Skip the chemical process and try these gentler, less expensive options.

By Tamara Frankfort
Alessandra Olanow

It’s not your rigorous schedule that’s turning your black suit a dull gray―it might be the dry cleaning.

  • If the label reads “Dry clean” (instead of “Dry clean only”), you can probably hand wash it with a mild soap, such as Woolite. (The Federal Trade Commission requires that a manufacturer specify at least one method of cleaning, so unstated alternatives will often work.) Run a test on a hidden seam first to see how the fabric reacts with the detergent.
  • Silk and rayon garments tend to hold up better when they’re hand washed rather than dry-cleaned. Lay flat to dry, then, when the fabric is slightly damp, use a warm iron on the reverse side.
  • Most cashmere sweaters can be hand washed in cold water with a mild soap; lay flat to dry.
  • To remove odors or slight wrinkles―but not stains―try a dry-cleaning kit like Dryel.