The Handbook

Dry Cleaning

The world's a dirty place. Wine spills and sauce splashes are inevitable. And the buildup from sweat, cologne and everyday grime can stain and discolor a garment. Which is why we clean them. But when a toss in the washer isn't an option, a good dry cleaner is in order. Haven't got one? Don't trust yours? Ask an established tailor or a respected retailer in the neighborhood to pass along the name of theirs.

Remember to empty pants pockets and remove your shirts' collar stays. And pay attention to the way your cleaner inspects your clothes at the counter. Are they looking for stains and tagging them accordingly? They should be.

The Process

Dry cleaning isn't dry at all.

In fact, your clothes still get tossed into a machine and saturated. But instead of getting submerged in soapy water, the clothes (about 30 to 80 pounds worth) get put into a dry cleaning machine's perforated stainless-steel drum where they're washed with a solvent known as "perc" (perchloroethylene).

A typical wash lasts about ten to fifteen minutes. After the wash, the tank is drained of the dirty solvent and a rinse of pure solvent enters the chamber to flush out all the grease, grime and other stain-causing junk that soils clothes. This step is quickly followed by the extraction process (a spin drying cycle) which recovers approximately 99.99% of the solvent used. The dried clothes are then aired out and are ready to be pressed and packaged.

Don't Rush

Lengthen the time between stops to the cleaner by ...

Steaming out any wrinkles yourself (either with a small travel steamer or the reliable standby of hanging your garment in the bathroom during a long shower).

Airing out your suit overnight before stashing it back in its bag (to avoid trapping any residual moisture or telltale smells).

Attempting to spot clean a small stain yourself. A little mud on the ankle or a splash of sauce at dinner doesn't always warrant a full cleaning. Here's how to do it.


Things you don't want to see.

Indentations. The garment was likely pressed carelessly, leaving imprints around collars, pockets or buttons.

Puckering. If a garment is cleaned or dried at the wrong temperature it can warp the threads.

Glossy fabric. Pressing the fabric too hard can crush the fibers making a garment look shiny (and cheap).

Where to Go

For hundreds of dry cleaner recommendations, check out the Valet.'s Local Concierge