Can I Spot Clean A Dry Clean Only Item?

Question;  I have a dress that is 100% cotton lining and 100% cotton shell. It says dry clean only but I really only would need to spot clean the armpit area. What type of product would work best, on this dress and other dry-clean only outfits to do spot cleaning?

Answer;  I don’t recommend spot cleaning. It creates a lot of current and future problem to only spot an area without cleaning it. What you are doing is putting a product on an area and that product will most likely cause a ring, either chemical or water based depending on what you use. You will spend a lot of time and energy and create a lot of frustration trying to rid that ring. Beyond that the chances are you will not and can not flush all of the product out of the area you are spotting. Some time in the future say six months or a year from now that area will discolor or turn yellow because of the product residue left behind.

When customers ask for a garment to be spot cleaned I always discourage it and if they insist I charge them the same price as cleaning it. The only time I am willing to do spot clean is when a care label specifically calls for “spot clean only” and I don’t want to take on the responsibility of cleaning it myself. Having said that if I think the garment is cleanable I still suggest cleaning it as opposed to spotting only.

To answer your question about a product to use on your garments, I say to you what I tell my staff everyday and that is the best product on earth is water and with a little help from soap can do wonders. You don’t need a lot of fancy chemical to do this, that or the other thing. What you need is knowledge of textiles, dyes and construction because without it water is the most dangerous product on earth and you can cause enormous damage with it.

Specifically regarding this dress, it’s 100% cotton in side and out so you should be able to hand wash it in cold water with a mild pH neutral soap like ECOS. Roll the dress in a bath towel to remove excess water and hang it to dry. It is best to iron the garment while it is still damp. And as always test for color fastness in a hidden area before you start. If there is excess color lost and/or if the garment is of a mixed pattern be very careful before proceeding. Color loss and color bleed causes permanent damage. If you have mild color loss you can add about 1oz of white vinegar to 3 gallon of water to lower the pH level and reduce the color bleeding.

Good Luck

Karl Huie

Pacific Heights Cleaners in San Francisco and Sausalito

is your resource for cleaning tips and garment care information.

A Certified Bay Area Green Business

Other Articles of Interest:

How to Evaluate Materials and Test for Colorfastness

What is the difference between a suit for a man and a suit for a woman?

Stain Removal Products and Tips

Techniques Used For Stain Removal And Cleaning.

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