How to Cut Your Dry Cleaning Bill

Spending too much cash at the cleaners? Stop the madness and read on.

Money Sense
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Like most people, you're probably running to the cleaners more than you need to. To protect your wallet (and perhaps your health), try these ideas.

Read the care label.

That sequined blouse with the Dry Clean Only label is going to cost you more than its $40 price tag. You're going to hear the cash register ring every time it needs to be cleaned. To save money on dry cleaning, consider buying clothes made of natural fabrics or polyester—they don't need to be sent to the pros.

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Dry cleaning uses nasty chemicals.

Most dry cleaners use the cleaning solvent perchloroethylene (called perc), which is considered a carcinogen. Although there are environmentally friendly dry cleaners around, their prices are even higher than traditional cleaners. When you do dry clean, it's a good idea to take off the plastic bag and let your clothes air out in the garage before bringing them into the house.

Dry Clean vs. Dry Clean Only

Obviously, suits, heavy winter coats, suede, leather and velvet must be dry cleaned. However, lots of manufacturers put “dry clean” on their labels because they fear consumers won't wash their garments properly. But you can. Try hand-washing items like cashmere, polyesters and spandex with Woolite—or put them in the handwash or delicate cycle in the machine and dry flat on a portable drying rack.

But I have collared shirts!

We know you do—but you don't have to dry clean them every time you wear them. If you want your collared shirts cleaned, just have them laundered and pressed—it could cut your bill in half. Some of us are big fans of the no-iron shirts and pants from Lands' End, too.

Try at-home dry cleaning kits.

If you need to freshen up your clothes, do give at-home dry-cleaning a whirl. These kits probably won't get red lipstick off a collar, but they might do the job on a shirt that's spent the night at a dance club. Woolite and Dryel are two products you might want to try.

Invest in a steamer.

Needless to say, you can use a good old-fashioned iron to remove wrinkles from home-cleaned items. But if ironing drives you bananas (although there are people who find it relaxing), consider steaming. Good Housekeeping offers a list of the best handheld steamers around. Steam on!

Ryan Homes Tip: Shop around for a cleaner with the best prices. Many have coupons and promotions that can lower your bill even more.