You don't always have to trek to the neighborhood dry cleaners to clean a garment. There are several ways to dry clean at home either with a complete dry cleaning kit or without a kit making use of chemical stain removers and heat for spot cleaning. You'll find several home dry cleaning kit brands available on store shelves and online. All you need is a tumble dryer. A starter home dry cleaner kit includes everything you need to begin cleaning items. After you have purchased the starter kit, refills of the cleaning cloths are available as well as additional stain remover pens.
Do Home Dry Cleaning Kits Work?
Dry clean kits are especially effective at making your clothes smell fresh again. As for stains, it depends on the type of stain you're trying to remove. The kits are safe and reliable for freshening clothing and removing most water-based and light stains. Home kits don’t work as well as a professional cleaner on heavier grime and stains and they do not provide a well-pressed, crisp final product, such as you'd probably prefer to have with a suit or dress shirt.
Less expensive than professional dry cleaning; DIY cleaning can cost as little as 50 cents per garment
Convenient to use, taking only 30 minutes or so for each cycle
Freshens clothing between wearings and helps to remove smoke and body odors
Safe for most fabrics
Works especially well for knit garments like sweaters and afghans
Does not work well to remove heavy grime or grease-based stains
Potential for overly perfumed clothes
Does not give a freshly pressed look for tailored garments such as suit coats and trousers
Dry cleaning solutions can produce extremely dangerous fumes
At-home kits might not always "clean" a garment and only neutralize odors
How to Use Home Dry Cleaning Kits
When you get your starter home dry clean kit home, it usually includes:
- Stain removal solution
- Absorbent pads for stain removal
- Heat-activated moist dry cleaning towelettes
- Reusable cleaning bag for the dryer
- Instruction booklet
The instruction booklet is perhaps the most important item–read it! It’s all very simple and if you follow the manufacturer’s directions you’ll have much better results. Begin by spot-treating stains using the included stain remover and absorbent pads to prevent the transfer of the stain to other areas of the garment. Some stains, such as curry, won't come out with the stain remover. Place the garments into the resealable dryer bag with one of the moist towelettes pretreated with the dry cleaning solution. Then set the dryer on medium to high heat for 30 minutes.
- If you run out of or misplace the absorbent pads used for spot treating, use white paper towels.
- Button and zip garments before cleaning to help them hold their shape.
- Group similar fabric weights and colors together in the dryer bag; don’t mix heavy woolen sweaters with lightweight blouses.
- Clean out the lint filter of the dryer before beginning the cleaning cycle to prevent overheating.
- To keep everything from being overly wrinkled, do not overstuff the cleaning bag–the clothes need room to move.
- Immediately hang or lay the garments flat when you remove them from the cleaning bag. They will be damp and need time to dry.
- Do not use on heavily beaded or sequined garments. The heat can damage the decorations.
- NEVER use on suede or any other leather garments.
- Read the instructions to see if you can use kits with curtains and drapes, though it may be at your own risk, and never use a home dry clean kit with velvet or rayon fabrics. Always check the kit you are using to see if it allows you to use it with silk fabrics (some may not).
- You might also be able to refresh a stuffed animal using a dry clean kit, but it's best to use a kit with the provided cleaning bag so the toy stays protected.
If you run out of the included stain remover, you can purchase professional strength dry cleaning fluid. Follow the instructions carefully as these products can produce hazardous fumes. Use with extreme caution and care.
Home dry cleaning kits cost less than $15 for a starter kit that will clean 16 to 24 items, depending on the brand purchased and the size and weight of the clothing needing cleaning. The convenience is exceptional and they are less harmful to the environment than professional dry cleaning due to a less caustic cleaning solution, less time on the road to pick up and deliver clothes, no protective plastic bags, and no extra wire hangers.
Final recommendation: Use them often for most of your knits and softly-tailored dry cleaning needs. Send your expensive fabrics and items along with crisply-tailored garments to a professional.