Alternatives to Dry Cleaning

Find out How to clean your ‘dry-clean only’ clothes at home, what are the best green alternatives to dry cleaning, and why dry cleaning is bad for the planet?

Alternatives to Dry Cleaning.png
Hamish Lister

Business & Insights

When it comes to cleaning your clothes, most of the laundry basket will be chucked into the washing machine without a second thought. But there are those chosen pieces of clothing that can only be dry cleaned. You know the ones, that delicate suede jacket, your favourite denim jeans, and definitely the silk dress.

We’re sorry to break the news to you, but dry cleaning isn’t actually ‘dry’. Water isn’t used, but the process requires a variety of liquid solvents and chemicals to effectively clean the fine fabrics.

These chemicals are actually quite harmful to the environment and can even be damaging to you and your clothes. With the global climate crisis raging on and people coming to terms with the fact that dry cleaning might not be as innocent as it seemed, carbon neutral, or sustainable alternatives are now taking precedence.

“But my precious clothes! It says ‘dry clean only’ on the label! Whatever will I do?” We hear you say. Don’t worry, there’s no need to fret. The effective sustainable cleaning alternatives are effective and plentiful. Methods that will gently clean your clothes and treat them with the care and respect they deserve without damage to the environment. You can even effectively do dry cleaning at home!

‍What is traditional dry cleaning and why is it so harmful to the environment?

No water is used in the dry cleaning process, instead, your clothes are soaked in and treated with a variety of chemicals. While hazardous chemicals from traditional dry cleaning have been banned, including gasoline, kerosene, and turpentine, they have been replaced by chemicals that are just as harsh. The main culprits are Perchloroethylene (Also known as PERC or PCE) and hydrocarbons.

These detergents are created from petroleum, which is not kind to the environment and contributes to rising air and water pollution levels. Moreover, PCE has been identified as causing worrying health issues, including dizziness, headaches, nausea, skin irritability, respiratory failure, and even cancer.

If you were trying to do dry cleaning at home, you could not safely use these chemicals.

What happens if you wash a ‘dry-clean only’ item in the normal laundry?

Now we know what you’re thinking, and before we look at the many sustainable cleaning alternatives, we’ll answer the question you’re all asking: Can I do dry cleaning at home with my normal laundry?

No. While your garments might be able to handle a delicate cycle, this could prove to be a costly mistake. Here are some of the issues you could face if you try to do dry cleaning at home in your washing machine:

  • It could shrink or stretch out of shape

  • Tears in the fabric or lining may occur

  • Colours could fade

  • The fabric texture could be affected

  • We recommend reading up on the various sustainable cleaning alternatives below before risking an item.

However, it is possible to do dry cleaning at home, to an extent, by using wash bags with your washing machine.

Sustainable dry cleaning alternatives

1. Hand Washing

Hand washing is always a handy option in a pinch when our favourite item of clothing dodges the weekly wash. While this option might not always be suitable for delicate fabrics, many items can be washed using a delicate detergent.

Most common dry-cleaning fabrics can be hand-washed, including lace, silk, wool, denim, and many other delicate fabrics:

  1. Fill up a small washing basin with water and your chosen detergent and gently press the water through the fabric. Do not wring the water out! 

  2. Rinse the same way by pressing the water out before drying with a clean towel and hanging. Larger, heavier items such as wool jumpers should dry on a flat surface as opposed to hanging as this can stretch it out.

Hand washing preserves your favourite clothes by protecting the fine fibres and stitching. In a washing machine, the delicate fabrics could snag on the drum and agitate the fabric or detailing. Similarly, using water that is too hot or a cycle that’s too aggressive can also be detrimental.

Dry cleaning at home saves both your money, and the discharge of PERC and other detergents into our waterways.

2. Professional wet cleaning

Another sustainable dry cleaning alternative is wet cleaning. Wet-cleaning only uses water and biodegradable detergents instead of harsh, damaging solvents. It is comparable to professional laundering, and an easy transition from traditional dry-cleaning. If you don’t have time to do dry cleaning at home, opting for sustainable professionals is your best option.

At Oxwash, our machines have been adapted to achieve fourth-generation wet cleaning capability. This means that the equipment we use is able to process both wet and dry-clean-only items as well as standard laundry. Yes, all your delicate clothing and fabrics are completely safe to be wet cleaned!

Our high-tech machines select the most appropriate cycles and washing conditions for the specific materials and treatment required. This results in increased efficiency and quality! You also get items back cleaner, faster and with significantly less impact on the environment.

Benefits of wet cleaning:

  • A superior natural way of cleaning fabrics

  • No harsh or polluting chemicals - just water and mild biodegradable detergents

  • Leaves a fresh natural scent instead of a chemical odour

  • Removes organic stains better than dry cleaning

  • Turn around time is half that of dry cleaning

  • There are minimal epidermal issues and the process is hypoallergenic and more suitable for sensitive skin.

3. Wash bags

If you don’t have the time or the patience to spend your weekend hand washing your delicates, wash bags could prove a welcome alternative. Also called dryer bags, they aren’t known for stain removal but they are good at odour removal and general cleaning while keeping your delicate items safe inside a regular household washing machine. 

The wash bag comes complete with a sheet and cleaning solution that work to remove light stains. Pop a cap full of gentle detergent into the bag along with your clothes and watch the magic happen. This allows you to do your dry cleaning at home without having to spend time drying and washing yourself.

If you’re looking for a high-quality alternative to dry cleaning, there’s simply no better wet cleaning service in the UK than Oxwash.

Find out more about our industry-leading wet and dry cleaning services here.

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