Breaking Up With Your Dry Cleaner

You don’t have time to drop it off, so your dry cleaning pile grows. When you finally remember to pick it up, the doors are locked. You cringe at the high costs. You don’t like the smell. The stains you forgot to point out are still there. They can’t find your favorite shirt. It is terrible for the environment.

Most of us have our dry cleaning complaints. But taking care of expensive garments seems like such a daunting and time consuming task for someone who wants to break up with her cleaners. Not so, if you follow these easy steps.

Clean Less by Keeping Clean: There is always some degree of risk and cost involved in cleaning clothes so why not keep them from getting dirty in the first place? One option is to wear an undershirt, but that is impractical for some outfits. For those times, Garment Guard disposable underarm shields (, 5 pairs $10.95) come in beige or black and just adhere to the armpit area of the garment to protect from sweat stains. They can remain in blazers for a few wearings, and they save whites from yellow pit stains. The same company, Solutions That Stick, also offers White Collar Grime (10 feet for $9.95) to place in collars and cuffs to keep ring-around-the-collar at bay.

Keep in mind that wool does not like to be cleaned. The more it is cleaned, the faster it deteriorates. So try and keep wool garments clean and simply spot treat them when necessary. Try hanging woolens outside or in a well-ventilated area to keep them smelling fresh.

Hand or Delicate Wash: According to apparel manufacturing guidelines, manufacturers only have to list one method of cleaning clothes. For ease, many put “dry clean only,” even though there are other, and sometimes better, options. For example, it is better to wash cashmere than to dry clean it because the chemicals break down the natural fibers. Use a mild detergent like Eucalan’s no-rinse delicate wash (, 500ml $11), which also saves water and time, in the sink or in the machine. When done, either hang dry your garments or lay them flat if the garment will stretch out while hanging wet. If there is any pilling, you can pick it off or use a hand-held electric fabric shaver.

Dryer Cleaning Kits: Several easy and inexpensive options are available for at-home garment cleaning (, Dryel starter kit $10.99). They clean garments using steam generated in your dryer, and could not be easier. Just place a few garments in the provided, reusable bag and toss in your dryer for about 30 minutes. Most garments, if removed and hung promptly, stay wrinkle-free and smell great.

Launder Instead of Dry Clean: For those people who are human hazards with the iron, it often makes health and economic sense to have nice cotton shirts professionally laundered and pressed. This is normally a less expensive alternative to dry cleaning, and better for your cotton shirts due to the natural fiber damaging chemicals in dry cleaning fluids. Many companies are also selling no-wrinkle shirts that you can launder yourself and can skip the ironing. (, $79.50 men $89.50 women)

Last Resort: If you do have delicate garments with a special finish, your lined suits, or other items you must dry clean, you might want to use The Clothesnik (, $30) for garment transportation, but the cleaner has to want to cooperate to do something good for the environment. Just place your dirty pieces in the drawstring bag (I turn mine inside out) and drop off the entire bag at the cleaners. The cleaner can turn The Clothesnik over and use the other side as a hanging garment bag to return your cleaned garments, saving the world from all that icky plastic. If you choose to use it for shenanigans, there is a line on the bag for your super cool laundry pseudonym: I use Dirty Diana.