Despite its name, dry cleaning is not a ‘dry’ process. Different from the regular wet cleaning process, dry cleaning is a process that uses chemical solvents other than water. It is used to clean fabrics that cannot withstand the tumble of washing machines and clothes dryer.
Garment labels are sewn into the inside of the fabric to let the consumer know of any special instructions regarding the care and cleaning of the item. Ignoring such instructions causes damage to the clothes and textiles. So, what happens when you accidentally wet clean a garment that has been specified to be dry clean only?
Wet cleaning causes significant damage to dry-clean-only garments and even drapes. Wet cleaning can either shrink, stretch or tear the fabric that needs dry clean only.
Some garments will shrink 2-3 sizes or more; drapes can shrink to half their size. Some of your garment might stretch out of shape. Imagine your sweater sleeves hanging to the ground! The fabric or lining of your garment and curtains/carpets could tear due to the harsh turbulent machines used in a wet cleaning process.
Fabrics like suede, velvet, wool, silk, etc. are delicate and need a gentle cleaning process. Wet cleaning such garments can destroy them permanently. The garment will eventually look saggy and wrinkled. Some clothes and textiles have beading, sequins, laces, and embroidery work. These fabrics are specifically dry-clean-only, as wet cleaning them will ruin the material and the work done on them.
Many dry clean only fabrics are not colorfast. For instance, although many silks today are washable, the dye bleeds easily and could ruin your garment. Wet cleaning a dry-clean-only fabric can plunder the true color of the textile and cause the color to fade.
Pilling is a fabric surface defect caused by wear and continuously cleaning them in machines. Wet cleaning some woolen garments may cause such fabric pillings. If pilling has already occurred, a professional cleaner knows how to safely remove the fuzz balls.
Some damaged clothing or garments can only retrieve to their original shape, size or texture with some really unique dry cleaners and dry cleaning techniques. There are new methods of dry cleaning that use environmentally friendly solvents, which helps garments last longer. If you are in doubt and wish to minimize the risk of damage, take your garment to a professional dry cleaner who can recommend the best cleaning methods for cleaning it.