Paying to Clean Clothes In the Dry Way

Last year about this time I started working in a clothing store in the mall. I used the job and the discount to justify buying a lot of expensive clothes because they were “investment pieces” (not a thing, by the way).

I wanted to be the kind of person that only bought “classic” clothes that would “last” so I bought all these wool pants and skirts and sweaters and also lots of silk (because silk is so durable, you know). I wore the clothes for two months and then decided I should probably have them cleaned so I took them to a place and did that.  

I cannot recall how much I paid to retrieve my clothes (my mind is very good at erasing terrible memories). But I retrieved them and wore them some more and then it was summer so I stopped wearing them. Real Simple says that you should get your clothes dry cleaned and then put them away for the summer in a dry place, maybe wrap them in tissue. I did … not do this.

And now winter is coming, and I must decide: Will I clean these clothes again? Will I wear them until I can’t anymore because of stench and coffee stains and wrinkles (I also don’t have an iron) and then just consider them sunk costs? My friend M. says she puts off taking her clothes to the dry cleaners for this very reason but that, “Every so often I’m like, Okay, I just have to spend $150 on dry cleaning. And then I do and then I’m sad.”

Dreadful. This is a terrible place I’ve put myself. I’m only buying cotton, evermore.


25 Comments / Post A Comment

wearitcounts (#772)

if the amount of money you would spend cleaning them often enough to wear them until they die > the amount of money you would spend replacing them with washable items that will last just as long, maybe toss and start from scratch. or give to friends who are willing to dry clean. or donate to somewhere like dress for success?

Not gonna lie, I handwash most of my “dry clean only” clothes. I’m not spending that much just to clean my clothes! So far it’s working out, even for the silk.

sony_b (#225)

@MilesofMountains Yep. People were washing clothes made from silk just fine for a few thousand years before the advent of dry cleaning.

I do the reverse – I have a few pieces that don’t need dry cleaning but I take them in anyway because they lose their shape over time or get pulls that need to be cleaned up (nice sweaters/cardigans) and sometimes even my t-shirts. If I get a nasty grease stain on a shirt that I can’t get out, take it in to dry clean and they usually can. Pay $3 to clean a $15 t-shirt? Yes. If it means I can continue to wear that shirt in public it’s worth the investment.

quatsch (#582)

@MilesofMountains Me too! Handwashing forever, dry cleaning for never!

@MilesofMountains Agreed! There are lots of online how-to’s for handwashing finicky clothes (wool, silk, etc), I think “Ask A Clean Person,” over at The Hairpin has a bunch. I tend to think that people wore wool, silk, etc. before dry cleaners were commonplace, so washing them yourself cannot be that detrimental. Unless, only rich people wore those materials and then promptly threw them away/ donated them to serfs on Boxing Day once they stank over badly < UNLIKELY.

It’s a pain, but try to spread the dry-cleaning out over a period of time. Like, just do an outfit (bottom, top, coat) a week (or twice a month?) so it’s not such a financial hit.

(I don’t do this. I wear my cashmere until it’s smelly, wait until all my cashmere is smelly, and then get them all done at once.)
(Also, I don’t dry-clean silk. Delicate cycle and air-dry.)

City_Dater (#565)


You shouldn’t dry clean cashmere sweaters anyway; the chemicals have a flattening effect on the wool. Hand launder, squeeze in a towel, and lay flat to dry. (Or throw in a sweater bag and machine wash)

lizpie (#906)

Dryel makes home dry cleaning kits that are pretty cheap and work really well! You just spray some stuff on them and throw them in a bag in the dryer. For wool sweaters–not jackets and pants probably, but sweaters definitely–grab a bottle of eucalan, soak them in your sink and just dry them flat. Super easy and way cheaper than dry cleaning. Sincerely, A Lady with Very Little Money and Lots of Wool

zou bisou (#1,637)

Logan, if I know one thing from reading this site, it’s that you are broke as a joke. Sometimes I think you write articles like this just to get lots of comments! 1) Obviously, do not throw out your clothes. Buy some woolite and figure out what you can use that on. Most wool, cashmere, camel hair, etc can be washed by hand and laid flat to dry. 2) For the silk, buy Dryel. Woolite now also makes a similar system. But 3)If you did not wash them at the end of the season, and left your pieces ot rot over the summer, it’s probably best to call around for a cheap dry cleaner and have it professionally done. There is a dollar dry cleaner in soho. Try there first. 4) Prioritize wearing the cotton you have over the fancy knits going forward. -the end

Handwash or delicate-cycle what you can. It takes a while and your whole apartment will be consumed by clothes lying flat to dry, but it’s worth it for the $AVING$. HOWEVER. Do not wash lined suit pieces. It is a pain in the neck to get the lining to lie flat and smooth again.

