Cleaner Clothes Without the Dry Cleaner

Many small businesses shuttered permanently during the pandemic – boutiques, bars, restaurants, and exercise studios were among the many ventures that closed up shop from lack of customers and employees.  Now, nearly two years later, with a great many people still working from home and many more retired seniors, the neighborhood dry cleaner may never see a return to normal. 

In the years leading up to COVID-19 shutdowns, the workplace and dress codes, in general, had become much more informal.  Casual Friday morphed into a more relaxed style of dressing and suits became less common in favor of slacks and polos, trousers, and blouses.  Even dark jeans became quite acceptable in many work environments.  Dry cleaning businesses that relied on a steady flow of dress shirts and work suits gradually pivoted to expand their services to include leather goods, coats, prom and wedding dresses, and wash and fold delivery.  

According to a recent Washington Post report, the number of dry cleaners is expected to drop significantly by the end of this year.  If you are still in some phase of purging and decluttering, it may be wise to press pause and evaluate if any of the items you are keeping will need regular dry cleaning or if they can be hand-washed, steamed, or laundered in the delicate cycle. Before storing (or donating) clothes at the end of a season, it’s important to put things away clean and free of starch which can encourage bug activity.  

Elderly adults who are preparing a move into an assisted living facility should also take stock of the washability of their clothing and other household textiles.  Nursing homes will not launder any items that require special attention or care, and it’s not uncommon for items to get misplaced.  

Although it is sad to see community small businesses like the dry cleaner close their doors, reducing the use of dry cleaning chemicals is beneficial for the environment as well as the pocketbook.  In a pinch, dry clean only items can be spot cleaned with a baking soda paste or soaked in diluted vinegar to neutralize odors and then rinsed in a tub of plain water before being laid flat to air dry.   For more tips and tricks to keep all types of clothes clean at home follow this link to a recent Food52 Cleaning blog post.