Is dry cleaning better than washing for clothes?

Laundering (or washing) is a water-based cleaning process that most often utilises a washer/dryer combination and a washing detergent. Dry cleaning, much like its name suggests, uses no water but is a comprehensive process that cleans the clothing just as effectively. While both cleaning processes have their purposes, in general, dry cleaning is better for delicate items and the removal of oil-based stains than conventional washing in a machine.

What is dry cleaning?

Despite what the name suggests, dry cleaning involves using a liquid solvent to clean you clothes, instead of water.  The ‘dry’ in the name refers to whether or not water is used, it does not refer to liquid.  Your clothes do actually get wet during a dry clean process, but the liquid solvent evaporates more quickly and it is only used on fabrics which it is suitable for.

Which fabrics need to be dry cleaned?

Most fabrics can be washed in water, but there are some synthetics and materials which react poorly and would be better dry-cleaned, such as wool, velvet, acetate, suede, leather and silk.  A water wash can also be damaging to clothing with buttons, sequins and lace, so a dry clean would be a better option for delicate items like these. 

Clothing that has a lining (jackets & coats usually), as well as pleated fabric such as a pleated skirt should also ideally be dry cleaned.  This is to protect the shape and fit of the item. 

As well as clothes, lots of other household fabrics are suitable for dry cleaning including duvets, curtains,  bedding and rugs.  

How is dry cleaning different to washing?

The main difference between dry cleaning and washing is the use of water.  Washing / laundering uses water and washing detergent, whereas dry cleaning uses no water and a liquid solvent.  

As dry cleaning uses solvent instead of water, its much more effective at removing oil-based and hard-to-remove stains from clothing.  

Is dry cleaning more effective than washing?

Whether or not dry cleaning is more effective than washing really depends on the garment we are washing.  For oil-based stains, yes, dry cleaning is more effective than washing.  For clothes that have an  odour, especially items with body odour from perspiration, washing will be much more effective than dry cleaning. 

A professional laundry service will be able to choose the correct cleaning method for your items.  Just make sure you let them know about any particular odours or stains before they begin. 

What are the advantages of dry cleaning?

1 – Water swells the fibre within your clothes, which is what can lead to clothes shrinking, or the dye running out. 

2 – Solvents are much better than water at removing oily or greasy stains, which is what most stubborn stains have as the base component. 

3 – Dry cleaning protects the brightness, softness and colour of your clothes and is much gentler than any other cleaning method. 

4 – Dry cleaning actually extends the life span of your clothes.  Most people believe that frequent washing will eventually wear away the fabric and age the item.  Quite the contrary!  Dry cleaning removes ground-in dirt and stains which would be quite abrasive on the fibres, and therefore help to prolong them. 

5 – By sending your favourite clothes to a dry cleaner, you are putting them into the professional and trusted hands of an expert.  We know the best way to clean each type of garment so you don’t need to worry about handling it the wrong way.

What are the disadvantages of dry cleaning?

There aren’t really many disadvantages to dry cleaning your clothes compared with washing them. However, for a minority of people, the liquid solvent used can be an irritant for their skin, much like some washing powders can irritate skin. 

Another disadvantage of dry cleaning is that most people don’t have dry cleaning facilities in their own home, meaning they need the help of a professional laundry service.  Luckily, this is not a problem as these are available in plentiful supply (see our Dry Cleaning services) in most towns.

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