One thing dry cleaners in my neighborhood do is offer you a discount if you pay when you drop your clothes off, rather than when you pick them up. There are also new customer discounts and quantity discounts to be had. Perhaps this is only in the uber-competitive drycleaning market of Washington, DC?

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

Biggest problem for me? A lot of my dry-clean only pieces could probably be hand washed, but then I would have to iron them myself. Paying for dry cleaning is worth it to get my pants pressed perfectly, I’m a little ashamed to say.

Megano! (#124)

Dryel girl! That’s maybe not how you spell it.

@Megano! You’re in Canada, right? I am new to this country, and all the chain stores here are a mystery to me. WHERE CAN I BUY THIS? (I’m in Montreal, maybe we have different chain stores here?)

la_di_da (#1,425)

Can someone tell me how anyone handwashes clothing in a NYC apartment of dubious sink quality?

Also, unless you have bed bugs and absolutely -have- to dry clean everything all at once, always do it in installments, like a few pairs of pants and a dress at most at a time.

MargaretMead (#2,229)

In the tub.

FromTheFuture (#2,404)

@la_di_da Alternately, if you have also have a bathtub of dubious quality (or roommates of dubious quality who bathe in it) you could do what I do: Go to your neighborhood discount department store, or New York City Hardware Store That Carries Everything and buy a largish plastic basin or bucket. This will cost you up to $5. Wash your clothes in there. Keep that bucket hidden in your room (keep your detergent bottles in it!) so your roommate does not decide to use it to mop the floor.

la_di_da (#1,425)

@MargaretMead of even more dubious quality

@FromTheFuture that…is really obvious… And yet I still feel like I will never get up the motivation to do that.

Silk and cashmere can totally go in the wash. And you can get an iron for around $5.

Also, if you’re interested keeping your clothes nice for years to come, waiting until they are filthy to get them cleaned is not the way to do it. Perspiration and body oils deteriorate fabrics- that’s why many vintage items have rot under the arms.

cherrispryte (#19)

Buy a steamer! I was just staying at a house that has this exact one and not only does it get wrinkles out in 2 seconds, it de-stinkifies dryclean-only things really well too. (I am buying one super soon.)
And it is 1/3 the price of one of your friend M’s drycleaning trips.

@cherrispryte I’m a big believer in steamers. And I just got mine replaced for free at Bed Bath and Beyond, because my old one burned me and I still had the box and all the parts (it was pretty new.) It’s one of the most useful presents anyone has got me. Thanks, Mom.

Can we all agree that dry cleaning is a scam? Anyone who works at a dry cleaner’s probably has to take an oath not to tell the secret that what they do is Tide Stick/Woolite/Dryel that ish themselves and charge a 700% markup. It’s the same oath magicians take. Minus the hocus.

Last week I realized a shirt I was wearing was dry clean only. I’ve had it for about a year which means… it’s been dirty for about 11 months. I get away with it because I work in production with all men. Slobby men.

@Kara M & Lisa L@twitter I was just telling someone the other day that whenever I try to be the kind of person who wears dry-clean-only clothes, I just end up being the person in the dirty shirt.

I use Soak ( ) on ALL my fine washables (wool, silk, cashmere, lingerie) – it’s no-rinse so the risk of felting, shrinking, or otherwise screwing up your clothes is drastically minimized and it de-stinks quite nicely. Pricey for laundry soap but you use very little and still cheaper than dry-cleaning.

However, you CANNOT HAND-WASH lined clothing like coats, suit jackets, skirts, and pants. I second the Dryel/garment steamer suggestions above.

lora.bee (#1,904)

That photo of Seinfeld is so fitting, as the first thing that popped in my head when I read this was “You ever get something on your clothes and scratch it off with your fingernail? THAT’S drycleaning.”

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