Avoid The Dry Cleaner to Save Your Budget and the Environment

I spend a lot of money on my clothes. Part of the reason is that I want high-quality clothes that won’t rip as easily as something from Forever 21 or H&M. I also like the feel of silk and linen, expensive fabrics that typically require a trip to the dry cleaners. When I’m shopping and buy an Equipment blouse, for example, I’m factoring in the cost per wear to justify the high price point. What I’m not thinking about, however, is the number of times I’ll take it to the dry cleaners; depending on the garment and where you live, the cost can range from $5 to $20 per piece. For anyone unfamiliar with how dry cleaning works, your clothes are cleaned with a petroleum solvent or some other chemical instead of water. It’s not great for the environment, but it is efficient and relatively inexpensive. But like that cup of coffee personal finance blogs have been warning you will add up to a sizable sum eventually, dry cleaning does make a dent in your budget. A more sustainable choice is to hand wash your clothes instead.

Why can’t I use my washer and dryer?

For some garments, you actually can use your washer and dryer. Delicates should be placed into a mesh bag and the washer should be set on the delicate cycle. I would also recommend using detergent specifically for hand washing; they tend to have gentler formulas. However, you should avoid washing bras that have underwires because they can bend out of shape. Even though you might use your washer, do not put delicates or athletic wear in the dryer. It can shrink and stretch out your clothes, and then you’ll need to pay more money for replacements.

I live in a hovel. Where the hell am I supposed to wash my clothes?

Good question! I prefer to use the bathtub, but a deep sink will do the trick. Just make sure you clean it beforehand so there aren’t any pieces of salad floating around your freshly washed clothes.

OK. Can I use Tide?

No, because it could ruin your clothes. The first time I hand washed a white shirt that closely resembles a popcorn ceiling, the fabric turned a weird purple from where the detergent touched. I have not been able to bleach that spot back, but I haven’t had any issues since switching over to proper hand-washing detergent. Brands like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, Woolite and The Laundress are great for this purpose. I use The Laundress because it’s highly concentrated; I bought a 16-ounce bottle last year and haven’t even used a quarter of it.

What now?

Fill up your bathtub or sink with cold water -- hot or warm water could shrink your clothes -- and then pour in detergent. The bottle will give you explicit directions on how much to use, depending on your load. Let your clothes marinate in the soapy water. Watch Netflix. Go for a run. If you can, agitate the water by swirling your clothes around. Your clothes can sit for 10 minutes to an hour, depending on how dirty they are. Drain the tub and then rinse out your clothes. Once they’re adequately cleaned, press, not wring, the water out of your garments. A great way to soak up excess water is to lay the garment on a towel and roll it up. (If you need a true step-by-step guide, read cleaning expert Jolie Kerr’s guide to handwashing on Racked.)

How do I dry my clothes?

If you have a drying rack, it’s the best place to drape your clothes. I’ve been known to hang my clothes on the backs of chairs, on the towel rack and on the top of the washer and dryer. Clothes that are heavy with water should never be hung. Lay them down instead. This will avoid stretching your favorite dress or sweater.

Voila! Now you’ve saved the environment and your wallet is happy. Would you rather hand wash your clothes or just send them out to the dry cleaners? Let us know. Also, If you test this out, share videos or photos with us @she_spends on Twitter or @shespends on Instagram.

-Amanda 👡