The American Cleaning Institute (ACI)

Ask ACI: When Clothes Are Really Dry Clean Only


Q: I have a blouse made of 95% cotton that I need to launder. However, the manufacturer’s care label says professional dry clean only. Does the dry clean only tag really mean it? Why can’t I hand wash or put it in the washing machine?

A: There are many reasons why your garment might have a "professional dry clean only" care label. Washing might harm the buttons or the trim. Or the dyes might run if the garment is washed. In addition, some fabrics, such as cotton, shrink when washed—unless they have been preshrunk in the manufacturing process. Even if the fabric in your blouse was preshrunk, the garment manufacturer may fear that some residual shrinkage could occur. Most manufacturers choose care labels that cover the "worst case" scenario. So, if you decide to wash the garment, choose hand washing in cool water—and know that you do so at your own risk.