Can you wash dry clean only clothes in your washing machine?

You may actually be able to wash dry clean only clothes at home

Washing machine, laundry basket, and shelves
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You may be stuck at home and wondering if you can actually pop your dry clean only clothes in your washing machine. You may love your fave blazers and dresses but you won't love them if they come out damaged in the wash. 

Your fancy outfits may have special cleaning requirements but some dry cleaning businesses are so busy that you may not get our garments back till a week later. Not ideal for that last-minute Bumble date or weekend brunch. 

I took the time to speak with Rick Rome, CEO and founder of WashClub, who provided us with an explanation about whether or not to wash dry clean only items along with pointers on how to do so, if you decide to wash these garments in the washing machine. Before you get started, you may need to stock up on some laundry room essentials to make the job easier.

Should you wash at home?

Rome explained that dry clean-only clothing often contains delicate fabrics, intricate designs, or materials that are not water-resistant, so he would not recommend attempting to wash dry clean-only clothing in the washing machine.

If you're concerned about the cost of dry cleaning, Rome suggests inquiring about spot-cleaning or less expensive alternatives at your local cleaner. Some garments may also benefit from airing out or using fabric-specific spot cleaners, like this highly-rated Resolve fabric cleaner available on Amazon, for minor stains, but it's crucial to exercise caution and always test on a small, inconspicuous area first.

However, if you’re in a pinch and determined to try it, Rome recommends checking a few things first.

How to wash dry clean only clothes

1. Read the care label

Always start with reading the care instructions because some dry-clean-only items may have specific instructions for handwashing or gentle cleaning. Look for a label usually located inside the neckline or on the inner side seam. They often include symbols and written instructions

2. Test a small area

Before attempting to wash the entire garment, test a small, hidden area for colorfastness and fabric reaction to water and detergent. This can help you avoid damaging the whole garment if problems do arise. This is especially helpful for items with mixed fabrics.

3. Use cold water

Using cold water will help minimize the risk of color bleeding and fabric shrinkage. When using a washing machine, turn the item inside out and place it into a mesh bag designed to hold delicates, like these Muchfun mesh laundry bags available on Amazon. To hand wash, just gently agitate the garment in the soapy water, avoiding any rough scrubbing or twisting. For both methods use a mild detergent designed for delicate fabrics or wool. Avoid using regular laundry detergents, which can often be too harsh.

4. Rinse thoroughly

Rinse the garment thoroughly with cold water until all detergent is removed. "Never wring or twist the garment to remove excess water, as this can damage delicate fibers," says Rome. 

Instead, gently press the water out by pressing the garment between clean towels. Excess detergent left in clothing fibers can not only lead to odor and skin sensitivity but also weaken fabrics over time, leading to early wear and tear. Rinsing clothes thoroughly helps maintain their structural integrity and prolongs their lifespan.

5. Lay flat to dry

Never use the dryer with these items as it will likely cause them to shrink and become deformed. 

"You also want to avoid hanging the garment, as this can stretch the fabric or cause it to lose its shape," explains Rome. 

Instead, lay it flat and place it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. You can also speed up the drying process by placing the item in front of a fan. 

Meet the expert

Rick Rome

WashClub NYC offers comprehensive laundry service NYC pick up and delivery, commercial laundry service, drop off laundry service and in-store washing. WashClub NYC's laundry pick up and delivery service spans across New York City covering Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.


Can you steam or iron dry clean only clothes?

If necessary, use a steamer or a low-heat iron with a pressing cloth to remove wrinkles. Always test a small, hidden area first, and avoid direct contact with the iron on sensitive fabrics.  would also suggest using a pressing cloth or a clean, white cotton cloth as a barrier between the iron and the garment. This helps distribute heat more evenly and minimizes the risk of direct contact between the iron and the fabric.

What makes dry cleaning different than washing at home?

Dry cleaning uses special solvents and processes that are gentler on these types of fabrics. If you attempt to wash dry clean-only garments in a washing machine, you risk everything from tears and stretching, to color fading, shrinking, and loss of shape. 

It may get a little tricky knowing when to bring clothes into the dry cleaners and when to wash them at home, but reading the label carefully should help give you an idea of how to treat your garment. If you weren't sure about dry clean only clothes, there may be some more common laundry myths you didn't know were false. Who knew?!

Aida M. Toro
Freelance Writer

About Me:

Hello! My name is Aida M. Toro and I am a freelance writer that loves cultivating stories about amazing people, fashion, interiors, art, and food. I currently write for Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam, The House Magazine, Hobnob Magazine, The C-Word, and Real Homes. I live in West New York, New Jersey, which is literally a 10-minute ferry ride or 20-minute bus ride away from New York City. Although I was born and raised in West New York, I consider NYC my home, as I believe it to be the place where all dreams come to fruition, and of course, spend most of my time in. When I’m not writing, I love perusing the city streets and taking snaps with my iPhone of street art along with random things, scoping out new restaurants as well as their spaces, shopping at some of my favorite stores, spending time with family and friends, walking my cockapoodle Benji, and working out at Lifetime or DOGPOUND, which are some of the top fitness spaces in Manhattan and overall the U.S.