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How To Wash Dry-Clean-Only Clothes — And Keep Your Favorite Pieces Intact

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If you've learned anything during your quarantine period, it's that you can actually handle a lot more home projects previously reserved for the pros than you probably ever expected, from painting your kitchen cabinets to reorganizing your closets. And in case you didn't know already, the same can be said with tough laundry jobs. In some cases, you can actually skip going to the cleaners and get even your most delicate pieces looking as good as new — all you need are a few expert tips on how to wash dry-clean-only clothes.

Most clothes are labeled dry-clean-only for a very good reason: Their materials or dyes might just be too sensitive to stand up to aggressive tossing and tumbling, or even just to be submerged in water alone. And some such pieces in your closet are likely some of your most expensive, so the last thing you want to do is compromise them and essentially flush that hard-earned cash down the drain (not to mention a really good outfit).

That said, it's understandable if you've been regularly shelling out the money to get them dry cleaned as recommended, but according to some clothing experts, you may be able to do some trouble-shooting on your own and reduce how often you're having to pay to take your pieces to to pros. From formal dresses to activewear and intimates, if you've got some articles that could use a little refreshing there are some things you can do to get them looking, feeling, and smelling their best — without taking a trip to the dry cleaners. Ahead, find five such tips from Vanessa Valiente, a San Diego-based personal stylist and blogger for V-Style who specializes in closet organization and personal shopping.

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How To Wash Dry-Clean-Only Clothes: Spot Treat Stains

One of the most common laundry mistakes is washing your clothes too often, which can prematurely age them. Instead, you can simply spot-treat the areas that need it. And when it comes to doing this with dry-clean-only clothes, Valiente advises using cold water and a small amount of a sensitive skin detergent on it (such as Seventh Generation), then gently rubbing the fabric together.

How To Wash Dry-Clean-Only Clothes: Steam It Out

After tackling any stains, you can DIY the effect of a dry cleaning by using steam, which Valiente says you can do with the help of a product like Dryel, which uses a garment bag, moistened cloth, and the heat of your dryer to launder your delicates. "I know it's obvious, but I highly recommend Dryel for refreshing your dry-clean-only garment," she says. If you have a garment steamer, she adds that you can use that to both remove wrinkles and freshen up your clothing, since the steam can help kill bacteria as well.

How To Wash Dry-Clean-Only Clothes: Don't Agitate

Traditional top-load washing machines utilize an agitator, which is probably too rough for your dry-clean-only clothing. But, if you have a machine that uses an impeller instead, you may be able to toss in some otherwise too-delicate pieces. But to be on the safe side, Valiente still suggests popping the piece into a mesh laundry bag and washing in only cold water, then hanging dry. "It won't be as crisply stunning as it is when it returns from the dry cleaner, but you won't be able to tell the difference much once it is on your body," she says.

How To Wash Dry-Clean-Only Clothes: Keep Them Hanging

If you're someone who ends up with tons of clothes on the floor from your outfit selection process, consider taking an extra few moments to properly rehang them — and that includes your previously worn delicates. "Often an item must be sent to a dry cleaner because you wore it once and left it crumpled on the ground to collect a musty scent or create daunting wrinkles," Valiente explains. "Instead, hang up every dry-clean-only garment immediately after wearing it. You will notice many dry-clean-only garments do not need to be washed as often as you think."

How To Wash Dry-Clean-Only Clothes: Protect The Pits

Refreshing a piece to re-wear without a trip to the dry cleaner may be as simple as treating the underarm area alone. If it's the scent you're trying to eliminate, Valiente suggests spritzing with a mix of half water and half isopropyl alcohol. "You can also just use cheap vodka," she says. "This kills the bacteria that creates body odor."

If you want to protect from or remove pit stains, she advises hand washing only those areas in the sink using Seventh Generation or diluted Dr. Bronner's soap. After allowing to dry, steam it out or do the Dryel method. "Do this even if you do send out the garment," she adds. "This prevents the armpit from yellowing."