What to Dry Clean and When

What to Dry Clean

These five steps will help you decipher what and when to dry clean.

Dry cleaning is a bit like being in international waters: there are no real rules … apart from what the label on your sweater reads.

And yet, every mature, stylish man should have a dry cleaning schedule, based primarily on personal style, overall hygiene, and environment. So if you don’t already have a trusted neighborhood dry cleaner (which should be an essential stop on your weekly to-do), clean up your act, you filthy animal, and figure out what to dry clean (and when) like a grown-ass man.

1. Find a dependable dry cleaner: This may prove to be the most difficult step in the process, but do not underestimate its power. The master dry cleaner at The Cleaners (located in southeast Denver and packing a five-star rating on Yelp), who goes only by Harry C., recommends asking your prospective cleaners about their cleaning methods.

What to Dry Clean

If the word perchloroethylene (or “perc”) is in the explanation, ditch the shop and go elsewhere. This harsh chemical has the ghastly global footprint of polluting airways, damaging plants and animals, and can even cause liver damage and respiratory failure with long-term exposure. “Everyone is trying to go organic now, moving to green solvents and trying to get rid of perc,” say Harry. We also recommend picking a dry cleaner that does their work in-house, adding a level of insurance protection against having your grandfather’s vintage wool jacket go missing.

2. Take a good, hard look in the mirror: The next step is analyzing your hygiene … honestly. If you’re prone to sweating more, you’ll be taking more trips to the dry cleaner to ensure the pits and necks of your nice shirts don’t stain. Men especially produce sweat around their necks, which is why your laundered shirts should be worn only one to two times at max before being taken in for another cleaning. Otherwise, sweat will seep into the actual fabric and discolor the garment.

Another factor to think about is the joints you frequent after work. Is there smoke in the bar? Does beer always get on your sleeve? Is it extra humid? If you nodded yes to one of the above, you’ll need to take your sweaters or jackets to the cleaner every four to five wears as opposed to the regular six or seven. But the trump card when asking “should I take it to the cleaner’ should be smell.” Don’t question. Smell.

3. Clean to your style: Do you opt for a grungy, worn-in look or a crisp and vibrant aesthetic? This will impact your dry cleaning schedule as the more you clean, the cleaner you look. The way in which you care for your clothes also takes a role, as throwing your suit over a chair, leaning against a table all night talking to a prospective date, or hanging up your tie after a day at the office all impacts wrinkle. One rule of thumb on smaller items like ties, which don’t need to be dry cleaned on the regular thanks to their size, is to always hang them up after use. Caring for your clothes can save cleaning costs big time.

4. Know your stains: Harry C. made us promise that if our clothes come into contact with alcohol, we’ll rush to the dry cleaners the first chance we get. “Anything that has sugar in it is going to be a killer,” he says. “Sugar likes to oxidize so the longer the stain sits the worse it gets. Think of biting into an apple and it turning brown … that’s oxidation.” Hot air, steam, and chemicals used to dry clean allow the fabric to loosen the stain.

The other danger stain is ink. Stains from foods like ketchup and mustard need attention, but are only a code orange as these are oil stains. “They’re cake to clean,” Harry assures us.

5. Rayon, silk, wool, and unstable dyes = dry clean: The majority of your clothes, about 80 percent according to Harry, will say “do not dry clean.” Most fabric combinations are going to machine wash, so your average person can clean without hassle. But you can be sure that if the fabric is rayon, silk, wool, or made with unstable dyes that could bleed (i.e. certain reds, blues, or greens), then you need to take it to the cleaner.

If you’re having trouble making your unique what-and-when-to-dry-clean profile, follow these average time periods:

  • Laundered shirts: Dry clean after 1-2 uses.
  • Wool sweaters: Dry clean 5-7 uses depending on smell and environment worn.
  • Ties: Dry clean once a month.
  • Comforters/duvets/beadspreads: Dry clean once every two months. If you’re prone to night sweats, bump it up to once a month.
  • Outdoor coats: Dry clean at least twice per season (once at the beginning and once near the end).
  • Suits : Dry clean after 3-4 wears.
  • Khakis: Dry clean after 3-4 wears, if you like the look of crisp lines. Otherwise, skip the cleaner and wash with the rest of your clothes.