Why Are Designer Clothes Dry Clean Only?

When you think of designer clothes, what comes to mind? Luxury, high fashion, and impeccable style are often associated with these coveted items. But there’s one aspect of designer clothing that is not as glamorous and highly desired: the “dry clean only” label. For many people, this label can be a deal-breaker when considering purchasing a designer piece.

Why must these expensive garments be handled delicately by professional dry cleaners? And what exactly goes on during this mysterious dry-cleaning process? 

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the reasons why designer clothes require special care and explore the behind-the-scenes world of dry cleaning for a better understanding of its importance in maintaining the quality and longevity of your beloved designer pieces.

The Concept of Dry Cleaning and Its History

The history of dry cleaning dates back to ancient times. It’s believed that as early as the 1st century AD, the Romans used ammonia (derived from urine) in laundering garments. The modern process of dry cleaning, utilizing non-aqueous solvents, was discovered accidentally in the mid-19th century by French dye-works owner, Jean Baptiste Jolly.

He noticed that a tablecloth became cleaner after his maid accidentally overturned a kerosene lamp on it. Following this incident, Jolly established what many consider the first dry-cleaning business, “Teinturerie Jolly Belin,” in Paris.

Dry cleaning, contrary to its name, isn’t actually a ‘dry’ process. It’s a method of cleaning clothes using a liquid solvent, typically tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), rather than water. This solvent is less likely to shrink fabric or bleed colors, ensuring your designer pieces maintain their fit and vibrancy. 

While traditional dry cleaning has its merits, it’s impossible to overlook its environmental impact. The cleaning solvents typically used in the process, notably perchloroethylene (PERC), have been linked to several environmental and health concerns. 

It has led to the emergence of a more eco-friendly alternative known as “green cleaning”. Green cleaning in the context of dry cleaning refers to methods that are less harmful to the environment and the health of individuals.

Why Some Clothes are Labeled as “Dry Clean Only”

The “dry clean only” label found on many designer clothes primarily stems from the delicate fabrics and intricate construction methods used in these high-end pieces. 

Designer garments often incorporate delicate materials such as silk, wool, velvet, or other luxury fibers, which can lose their shape, shrink, or become damaged when exposed to water and the harsh mechanical process of a traditional washing machine.

Moreover, many designer clothes feature complex designs, embellishments, and hand-stitching, which require gentle care to preserve. The aggressive agitation of a regular washer could potentially damage these elements.

Dry cleaning, on the other hand, offers a gentler solution. The chemical solvents used in the process are designed to dissolve dirt and stains without causing harm to sensitive fabrics or intricate designs. 

It ensures that your designer garments retain their original fit, color, and structural integrity, even after numerous cleaning cycles, thus justifying the “dry clean only” label.

Benefits of Dry Cleaning for Designer Clothing

Dry cleaning stands as a pivotal practice in the preservation and maintenance of designer clothing. One of the primary benefits of this process is its ability to preserve delicate fabrics. 

Luxury materials like silk, wool, or velvet are prone to damage under traditional washing methods. They may shrink, lose their shape, or even have their fibers damaged. Dry cleaning removes dirt and stains without this risk, keeping these fabrics in their best condition.

Another significant advantage of dry cleaning is the maintenance of the garment’s shape and structure. Designer clothes are meticulously constructed, often featuring elaborate designs and hand-stitched details. 

These elements can easily be damaged by the harsh mechanical process of a traditional washing machine. Dry cleaning, however, offers a gentler solution that protects these intricate details.

Additionally, dry cleaning helps to maintain the vibrancy of colors in designer clothes. The solvents used are less likely to cause color bleeding compared to water and detergent, ensuring your garments retain their original hues.

In summary, dry cleaning is essential for designer clothes primarily because it preserves the quality and extends the life of these garments, thereby protecting your investment in fashion.

Tips for Keeping Your Designer Clothes in Good Condition Between Trips to the Dry Cleaners

Just as important as regular dry cleaning, proper care and maintenance of your designer clothes between cleaning sessions can significantly prolong their life and maintain their quality. Here are some tips to help you in this endeavor:

  1. Store Properly: Always store your designer garments in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can cause colors to fade. Use padded hangers to maintain the shape of the clothes and prevent creasing.
  2. Spot Clean: If you spill something on your designer clothes, gently blot the area with a clean cloth. Avoid rubbing the stain, as this might damage the fabric. For stubborn stains, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.
  3. Rotate Your Wardrobe: Avoid wearing the same piece of clothing too often. Giving your clothes time to breathe between wears can help fibers recover from the strain caused by wearing them.
  4. Avoid Overcleaning: It may seem counterintuitive, but cleaning your clothes too often can actually shorten their lifespan. Unless the garment is visibly dirty or has a strong odor, it’s often better to air it out than to wash or dry clean it.
  5. Use a Fabric Freshener: Between dry cleaning sessions, use a fabric freshener to keep your clothes smelling fresh. Just make sure it’s suitable for the fabric you’re using it on.

Remember, designer clothes are an investment, and with proper care, they can remain a part of your wardrobe for many years to come.


Designing and crafting high-end clothing is an intricate process that uses delicate materials and complex designs. To maintain these pieces’ original beauty and structure, dry cleaning is often the most suitable cleaning method, despite the extra effort and cost involved. 

While our modern society is searching for more eco-friendly alternatives, the present-day dry cleaning process continues to be the preferred choice for preserving the life and quality of designer garments. In addition to professional cleaning, taking proper care of your designer clothes between dry cleaning sessions can significantly extend their lifespan and maintain their pristine condition. 

Remember, the longevity of your investment in designer clothing largely depends on how well you look after them. It’s more than fashion; it’s a commitment to quality, which deserves the utmost care.

About Us

Keeping your clothes clean is more than just about hygiene, it is also about wearing clean clothes that look stylish and make you feel confident. However, to make your stylish couture last, you must take care of them. That’s where Greener Cleaner comes in. 

We are one of the few dry cleaners in Chicago that use zero petrochemicals in our cleaning. From your wedding dress to chic leather jackets, we dry clean everything in an eco-friendly manner. We can also alter your outfits to create a flattering fit and add a new spark to your old wardrobe favorites.

We also provide pick-up and delivery services for your clothing, so there is no hassle associated with laundry cleaning. You can reach us at (773) 784-8429 or fill out our contact form to know more.

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