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Cleaners in some areas of the country have seen their business shrink by 15 to 20 percent as consumers cut back on dry cleaning and professional laundering, according to the National Cleaners Association. If you want to save yourself some money, consider eliminating some of your own laundry expenses.
Dry cleaning isn't the only way to safely clean garments labeled dry clean only, and other methods might even do a better job. But it can be tricky to figure out when to dry clean and when to hand- or machine-wash. And if you don't follow the care instructions on your clothes, you have no recourse with the manufacturer if a problem arises.
A general rule of thumb: Dry clean jackets and other structured garments that have a lining and interfacing, no matter the fabric. Also consider this advice from our experts:
Cashmere. Hand-wash cashmere and camel-hair sweaters in cold water with a fine washable soap, according to the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute. But dry clean suits and other woven garments made of cashmere or camel hair.
Linen. Follow label instructions. Machine-wash washable white linens in warm water, and use cool water for colors. Don't use chlorine bleach, since it yellows linen.
Silk. Dry clean brick reds, navy blues, deep browns, and other intensely colored prints and weaves with a pattern or design. Hand-wash simple solid color silks in cool water.
Sweaters. You can hand-wash many sweaters in cold water and then lay them out flat to dry. After a mohair sweater has dried, fluff it up by tossing it in the dryer for a brief, no-heat tumble. It’s okay to machine-wash and machine-dry most cotton sweaters, but dry clean angora.