According to a report that appeared in February 2017 on CBS’ “The Early Show“, Americans spent over $7 billion on dry cleaning in 2016. However, the money is only the tip of the iceberg. Clothes that are brought to the dry cleaners are washed in a solvent, perchloroethylene, or PERC as it is commonly called, which is not only an environmental pollutant, but has also been named by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a possible-to-probable human carcinogen. And you don’t have to work in a dry cleaners to be exposed to the risk. Storing clothes that have been dry cleaned in their original plastic can make you vulnerable. This chemical is so potent that experts believe you are at risk just by wearing clothes that have been dry cleaned.
There are alternatives. You can stop buying clothes that need to be dry cleaned or you can try dry cleaning your clothes at home with one of the DIY kits that are on the market. If you decide to go the DIY route, will you be wasting your money?
Steve Boorstein, known as “The Clothing Doctor”, is a former dry cleaner “to the stars” and a stain removal expert. He’s written four books on clothing care and has written and produced a DVD on caring for clothing called Clothing Care: The Clothing Doctor’s Secrets to Taking Control! He agreed to be interviewed to discuss how effective home dry cleaning really is.
Steve said that even though there are different brands, generally, home dry cleaning kits contain a bag in which to deposit the sweater, blouse, etc., along with a stain-removal sheet. There is also a stain pre-treater that can be used as instructed. The bag is placed in the dryer to use the machine’s heat to steam the items and remove the stains.
The kits are supposed to deodorize and remove stains and wrinkles. However, the types of stains that can be removed are limited. Ketchup, soda, coffee, wine, milk, chocolate, and other water-based stains can be improved or removed; but oil-based stains, most inks, and heavily embedded stains do not come out. Furthermore, if a stain is not removed, you do run the chance of “setting” the stain from the heat and steam.
Steve went on to explain, ”Dryel, for instance, can deodorize and freshen worn clothing — treating the overall garment — along with particular spots. If the garment is soiled throughout with mud or grass or perspiration, or with a large spill, then the removal will be limited and will need conventional washing or dry cleaning. Personally, I do not like the scent at all. Dryel is the most well known and the only one I’ve tested personally.”
He also cautions that you should assess silk, wool, and other non-washables before automatically using the home care kits. If the garment is valuable, special, fragile, or badly stained, then you should find a professional dry cleaner instead of ruining a garment to save a few bucks.
The bottom line, according to Steve, is that home dry cleaning kits are for interim care. They aren’t to be thought of as substitutes for washing and dry cleaning. They don’t really clean the whole garment, so don’t be fooled into thinking that these kits can do it all. Eventually, all clothing needs to be immersed in soap and water or dry cleaning solution.