Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Use Home Dry Clean Kits, According to a Laundry Expert

published Jun 23, 2020
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illustration of woman sitting in laundry room next to dry cleaning kit

During a pandemic, when you may not feel comfortable venturing out beyond the grocery store or pharmacy (if that!), what happens to all the clothes you’re not supposed to wash at home? Sure, you could let them accumulate on your bedroom chair until it’s safe to go out again. Or, you could turn to another popular solution: at-home dry clean kits, which claim to safely clean delicate garments the same way a dry cleaner does.

According to laundry expert Patric Richardson, owner of the Minneapolis-based boutique Mona Williams, dry cleaning kits do work a lot like dry cleaning does—which is to say, you don’t really need to dish out money to use them. There’s a more affordable and more effective alternative: simply washing your own “dry-clean only” garments at home with the right steps and tools.

In general, Richardson says dry cleaning actually isn’t necessary for most clothes—if you’re careful, water from the wash doesn’t have to cause damage, even to the most delicate or stubborn garments. “We panic over washing things like wool, but the sheep lived outside, and they didn’t shrink when it rained,” he says. “Besides that, liquid is still used in dry cleaning—it’s just a petroleum-based product instead of water.”

About those chemicals: While your clothes might emerge from the dry cleaner’s freshly pressed, “dry” cleaning isn’t necessarily better than hand washing or laundering, and the same is true for dry cleaning kits. Richardson says most kits usually come with a stain remover stick, a Mylar foil bag, and a dryer sheet—which don’t even truly clean your clothes. 

“Basically, you remove any stains, then put a wet dryer sheet in the Mylar bag with your piece,” he says. “When the dryer gets hot, the sheet creates steam, which basically just takes wrinkles out of your clothes and makes them smell fresh.”

Credit: Kalcutta/Shutterstock

How to Safely Clean Your Delicates at Home Without a Dry Clean Kit

Instead of dewrinkling and deodorizing your piece, throw it in the laundry—with caution, of course. You’ll need a mesh bag and laundry soap (not detergent, which is too harsh). Richardson recommends The Laundress’ Delicate Wash or these Laundry Flakes, which he formulated based on a recipe from a New Zealand woolier.

Here are the instructions: How to “Dry Clean” Clothes at Home

Always skip the dryer and air-dry your garments to avoid damage or shrinking. If you have stains, apply a stain-remover like Amodex before washing. Now, your clothes will actually be clean, and you don’t have to worry about leaving your house or shelling out money on a dryer sheet in a Mylar bag!