Can I hand wash 'dry clean only' wool pants?
February 14, 2005 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I've got several pairs of lightweight wool dress pants from Ann Taylor. They are marked dry clean only. Suppose I hand-wash these pants in cold water and lay them flat on a towel to air-dry. Will the laundry gods punish my impudence?
posted by naomi to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I have the same pants. I'm kind of an oompa-loompa shape and A.T. pants are usually way too long for me. What you've just described above is how I shrink the length, then I get them dry-cleaned to get the crease back in them.

Unless you're as short-legged as I am, I'd just get them drycleaned or Dryell them.
posted by pomegranate at 11:07 AM on February 14, 2005

Try Dryel if you have a dryer.
posted by Doohickie at 11:13 AM on February 14, 2005

I hand wash some of my dry-clean only clothes, but not pants - because of the pressing. I hate ironing and am happy to have the dry cleaner both clean and press them.

I've heard that many of those labels are a CYA thing for the manufacturer; here's the Fed Trade Commission
posted by SashaPT at 11:15 AM on February 14, 2005

Best answer: Do not risk washing them yourself! The nice wool will wrinkle and shrink when washing, even in cold water, even if you lay it flat to dry. Water will mar and change the integrity of the cloth, and take away any nice sheen that the wool has...and then you'll have to send them to the dry cleaners anyway to get all the deep wrinkles out. Unless you don't mind ruining your $100 pants, or are a super amazing ironing god, send them out!
posted by naxosaxur at 11:20 AM on February 14, 2005

I third the dryel suggestion.

That is what my wife does and it seems to work temporarily. Though, they do need their occasional dry cleaners attention.
posted by dios at 11:32 AM on February 14, 2005

Yeah, I concurr: some dry-clean-only stuff you can get away with hand washing, but not slacks. Ruins the way the fabric hangs, the line of the seams, etc.
posted by Specklet at 11:37 AM on February 14, 2005

Best answer: Wool responds poorly to fast things... like changes in temperature, any agitation or rubbing, sudden stretching and twisting.

Washing is easy. Cold water.. you can gradually warm it if you like, NO agitation, only hands-on pressing of the soap and water through the fabric, and thorough rinsing .. again with no agitation. Careful squeezing of the water from the fabric, avoiding rubbing. Laying the fabric flat (no hanging) to dry, then ironing when almost dry.

Ironing is a little tougher. You need to put a towel between the fabric and the iron, adjusting the heat so that the moist wool gently steams into the towel, only pressing down with the iron, never dragging at the fabric.

Use your fingers to press the seams into postion before using the iron. When the ironing is done, let the fabric "rest" flat until completely cool.

:-) Rinse, lather, and repeat.

Dry cleaning is the way to go, unless you're willing to take the time to do it right. The Dryel sheets are ok for "in-between" dry cleaning, but i don't think the human dirt gets completely removed.
posted by reflecked at 11:54 AM on February 14, 2005

Response by poster: Oooh. I am 5'10" so shrinkage would be bad. And I hate ironing. I have three pairs of these pants ($47 each, marked down from a shocking $140!) and they are a perfect comfy fit. Also, like, totally hawt.

I dare not risk ruin so will take the dry-cleaning route. Thanks y'all!
posted by naomi at 11:57 AM on February 14, 2005

This is sort of a side-question, but what in the world did mankind do before the advent of dry-cleaners? Is the fabric we use today that much different than the stuff that came out a hundred years ago? Why are nice clothes always DCO? Is there some kind of collusion between the dry cleaning and garmant industry?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:21 PM on February 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

Ummm... I think we didn't wash wool. I'm guessing Scotsmen and the like smelled an awful lot like sheep that have been sweating a while. Because everyone smelled that way, it was not notable.
posted by Doohickie at 12:36 PM on February 14, 2005

I have tons of AT stuff. Generally, I hand wash or delicate wash anything that says "dry clean" and send out anything that says "dry clean only." The two exceptions to this rule: if the pants are lined, they always always go out. So do dark colored silks - I've ruined a bunch of black and brown sweaters this way.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:47 PM on February 14, 2005

Best answer: This is sort of a side-question, but what in the world did mankind do before the advent of dry-cleaners? Is the fabric we use today that much different than the stuff that came out a hundred years ago?

Here's some info on the history of Dry Cleaning -- I found some other pages as well that repeat this info -- looks like Dry Cleaning dates back to at least the 1840's or so.

Pre-1840, I can tell you that often, if you had a very expensive and high quality garment, it would remain unwashed (in the modern sense of water and soap and agitation) but would instead be brushed and sometimes sprayed and stored with assorted things to make it smell nice. The key was the layers you wore underneath your heavy and high quality garment (your 'linens') that were easy to wash and kept your daily body soil away from the outer garment.

Of course, the techniques in the construction of fabric have changed a great deal in these 200 years or so, as well. My experience with a lot of hand-woven and historic reproduction fabrics is that they are either pre-shrunk or (many of them)are just not as delicate as the modern fabrics are.

This is, of course, a gross oversimplification, but perhaps it will help you understand a little the different view of clothes they had than we had today.
posted by anastasiav at 9:03 PM on February 14, 2005

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