To dry clean or not to dry clean...
March 26, 2011 9:19 AM   Subscribe

MeFites, I need you to lay some dry cleaning knowledge on me. Do I need to take my suit skirt to the dry cleaner's if a small amount of beer was spilled on it while out with colleagues yesterday? Please help a laundry-vs.-dry-cleaning rule challenged gal figure it all out.

Searched previous questions, but did not find one specific to my needs - please direct me elsewhere if relevant!

Specific stain question: A small amount of beer was spilled on the skirt of my suit yesterday. I blotted it up right away and cannot detect any beer smell today, but I'm mildly worried the fabric might be damaged in some way. Is this warranted? The fabric is (shell) 50% polyester, 47% rayon, 3% spandex, with a 100% polyester lining. I know I can't launder it in my top-loading machine and the tag says "dry clean only" - is there something I can do at home to ensure it's clean, or is this actually a job for the dry cleaner? I know you are not supposed to dry clean suits frequently, but the next time I would wear it would probably be a year from now. I love the suit that the skirt is a part of and want to care for it correctly, but am new to "dry clean only".

If I do take it to the dry cleaner, do I take the jacket also, even if it wasn't stained? I am terrible at ironing and would want them to look evenly up to snuff.

If applicable, any other dry cleaning tips/advice would be super helpful to this young professional, for example, what are things I should look out for when choosing a dry cleaner for use on an infrequent basis (I don't know anyone local to me who uses one)? How long does it take (how many days on average)? How much should I expect to pay (general range)? Thanks!
posted by shortskirtlongjacket to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total)
Best answer: ... the next time I would wear it would probably be a year from now.

All the better reason to clean it -- both parts of the suit, together -- now.

I wash a lot of sweaters or tops that say "dry clean" in the machine on the delicate cycle. I would never wash something that says "dry clean only" -- and I am not one to conform to rules.

You spilled something containing sugar -- yummy for pests. Moreover, stains you can't see now have a nasty way of appearing when you take an item out of the closet a few months later.

You could try Dryel, but if you love it, take care of it.
posted by jgirl at 9:27 AM on March 26, 2011

Best answer: The only thing I can say is that I would wash the jacket with the skirt so they wear evenly; I mean that the color fades equally in both and they keep matching.

In my experience, the dry clean only label is a way for manufacturers to cover their butts in a lot of cases, but at the same time, if it's a piece that really mattered to me, I wouldn't risk even hand washing it.

However you plan to wash it, though, if you're not going to wear it for a year, I would definitely launder it before putting it away that long. Stains have a way of showing up, and would be much harder to get out after that long a stretch.
posted by lemniskate at 9:30 AM on March 26, 2011

Best answer: I am a big supporter of ignoring labels. I have a ton of dry clean only clothes that I wash on cold/delicate and air dry. So far I haven't had a single problem.

Now, that said, I can't say I'd do the same for a suit. At least not a suit that I loved and probably paid a lot for. Because of a very generous friend-of-a-friend who had to move, I recently came into a lot of "new" clothing, including a suit. The suit had a fairly large purple stain on one of the pant cuffs, it looked like paint or marker, and I had no idea if it would come out at the dry cleaner's or not. Not wanting to fork over some cash for something that might not even work, I just went ahead and washed it in my machine. It came out fine, though a little bedraggled looking (which was helped with some hand reshaping).

Since you love your suit, I recommend that you take it to get it professionally cleaned.
posted by phunniemee at 9:36 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Take both pieces to the dry cleaner as soon as feasible. Even the tiniest remnants of beer are enough to attract bugs if you store it without a thorough cleaning. If it were a sweater, I'f say take a chance on hand washing. But with a suit, it's not just the material that's not intended to be soaked in water, but also the tailoring (lining, any shoulder pads, etc) and this stuff may well be messed up beyond repair if you wash it.
posted by philokalia at 9:48 AM on March 26, 2011

Best answer: Unless things are dramatically different in your area than in mine, dry cleaning can cost as little as a few dollars per item (like, $2 - $3 per item) and can be returned to you same-day or next-day. I like to ask them what day they change the dry cleaning fluid in their machines (it's not necessarily daily), and then take my items on that day.
posted by Houstonian at 9:52 AM on March 26, 2011

Best answer: On choosing a dry cleaner: check or similar for local reviews, and then pay attention to you clothes when you get them back (usually 2-3 days, though most places will do same day or next day with no extra charge if you ask them). If your clothes come back clean, not smelling of solvent, and properly pressed, then you've found a good place. Price for a suit is probably between $10 and $15. Good luck!
posted by philokalia at 9:55 AM on March 26, 2011

The stain is on the skirt, not the jacket, which means that it's much simpler to clean/re-shape/dry. Moreover, it's not as if we're dealing with a wool suit here; polyester is pretty tough (admittedly, the rayon complicates things, but I never have a problem laundering synthetics). If I were you I would invest in some Woolite and lightly hand wash the skirt in cold water, being careful to roll it up in a towel to remove excess water without wringing. I would then lay it flat to dry and iron it conscientiously.

Mind you, I am the sort of person who has to be dragged kicking and screaming to the dry cleaner. Ignoring manufacturers' labels is something of a sport for me, partly out of spite and partly out of my desire to avoid having my clothes soaked in chemicals. Call me crazy.
posted by oohisay at 10:31 AM on March 26, 2011

Best answer: I worked at a drycleaner for years, and have sold vintage clothing for two decades.

Beer is a tannin stain. Think of how you cut open and apple, and it turns brown. Or that mystery writing with lemon juice that appears when held over a candle. That's the tannin, oxidizing.

Beer may dry clear, but over time it will turn brown. Though you may spot clean it, actions such as keeping it in plastic dry cleaning bag will cause a photochemical reaction; or acids in household dust will affect it; or a variety of other things will cause that brown colour to appear later on if it's not specially treated now. It may look fine, even if you sponge it with something - but it may turn brown the next time it's cleaned when it's heated in the steaming/pressing process, even just in a water ring shape (if you do not get it all). The wrong cleaning products can set it in, too.

Take both pieces to the drycleaner, and make sure you point out the stain specifically. Put a pin or a post-it note on it. You want to clean both pieces at the same time in case the dyes are affected in the process, and so the amount of wear is the same. Also because you may have other things on the jacket that need to be cleaned that will discolour over time, like the oils at the back of the neck or if you sprayed perfume around your clothing before going out. I've even seen handprints on clothing appear over time, from people who wore hand lotion and put their hands on the small of someone's back.

Dry-cleaning is no fun, but it's not worth ruining a suit when it's as easy a fix as that. Good luck!
posted by peagood at 11:54 AM on March 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks everyone - this is exactly what I was looking for. To the cleaners it goes!
posted by shortskirtlongjacket at 3:46 PM on March 26, 2011

« Older What is the name of the industry / sector that...   |   Is there an introverts chapter in this convention? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.