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9 Ways Dry Cleaners Wish You Treated Your Clothes Differently

Who hasn't washed a dry clean only item and ended up with a sweater that would fit a Chihuahua? Here are the mistakes we're making and what dry cleaners want us to know.

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Carefully read clothing labels

If you are concerned about the cost of cleaning, make sure you check the label before you purchase any item of clothing. “Manufacturers are only required to list one way to clean the item. If the item indicates ‘dry clean only’ this is the safest and recommended method of cleaning,” says Andrew Rhodes, owner of Platinum Dry Cleaners in Naples, Florida says. ” This does not mean that it is the only method of cleaning. In fact, we regularly clean ‘dry clean only’ items with water; however, having the expertise to do this and have great results is challenging.” Rhodes says that care labels are only true for 51 percent of the garment’s total fabric and excludes all ornamentation. Read this if you’re confused about what those washing symbols mean on a label really mean.

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Clean your clothes regularly

“[Dress] shirts should only be worn one time, suit jackets twice, pants twice—but should be freshened between every wear—sweaters every three wears. Properly cleaning your clothes regularly will ensure that problems don’t become disasters,” Rhodes recommends.

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Don’t use too much detergent

Rhodes says that laundry detergent companies are making a fortune telling you how much soap to use in your loads. He says, “With the new high efficiency front and top load machines a tablespoon of detergent is plenty! The removal of spots comes from properly pre-treating the items, temperature, agitation, and treating the item as soon as possible.” Read more about how to boost your laundry detergent.

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Zip your zippers and no Velcro

“Zippers are the saws of destruction in your laundry,” says Rhodes. “Keeping them closed ensures that they don’t snag another item in the load.” The same can be said of Velcro which can stick to other fabrics and ruin a nice sweater if washed and dried together. Just don’t do it! It’s a good idea to avoid these other laundry mistakes.

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Bleach is for spots only, not a whole load

Rhodes says that bleach can be added to an individual item but bleach does not remove spots, it simply removes the color of the spot. To explain this, he says, “Think about going to a night club and sitting under the black lights. You can always tell who uses bleach on their clothes because the spots shine through. We add bleach with an eye dropper to control the chemical and it is always rinsed out immediately. If you are unsure about if you can remove a spot, it is always far cheaper to go to the most expensive cleaner in town than ruin an item permanently.”

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Washing in cold water is a fallacy

“Cold water assists in colorfastness. Shrinkage occurs in drying the material not the laundering and the idea of substituting any type of water for a dry-cleaning solvent is a huge risk if you don’t know what you are dealing with,” says Rhodes. He also says if you think a color could bleed it probably will: “Red, black, and purple are generally unstable dyes and when they are placed next to light colors there are likely going to be undesired consequences.”

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Tennis balls are your friend

Rhodes says when drying something bulky and large like a comforter or blanket, “throw in some tennis balls with the load to ensure that all the filling is evenly distributed throughout the item after the load is completed.” You may choose to do this during the day when no one is sleeping as the clunking of the balls in the dryer can be loud.

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Hang dry whenever possible

“Your Mom was right! Hanging things to dry is the best option and it prevents shrinkage,” says Rhodes. “Almost all shrinkage occurs during the drying phase of cleaning and if people would do more line drying it would save money on energy and heartache!” When in doubt, hang or line dry.

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Some stains require a professional

Sometimes it’s not worth the struggle, time, and effort to clean ground-in grass or an extremely dirty sports uniform. Rhodes says, “All of the remedies that you think you understand are much more complicated than you realize. Dry cleaning is part skill, part chemistry, part time, and part magic. Send it to the dry cleaners and let them deal with it. The likelihood of the average homeowner being able to get that spot out is abysmal and the time it would take is time better spent with a glass of wine or playing catch with the next all-star!”

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Laura Richards
Laura Richards is a Boston-based journalist with a passion for storytelling, reporting, content marketing, and branding. She has written for Reader's Digest, The New York Times, The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, The Boston Globe Magazine, Glamour, Martha Stewart Living, Woman's Day, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, and more. Her areas of specialty include health and wellness, lifestyle, parenting, and business and entrepreneurship. www.LauraRichardsWriter.com