look their best. However, if done incorrectly, steaming can damage your clothes.

Before you start to steam clothes, always check the fabric care label. If you are uncertain if the fabric will tolerate being steamed, carefully test the steamer on an inconspicuous part of the garment fabric before using it on the whole garment.

  1. Make sure your garment is suitable for steaming!
  2. Hang your clothes up
  3. Set your steamer up following the manufacturer’s directions.
  4. Do the inside of lined clothes like jackets first.
  5. Start at the top and move the steamer head downwards. Never touch the fabric with the steamer head.
  6. Don’t overwet the fabric.
  7. Leave to air for an hour or so and the garment is ready to wear.
  8. Don’t be tempted to steam a garment while you are wearing it.

Home Dry Cleaning Kits

Home dry cleaning kits are a great alternative to traditional dry cleaning. They’re affordable, easy to use, and environmentally friendly. Plus, they work well on a variety of fabrics, including cotton, polyester, and wool mixtures.

You need to use these kits with a tumble dryer.

The kits aren’t really a complete replacement for professional cleaning. However, they can serve to refresh, remove odors and deal with minor staining, in-between trips to the dry cleaners.

Here is an example of two brands that provide home dry cleaning kits.

Woolite Dry Cleaning Kit

There are a number of benefits to using Woolite’s Dry Cleaning kit. The first is that it is very convenient and easy to use. You don’t have to go to a dry cleaner, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Also, it removes odors, stains, and wrinkles effectively. The manufacturers maintain it is safe to use on more fabrics than any other home dry cleaning kit.

If you would like to try this product it is for sale on

Woolite 20-Min Dry Care Cleaner, Cleans and Refreshes Clothes in the Dryer, Fragrance Free, 12 Cloths

Dryel Fabric Dry Cleaning Kit B077N4G9J9

The Dryel Fabric Dry Cleaning Kit is a great alternative to traditional dry cleaning. It is easy to use and can be done in your own home. The kit includes a stain and odor removal spray, which helps to remove any unwanted marks or smells from your clothes. The after pretreating clothes are “cleaned” by placing them in a bag (available separately) in a tumble dryer. 20 minutes later the clothes come out refreshed and ready to wear.

This product is available from

Dryel At-Home Dry Cleaner Refill Kit, Includes Dry Cleaning Cloths and To-Go Stain Removal Pen - 10 Load Capacity


Clothes can be a hassle to clean and dry, especially if you want your clothes to look their best. With the right tools, though, it’s easy to maintain them without having to spend money on costly trips to the dry cleaners.

After checking your garments are suitable, don’t be afraid to give one of these methods a try the next time you need to spruce up your wardrobe.


Can I use a home dry cleaning kit on all fabrics?

No, you should always check the fabric care label to see if it is safe to clean using a home dry cleaning kit. Some fabrics, like silk, should not be treated with these kits.

Can I steam my clothes at home?

Yes, you can steam your clothes at home as long as you are careful and follow the manufacturer’s directions. You should check the fabric care label before steaming to ensure that it is safe to do so.

Can I use a tumble dryer to clean my clothes?

Yes, you can use a tumble dryer to clean your clothes by using a home dry cleaning kit. The kit will come with its own instructions on how to use it. Always make sure that the garment is suitable for tumble drying before using the kit.

What Clothes You Should Never Wash at Home

While it is possible to wash some clothes at home, there are delicate or embossed items you should never attempt to clean yourself. Clothes that are badly stained with oils or other difficult-to-remove substances. If in doubt it’s always best to err on the side of caution and take your clothes to a professional cleaner in these cases.

Can you Remove Odors from Clothes Without Washing?

Yes, there are a number of ways to remove odors from clothes without having to wash them. One simple way is to hang the garment outside in the sun provided it is made from fade-proof material. You can also use a home dry cleaning kit, which will come with its own odor-removal instructions. Or use an odor release spray like this from

Further Reading

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