Have you ever wondered why certain garment care labels list the rigid one-liner “Dry Clean Only”? What gives with the lack of options? Do you really need to go to the trouble of hauling your formal finery all the way to the dry cleaners? The answer is, well, yes and no.

First, the yes part: yes, unfortunately, dry-clean-only labels aren’t messing around. They literally mean what they say, and failure to cooperate with them is bad news for your best gear.

The no part? No, (thankfully) you don’t need to haul anything anywhere because ZIPS makes dry cleaning pickup and delivery available on demand.

Dry cleaning is like a spa day for your formal items. They work hard making you look your best, and sometimes they need a little reset down at the cleaners so they can keep looking (and smelling) top-notch.

How often should you dry clean a suit? What about silk items or formal dresses? In the following guide, we’ll tackle everything you need to know about how to care for your dry-clean-only items (the good news is, it’s not much work). With proper care and attention, your best attire will still look like new long after it goes out of style.

But first, what is dry cleaning anyway?

Dry Cleaning Isn’t Dry

If you’re raising an eyebrow, we don’t blame you. So how can dry cleaning clean your clothes without getting them wet?

Spoiler alert: it can’t. Dry cleaning is actually a process that involves water-free liquid solvents, so while the process doesn’t include water, it isn’t exactly dry either.

But why does it exist? Because high-quality fabrics and garments are never the same if cleaned with water. What does at-home washing do to your formal duds?

See below:

  • Silk loses its shine and shape.
  • Wool shrinks to an unwearable size.
  • Velvet suffers pile damage and can lose its shape and color.
  • Linen loses its crisp look and becomes rough to the touch.
  • Rayon shrinks and its dyes may bleed.

Dry-cleaning is gentle on your clothes, so they still look new long after your regular machine-washed clothes are faded and threadbare. It’s also critical to preserve delicate garments easily damaged by traditional washing, like beaded gowns or anything with intricate decorative stitching.

How does dry cleaning work? The process has four main steps:

  1. Pre-treatment: spots or stains get a gentle pre-treatment with a dry cleaning solvent.
  2. Washing and Drying: your clothes go into a tumbler with the liquid dry-cleaning solvent. The solvent is evaporated and filtered as the clothes tumble dry during the drying cycle in the same machine in which the clothes are cleaned.
  3. Finishing: your clothes get pressed for a crisp and polished look.

Now that we know a bit about the dry cleaning process, let’s talk about how often you should take your dry-clean-only items for a spin to the cleaners.

suits and other wear after being dry cleaned

Dry Cleaning Details: How Often Should You Dry Clean?

Just like anything else in life, some garments will need more care and attention than others. Here’s a handy dry cleaning cheat sheet that covers how often suits should be dry cleaned and all about dry cleaning your other finest threads. Use this as a general guide, and feel free to adjust according to your needs.

Business Suits

How often should you dry clean a suit? It depends on how you wear them. For most people, every three to four wears is ideal. Why not after every wear? Because suits rarely come into contact with your skin so they avoid oil and sweat longer than other clothing items. When your expensive suit needs cleaning, there’s no need to stress about cleaning wear and tear – dry cleaning a suit will extend its life by preserving its shape, color, and feel.

Formal Suits

While it’s true that tuxedos don’t see the same kind of wear and tear as, say, a pair of jeans, they still need to be cleaned regularly. Experts recommend dry cleaning your formal suit once a season or after each wear to keep it looking sharp and prevent any lingering odors or wrinkles from settling in.

Formal Dresses

Like their suit counterparts, formal dresses should be dry cleaned after each wear or once a season. Formal dresses often feature delicate fabrics like silk or satin held together by intricate stitching or featuring fragile bead or sequin work. The dry cleaning process is gentle enough to clean such dresses with zero damage and keeps your finery looking as good as new.

Blouses, Skirts and Slacks

According to most experts, the above items should be dry cleaned every three to four wears or as needed. The exception is silk blouses which should be dry cleaned after each wear. Dry cleaning is especially important for shirts (even shirts you could technically wash at home) and blouses because it helps preserve the garment’s shape and prevents shrinking and wear over time.

How to Care for Your Fine Garments Between Cleanings

To keep your dry clean only garments looking their absolute best between professional cleanings, give them a little love and support.

Here are a few tips:

  • Be sure to hang your garments in a well-ventilated closet away from direct sunlight or heat sources as soon as you get home from an event to prevent any wrinkles or stains from setting in. If possible, use a garment bag to protect them from dust, dirt, and other damaging elements in between wears.
  • Invest in some quality hangers. They’ll keep your clothes looking sharp by preventing stretching and damage. Wood or plastic hangers molded to support the shoulders of your items are especially important for long-term storage.
  • If a garment becomes wrinkled but is still clean, use a hand steamer on the lowest setting or try hanging the garment nearby while taking a hot shower to relax the fibers.
  • Never put dry-clean only clothes in the dryer!
  • If you want even more helpful garment care tips, check out ZIPS Tips.

How often should you dry clean your best attire depends on the type of garment and how often you wear it. But as a general rule, most dry-clean-only items should visit the cleaner every three to four wears, and proper care of your garments in between professional cleanings is just as important as dry cleaning itself.

So go forth and enjoy your fine threads without worry, and don’t forget, if you want hassle-free dry cleaning at the best possible price, look no further than your local ZIPS!