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When to Dry Clean Your Suit

We spend nearly $8 billion a year on dry cleaning, and sometimes it’s not exactly necessary. Many of us dry clean too often or send clothes to the cleaners we can easily wash at home. To help, here’s our guide to dry cleaning and how to keep garments fresh between cleanings.

Suits: Skip a Cleaning
No need to dry clean that suit every time you wear it. Jackets, pants and skirts only need professional cleaning every four to five wears, or if you’re unable to spot clean a stain. When you do send a suit to the cleaners, send all the pieces together so they fade at the same rate. It’s a good idea to rotate your suits to avoid over-dry cleaning and to shoulder wear and tear.

Tops: Dry Clean More Often
Do send garments like blouses and tops to the cleaners more frequently. “Things that are worn more closely to the body, I’d say should be dry-cleaned more often. You’re going to perspire and those are going to absorb body oils more quickly than let’s say a jacket or a pair of slacks or a skirt,” says Carolyn Forte of The Good Housekeeping Research Institute.

Air Out Suit
In between cleanings, let your suit air out on a sturdy wooden hanger after each wearing to allow the fabric to recover and drape out wrinkles. Remove belts and empty pockets to avoid creasing or stretching the clothing.

Invest in a Steamer
Apply a steamer so your suit can keep its pressed appearance between dry cleaning visits. “Steaming is a great way to freshen and re-fluff fibers. It’s a great way to remove wrinkles. You don’t want to do too much heavy ironing if the garment really needs to be cleaned because that will certainly set in stains and set in certain body oils,” says Forte.

Remove Dry Cleaning From Plastic
When you bring your dry cleaning home, best to remove the garment from those thin, plastic covering. The plastic could eventually break down or create discoloring. It could also trap in moisture and damage the fabric. Storing clothes in a cloth garment bag keeps them clean and allows air to circulate even when hung in a stuffy closet.

Spot Clean Stains

If you get a stain on your clothes, spot clean it as soon as possible. Brush off dirt and food particles, and blot liquids. Clean against the grain of the material using short strokes and a dab of cold water. Finish with a pass on the grain to restore the fabric to its original state. If the clothing will water spot, or if the stain is grease or oil-based, best just to take it to the cleaners as soon as possible, but don’t wait more than a few days.  

Hand Wash What You Can
Many items labeled “dry clean” can actually be hand washed. Use a gentle detergent, such as Woolite in cold water, then lay flat to dry. Test a small area of the garment first, if you’re unsure. “If it’s got a lot of structure to it, certainly if it’s a jacket, if it’s got linings, if it’s got lots of detail, I wouldn’t risk hand-washing that. I would definitely take that to the dry cleaner,” says Forte.

Machine Wash Dress Shirts
Machine wash and hang dry your dress shirts to save money. If you do take them to the dry cleaner, ask they be hand-ironed instead of machine-pressed with no starch which decreases your shirts’ lifespans.

Time to Switch Cleaners?

Despite what the name suggests, dry cleaning uses a liquid solvent called ‘perc’ to remove dirt, oils and stains. If your clothes come back yellowed or with a chemical smell, it’s a good sign you might want to switch cleaners.

Some other indications you have a bad dry cleaner: If your clothes shrink, they may have been cleaned at the wrong temperature. A glossy or shiny appearance suggests hard pressing crushed garments, and imprints around buttons or pockets are from improper pressing techniques.

Green Dry Cleaning Worth It?

If you’re wondering about the benefits of ‘green’ dry cleaning services, there no industry-wide requirements or regulations exist. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute found the liquid carbon dioxide method offers the best results, and the EPA does recognize it as environmentally safe. So, it’s not always worth it to pay extra for so-called “green” services.

What are some ways you keep your clothes crisp between dry cleanings? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.

Special Courtesy to Bridge Cleaners for making this video possible.