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

By Tamara Frankfort

If the effort of hand washing or the expense of dry cleaning keeps the article on the hanger, face facts and sub in something less fussy. (This tip does not apply to formal wear.)

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.