I hate taking my clothes to the dry cleaners, and I always put it off as long as possible. I get stressed out about the ridiculously high cost of dry cleaning and the scary chemicals they use to get the clothing clean. I despise having to drop off my clothes, keeping them out of circulation when I want to wear them immediately.
Also, when I drop something off at the dry cleaners, I have to make plans to pick it up. It’s a real inconvenience and a source of “discussion” at my house, as in, “Who’s going to pick up the dry cleaning?” Seriously, at one point in my life, figuring out the dry cleaning pickup was almost as big a deal as dealing with the daycare pickup—not nearly as important, but almost as time-sensitive.
But after a long winter, dirty sweaters, pants, and wool scarves were piling up at my house. Instead of spending a fortune on dry cleaning, I decided to try the Dryel At-Home Dry Cleaner, which is recommended by hundreds of users. This is what happened.
What is a home dry cleaning kit?
A home dry cleaning kit is a little box of tools that let you refresh and steam-clean dry clean only clothes in your dryer. Its job is to remove stains, freshen clothes, and relax wrinkles while preventing fading, stretching, and shrinking.
I purchased a starter kit from Dryel that contained a bottle of booster spray for stain removal, a zippered bag to steam and protect clothing, and packets of cleaning cloths that looked like giant baby wipes. If that's what it would take to avoid a trip to the dreaded dry cleaner, I was ready to proceed.
How do you use a home dry cleaning kit?
After taking the tools out of the box, I gathered some dirty clothes—a favorite winter outfit consisting of a blue cashmere sweater, a pair of black pants in a synthetic blend, and a wool floral print scarf. Then, I sprung into action. Here’s what I had to do:
- Spray the booster on stains.
- Turn the clothes inside out and toss them in the bag. (Based on the size of the bag, I could probably have loaded in two or three more items.)
- Open one of the cleaning cloths and drop it in the bag.
- Zip the bag shut and load it into the dryer set on a Normal cycle.
- Let it tumble for 15 minutes to "refresh" the clothes, as it said on the box. It also said that 30 minutes would produce a "deep clean" if my clothes needed one, which they didn't.
- Remove clothes from the bag, shaking them out one at a time.
Are home dry cleaning kits safe?
Since I worry about the chemicals used in regular dry cleaning, while I was waiting for the clothes to finish, I checked to see what the kit was using to clean them. The box said it was environmentally friendly with no phosphates, perchloroethylene, or trichloroethylene—good news. The cleaning cloths contain water, cleaning agents, preservatives, a fiber protector, and perfume (I'll come back to that later). The booster spray pre-treater contains water, biodegradable cleaning agents, and preservatives. I felt sufficiently protected from the strong solvents used by regular dry cleaning.
Do home dry cleaning kits work?
I’d give that a qualified yes. Home dry cleaning wouldn’t be effective with heavily soiled clothes or garments with big grease spots. But the clothing I put in the bag wasn’t too dirty, and it emerged from the bag refreshed, soft, and relatively unwrinkled.
That's an important point—the clothes that come out of the bag don't have a crisply pressed appearance like clothes from the dry cleaners. If you're expecting that look straight out of the bag, you'll be disappointed to hear that you'll have to iron the clothes yourself.
Are there any drawbacks to home dry cleaning kits?
Be warned: The kit leaves behind a very strong perfumey odor on clothes. When I walked through the Reviewed newsroom carrying my newly cleaned clothing, noses wrinkled. I heard one colleague mutter, “Ewww. What’s that smell?”
So, obviously, if you’re sensitive to fragrances, this method of cleaning is not for you. Even if you aren't allergic, I’d recommend you do what I did—air the clothes out for several days (yes) until the smell dissipates. Once it does, you might agree: It could be a small price to pay to avoid the dry cleaners.