Learning how to dry clean at home can save you a lot of money and time. What’s more, some fabrics, like cashmere, actually benefit from not being sent to the dry cleaner’s, as the cleaning process breaks the fibers and makes them less soft.
Wool, cashmere, silk, and rayon can benefit from being hand washed instead of taken to the cleaner’s. First spot treat any stains and then fill a sink with cool water and a mild soap. Heat and agitation contribute to shrinking (especially in the case of rayon), so be sure to work the fabric as little as possible. Rinse well. Do not twist or wring out the garment. For wools, blot dry with a clean towel, preferably white so that no dye will transfer. Gently reshape garment and dry flat somewhere out of direct sunlight. Hang silks and rayon to dry.
Most washing machines have a “hand wash” or “delicate” setting that may work for wools, but are not advisable for use with rayons and silks. Other washing machines have a “steam” setting that will clean many garments. Depending on how much dry cleaning you have, you might consider purchasing a home steaming machine.
Several inexpensive home dry cleaning kits are available in supermarkets. Generally, garments are spot cleaned and then placed in the dryer for a short period of time. Always test the color-fastness of a garment first, especially if it’s being cleaned with other items.
Leather can be lightly surface cleaned, but anything major should be done professionally. Fur, velvet, and suede are also not suitable for home cleaning. Heavy or structured garments, like winter coats and blazers, can be steamed to remove wrinkles and freshen, but are best sent out for more significant cleaning. Also, it’s probably best not to home dry clean anything you’d be absolutely heart-broken should it be damaged (in other words, leave your wedding dress to the professionals).