How often do you check the label before you buy new clothes? If you are like most shoppers, probably not very often. You may find yourself with quite a few garments that say “Dry Clean Only,” on the tag, but is that the only way to clean them? Manufacturers are required to list at least one safe method for cleaning on every garment with a sewn-in care label. That means there may be other acceptable methods you can use, but the manufacturer lists the preferred and most conservative method first. Sometimes, the care instructions are for the fabric rather than for its trim, such as sewn-on or glued sequins or beading. The label should also warn against any cleaning method that could harm the garment.

One of the biggest difficulties dry cleaners face is inaccurate or missing care label on clothing. On top of that, there is not an internationally recognized care label system present, so clothing manufactured outside of North America might use a different set of symbols. An important factor to note is that just because an item is expensive does not mean the fabric it is made of is delicate or high quality.

So what is a consumer to do? Consider these tips before buying or cleaning your garments:

Type of Clothing
First, when purchasing unique clothing like designer labels, most outerwear such as ski jackets and pants, blended fabrics or garments with contrasting colours like black and white, read the care label before getting out your credit card.

Spot Clean Only
Many formal gowns and dresses have care labels that say, “Spot Clean Only,” which means that the item cannot safely be fully submerged in any type of water or solvent. It also means there is no sure way to clean the garment thoroughly.

Type of Fabric
Lined clothing like suits, jackets, skirts and pants should be dry cleaned. Wool, taffeta, silk, suede and leather items should be left to the professionals. Same goes for acetate, velvet and many rayon pieces. Garments with metal embellishments, fancy trim or sequins usually require special care as well.

Unknown Garments
Finally, and most importantly, if you are thinking about buying a questionable garment, ask the store if they can provide you with information about cleaning it safely. Ask about their policy on returning items that have cleaning issues and whether they have heard any feedback from other customers. If they can’t provide a satisfying answer, second guess whether you want to risk purchasing an outfit with no cleaning guarantee.

While some garments that say “Dry Clean Only” can be washed regularly, don’t risk ruining them and send them to a professional instead. At VIP Dry Cleaners, we can examine your clothes and make expert recommendations on how best to clean them. Call us today or stop by with your garments.