What Happens If You Wash Dry Clean Only Polyester?

Ever seen any of those tiny little tags on your clothing that say “dry clean only” and wondered what will happen if you decide to go against the instructions? Meaning you wash it at home by hand or machine? 

Well, there are two things that can actually happen. 

When you wash a dry clean only polyester, you might be able to get away with doing so because the warning was simply a bluff to begin with, or you can end up damaging the structure of your fabric, removing the dyes, and destroying the construction. 

Below, we elaborate more on how your polyester clothing can get damaged when they say “dry clean only” and you choose to wash them at home. 

Why your polyester has dry clean only instruction in the first place

It is not by coincidence that your polyester has the dry clean only instructions slapped on it. It is there for a reason and the reason is to protect your fabric from an unexpected disaster.

When your polyester material has the dry clean only instruction on it, it’s probably one of the following reasons. 

The first is that you probably have a specific kind of finish on the polyester that can be removed by water or damaged by. Another reason can be that the polyester has special or specific embellishments on it that can be destroyed by machine washing or even hand washing and as a result, the manufacturers of the fabric opted for the safer option which is dry cleaning.

If your polyester has a bit of structure to it, that can be affected by machine washing too, as the agitators and ridges in the washer are known for destroying structures on items like wedding dresses, suits etc. 

Is dry cleaning gentler than hand washing for polyester?

In all honesty, dry cleaning is so much better than hand washing. Dry cleaning solvents don’t actually penetrate into fibers and get absorbed the way water does, and in case you didn’t know, water is the root cause of most problems that happen in the washer, because it gets absorbed into fibers and weakens them, making them extremely sensitive to agitation. 

So the bottom line with dry cleaning solvent is that they hardly cause destruction of fibers, and thus are safe to use on most clothes. 

For garments that have a bit of structure to them too, dry cleaning is the way to go. The process of washing isn’t as rugged as hand washing, and thus your structured garments won’t be affected after washing. 

Finishings in your garments can also benefit from dry cleaning, since many finishijg applied nowadays are water soluble byt not solvent soluble, so they hardly interact with dry cleaning fluids which means they remain intact. So also dyes applied on clothes.

Moreover, dry cleaning doesn’t employ the use of hot water which can be very dangerous when applied to fabrics.

What would actually happen if you go against the instruction

If you have a polyester that is tagged with the dry clean only instruction, and then you go ahead and proceed to wash it in the washing machine or by hand, you may or may not run into problems. 

But there is a high likelihood you will run into problems, and the problems include destruction of the structure of the garment, destruction or removal of special embellishments, washing away of finishing and dyes and even weakening of fibers and distortion of fabric. 

Can you hand wash polyester

In as much as there are polyester fabrics out there that can be dry cleaned, there are also polyester fabrics out there too that can be hand and machine washed. 

Washing polyester by hand doesn’t carry all those red line warnings you’ll find with garments made of silk or wool, because polyester is literally a sturdy and durable material with great tenacity because of its very crystalline nature. And this means that it can withstand tough conditions (with the exception of hot water washing) and still come out in great shape. 

To wash polyester fabrics that can be washed by hand, soak them in a bowl containing a solution of mild detergent and water and then sponge it using a soft sponge or agitate it gently by hand. Rinse properly and then put it in the dryer at no heat setting to dry. 

Final Thoughts

If you ever choose to wash a dry clean only polyester, you run the risk of ruining the entire fabric. Polyester, in general, is a really sturdy material that can easily withstand machine and hand washing and so any polyester product tagged as “dry clean only” must really have something important in it that can be destroyed by machine or hand washing. 

Most of the time, it’s the structure, embellishments, dyes and finishing. The best option for these types of polyester materials would be to heed to the instructions and make a trip down to the dry cleaners.

Additionally, when you have stains on these types of fabrics, avoid DIY solutions or treatment as they can cause irreparable damage. Take the fabric for dry cleaning, or to a professional and reputable stain removal service.