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How does dry cleaning work & can you do it at home?

Can you dry clean at home? And if yes, how do you do it? Just follow our 10-step guide!


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brown jacket hanging in the bathroom

Key steps

  • Check if your clothes are dry clean only by looking at the label – read our clothing symbols guide for advice on deciphering them.

  • Purchase a home dry cleaning kit and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Remove stains on clothes before dry cleaning.

  • Pop your clothes and dryer activated cloths into the reusable dryer bag and seal.

  • Put it in the dryer for 15-30 minutes.

Found a "dry clean only" label in your clothes and fear it’ll be expensive to care for them properly? Here's good news: you can dry clean clothes at home! Read on to discover how dry-cleaning works and how you can safely do it at home to save time and money. 

If your home dry cleaning kit doesn’t include a stain remover, don’t panic! Good quality washing powders like OMO will do the job of removing stains ready for dry cleaning.

Why do some clothes need dry cleaning?

Fabrics like rayon, silk, and wool-blends are prone to shrinking, changing colour, and losing their shape if washed with water. These means that washing this clothing in the washing machine is out of the question – leaving just one option: dry cleaning. 

Can you dry clean at home?

Most people assume that dry cleaning can only be completed by professionals, but it is possible to learn how to dry clean clothes at home. You just have to be very careful.

Health Warning

Due to the chemicals involved, commercial dry cleaning may cause irritation to your nose and throat when you next wear your clothes.

How to dry clean at home

Learn how to dry clean at homein just 10 steps with this simple process:

  1. Get a home cleaning kit.These are often available to purchase at supermarketsand discount stores and should have 3 components.

    • Stain remover and stain absorbing pads

    • Dryer activated cloth

    • Reusable dryer bag.

  2. Make sure your clothing is suitable for home dry cleaning. Although home dry cleaning is great for many fabrics you should not use it on suede, velvet, fur or leather. Read our tips on cleaning leather and washing suede for help with these materials instead. 

  3. Pre-treat any stains.The stain remover in these kits tends to be the same kind as you would use to pre-treat stains before regular machine washing. To remove stains, follow these step:

    • Always test the stain remover on a small area first.

    • Place the absorbent pad beneath the stain.

    • Apply the stain remover following the manufacturer’s instructions. 

    • Rub gently at the stain. Rubbing harshly could damage the fabric.

    • Apply gentle pressure to push the stain through the fabric and into the pad.

    • Use the absorbent pad to blot at the stain to remove excess stain remover.

    • Do not apply more stain remover than advised as it could damage the fabric.

    • For larger stains, dry-cleaning kits may not be sufficient. Speak to a professional dry cleaner in these instances.

  4. Put your clothing in the reusable dryer bag. The kit will tell you the maximum loa

  5. Add the dryer activated cloths. These contain a tiny amount of water, perfume, and emulsifying agent.

  6. Seal the bag.You need the bag to be properly sealed for it to wor

  7. Pop it in your tumble dryer. When added to the dryer, dryer activated cloths heat up and release high-pressure steam. As it is contained within the dryer bag, this steam freshens your clothing. 

  8. Leave it to work. Only put the dryer on for the time recommended on the instructions – this is usually 15-30 minutes.

  9. Remove your clothes as soon as the cycle ends.Hang your clothes up while they are still warm to help remove any wrinkles.

  10. Do not iron! If there are any wrinkles left in the fabric then you can steam press them.

How to dry clean commercially 

For large or difficult stains, or particularly delicate items of clothing, you may still need to use a commercial dry cleaner rather than trying it yourself at home. Despite its name, dry cleaning is not actually a "dry" process when done commercially. Instead, clothes are immersed in a solvent which removes oil and grease-based stains. 

There are 3 steps to the commercial dry cleaning process:

  1. Pre-treating clothing to remove stains.

  2. Dry cleaning clothing using a solvent solution.

  3. Ironing and reshaping clothing. Some services may make small repairs too.

Commercial dry cleaning can be quite an expensive process and in some cases the solvent (despite being removed from the clothing as much as possible) can cause irritation to those with sensitive skin so always test a professional service on one or two items first.

With these simple steps, you now have all the information you need to be able to dry clean at homeor decide to use a professional service. Visit our clothing care section for more tips on caring for different fabrics and clothes at home.

Originally published