How To Save Money At The Dry Cleaners
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Dirty Laundry1 of 11
By Mariel Goodson
All those trips to the dry cleaner can add up—studies show that working professionals spend upwards of $1,500 a year on dry cleaning. Luckily, there are ways to cut costs on the expense. Here, experts share ten secrets for cutting your yearly dry cleaning bill in half.
Wash Out2 of 11
"Dry cleaning cashmere is like giving your hair a perm every time you go to the salon," says Gwen Whiting, co-founder of The Laundress. "The chemical process is way too harsh." She suggests washing materials like cashmere and wool at home using an enzyme-free, pH-neutral shampoo, which will maintain the yarn's oils. To avoid shrinkage and stretching, hand wash your wool and cashmere pieces in cold water, then air-dry on an absorbent towel so they keep their natural shape.
SHOP NOW: The Laundress wool & cashmere shampoo, $19, thelaundress.com
Press to Impress3 of 11
According to industry sources, 75 percent of people hit up the dry cleaners for ironing and odor elimination, not for stain removal. Save big bucks by investing in an at-home steamer, which is "far friendlier to clothing than a hot iron, because it won't scorch delicate textiles, melt silk, or squash wool fibers," explains Whiting. Added bonus: "Your clothes end up smelling great because the steam kills bacteria."
SHOP NOW: ROWENTA garment steam brush, $40, macys.com
Beauty School4 of 11
Avoid staining your clothes by being strategic about when you apply makeup or perfume. "Makeup should always be applied after getting dressed," says Wayne Edelman, president of Meurice Garment Care. And make sure not to spritz fragrance on your clothes. The reason? "The alcohol in perfume is often blended with oil-based agents that can permanently discolor clothing."
Under Armor5 of 11
Because salts from sweat leave fabric stiff and aluminum compounds found in antiperspirants alter fabric dyes, "Underarm stains are tough to remove," says Edelman. Prevent pit stains by letting your deodorant dry before getting dressed and investing in underarm garment shields to soak up sweat. If you still wind up with yellow marks, check out the Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science's online tool, which gives you step-by-step solutions to treat any kind of stain.
SHOP NOW: Nordstrom garment guards, $12, nordstrom.com
Wear On6 of 11
Too-frequent cleaning can cause fading and fraying, so practice moderation with Whiting's cheat sheet: Wash skirts, dress pants, cocktails and blazers after four to five wears, unless there are visible stains, which can damage the material. Clean wool sweaters a few times per season and before storage (as long as you're wearing them over a shirt). Wash blue and colored jeans after five wears, and wash white denim after every wear. Silk shirts and cotton button-downs should be cleaned after every wear, since fabric comes into direct contact with your underarms.
In Bulk7 of 11
Chat with your local dry cleaners about a bulk rate. Many mom-and-pop shops offer an under-the-radar price per pound, usually with a minimum weight requirement. For example, at Woodlake Cleaning Center in Minneapolis, three dress suits normally cost $42 to clean piecemeal, but if you paid their bulk rate based on a 5-pound minimum, your bill would plummet to $19.
Hang in There8 of 11
"Wire hangers are too thin to provide real support, so they stress the fabric and cause puckers and pleats," says Whiting. To ensure clothes stay crisp, hang suits and blazers on wooden hangers; buy padded fabric hangers for silk shirts, lace and lingerie, since they safeguard against snags; and use clamp-style hangers for skirts and slacks to prevent pinch marks.
Trade Off9 of 11
Rather than tossing wire hangers in the trash, chat with your cleaner about bringing them back for a discount on your bill, since these can cost a pretty penny. Another haggling point? Offer to bring in your stack on slow business days. For instance, Redi-Quik in Wisconsin offers a whopping 40 percent off on Tuesday and Thursday drop-offs.
Delicate Condition10 of 11
"Everyone is afraid of silk and synthetics like acetate, Lycra, polyester and modal," says Whiting. But for the most part, these textiles "are washable in a delicate machine cycle or by hand in cold water." Just use a mild detergent and hang them to dry. "The only two fabrics in question are viscose and rayon because they're unpredictable," she says. "You never know if they're going to shrink or stretch," so follow the instructions on the tag. Still unsure? Check out this guide from The Laundress.
SHOP NOW: Roux Maison delicate detergent, $16, rouxmaison.com
Coupon Queen11 of 11
Score a deal on dry cleaning by perusing ValPak.com, which aggregates printable coupons from cleaners all across the country. "If customers are looking for coupons, we also direct them to the offers section on our website," says Edelman. "And we always send out alerts in our newsletter about seasonal specials that can save customers up to 20 percent."
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