How often do you check the care label before you buy a new garment? If it says Dry Clean Only, is that the only way to clean it? The Federal Trade Commission requires that every garment purchased have a sewn-in care label that supplies at least one safe method for cleaning. There may be other acceptable methods that can be used, but the manufacturer lists the preferred and most conservative method first. Sometimes instructions for care are for the fabric rather than for trim, such as sewn-on or even glued beading or sequins. The label should also warn against any cleaning process that might harm the garment.
One of the biggest frustrations dry cleaners face is an inaccurate or missing care label on clothing. On top of that, there isn’t an internationally recognized care label system at the present time, so clothing manufactured outside North America might use different symbols. An important fact to note is just because an item is expensive doesn’t translate into an equivalent level of quality or serviceability.
So what’s a consumer to do?
- First, when buying unique clothing, such as designer labels, most outerwear, ski outfits, blended fabrics and garments with contrasting colors…(think black and white), definitely check out the care label BEFORE getting out the credit card.
- Many formal gowns and dresses have care labels that say, “Spot Clean Only”, this means that the item cannot safely be submerged in any type of solvent or water and there is no safe way to completely clean the garment.
- Lined clothing like jackets, suits, skirts and pants should absolutely be dry cleaned. Taffeta, wool, silk, leather and suede items should be left to the pros. Same goes for velvet, acetate and many rayon items. Garments with metal embellishments, fancy sequins or trim, usually require special care as well.
- Finally and most important, if you’re considering buying a questionable garment, ask the store if they can provide information about cleaning. What is their policy on returning items that have cleaning issues? Have they heard any feedback from other customers? If they can’t provide a satisfactory answer, put your credit card back in your wallet and move along!
Yes, some garments can be washed that say Dry Clean Only, but if you don’t want to risk ruining it, send it to a professional.