The Complete Guide to Dry Cleaning a Suit

The Complete Guide to Dry Cleaning a Suit

Your suit is your armor. It’s also one of the most expensive additions to your wardrobe–and one of the hardest to clean. This is why dry cleaning a suit is critical to keeping your suits in good condition, whether you’re wearing a custom suit or an off-the-rack bargain suit. Here’s The Complete Guide to Dry Cleaning a Suit.

What Happens When You Dry Clean a Suit?

The dry cleaning process can look an awful lot like magic from the outside. You drop off a suit at the cleaners, it gets a tag and a place on the rack, and after a few days, you pick it up and find it good as new.

Most clothing is washed by laundering, which washes clothes in much the same way we wash our own bodies–with soap and water, namely a mild detergent. Dry cleaning, on the other hand, uses solvents, and despite the name, it’s not dry. Clothes are soaked in cleaning solvents, tumbled in a large machine, and dried in warm air to remove the solvent. Garments are then steamed and pressed to keep their shape intact.

What Materials Must Be Dry Cleaned?

There are plenty of materials that can be washed at home, such as:

  • Cotton
  • Nylon
  • Spandex
  • Polyester
  • Acetate
  • Acrylic

However, some materials should always go to the dry cleaner. Dry clean only materials include:

  • Wool
  • Cashmere
  • Silk
  • Rayon
  • Linen

Heavy or stiff garments that need to keep their shape, like suits or heavy coats, should also go to the cleaners. If in doubt, you’re in luck: dry clean only materials are always denoted by a handy tag.

Benefits of Dry Cleaning a Suit

There are many dry cleaning advantages, but one of the biggest dry cleaning benefits is the careful treatment of pricey clothing.

You may not own a $1,000 suit, but even a $100 suit is way more expensive than your average item of clothing (for most shoppers, anyway). And while you might not associate the word “solvent” with gentleness, dry cleaning is actually far gentler on your clothes than machine washing.

Picture what happens when you wash your clothes in your washing machine. You dump them in a heap inside, you pour detergent, the washer tumbles them around in the water (still in a heap), and when it’s done, you dig out clothing as if prying out stubborn weeds. It gets the job done, but it’s not a kind process for your clothes, either.

Dry cleaning, on the other hand, uses a lighter touch. Your clothes are soaked in solvents, then carefully tumbled and steam-dried to keep them in the best shape possible. Then, they’re carefully pressed to ensure they look sharp.

Given how much money you spend on your suits, it’s well worth the investment in a good dry cleaner.

How Much Does It Cost to Dry Clean a Suit?

Dry cleaning costs vary between the cleaner in question. Some cleaners do a service cheaper than others, though cheaper is not always better. Here’s a rundown of some typical dry cleaning costs:

  • Two-piece suit: $10 to $15
  • Three-piece suit: $13 to $18
  • Pants: $5 to $8
  • Blazer: $6 to $10
  • Vest: $4 to $7
  • Shirt: $5 to $7
  • Tie: $3 to $6
  • Light jacket: $13 to $20
  • Coat: $15 to $25

As you can guess, the price distribution is based on the size of the garment and the relative complexity. A blazer is a bit trickier than a pair of pants, but a jacket is heavier and stiffer. You don’t have to shell out for the priciest dry cleaner in town every time you get your suits cleaned, but don’t be afraid to pay for a good cleaner when you find one.

How Often Should You Dry Clean a Suit?

Most clothes see a lot of sweat, which means they need frequent laundering in order to look (and smell) fresh. Suits, on the other hand, are a different ballgame. You might sweat in them, but you also treat them more carefully, and you don’t wear the same suit as often as you might wear a shirt.

Because of this, suits don’t need to be cleaned nearly as often as regular garments–doing so would actually damage them. Plus, it would be obscenely expensive to dry clean your suits as often as you run your favorite t-shirts through the wash.

First, think about how often you wear your suit. This directly impacts how much wear and tear (and sweat and grime) it attracts, which means it will need more frequent cleaning. A dress suit worn only for job interviews or formal occasions, on the other hand, might only need an annual trip to the cleaner.

Generally, you should take your suits to the cleaners every two months. If you wear the same suits in a cycle every day, they should go every two to three weeks.

Caring for Your Suit Between Visits to the Cleaners

Like any other garment, suits benefit from a bit of TLC between regular cleanings–this will prolong their lifespan and keep them looking extra sharp. It’s the difference between a suit that lasts a few years and a suit that lasts a few decades.

First, always steam-press your suits before wearing them. This will get rid of any minor wrinkles so that you always look your best. When you take your suit off, always hang it up properly as soon as you take it off, and let it hang for at least a day or two before you wear it again (this helps keep its shape and prevent wrinkles).

You can also take care of your suit while wearing it. If you’re driving, for example, resist the urge to sit down in your sport coat–hang it on your seat or put it on a hanger in the backseat instead. If you go outside for lunch in warm weather, leave your jacket in the office–the better to avoid spills and sweat alike.

Learn More About Dry Cleaning a Suit

Dry cleaning a suit might look like magic, but it’s just a different way of keeping garments looking their best. If you know what you’re doing, you can keep your suits looking sharp for years to come.

Need more tips to keep your garments looking their best? Make sure to check out our blog for more great tips, like these common dry cleaning mistakes to avoid.

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