Congratulations! You just scored a designer dress at a decent price. Now, let's just add an extra $100 onto that credit card bill — because that's how much your new fave dress will cost you in dry cleaning for a year.
In fact, an industry report from First Research found that an average businessperson spent somewhere between $500 to $1,500 on dry cleaning in 2012 — and thanks to the pink tax, prices are even higher for women. So what would you do if we told you that 90% of your closet can probably be washed at home?
Turns out, the world of garment care tags is a little more complicated than "dry clean" and "machine wash." The FTC dictates that for apparel, manufacturers must "provide complete instructions about regular care for the garment, or provide warnings if the garment cannot be cleaned without harm." Furthermore, the care tag should warn against processes that might harm your precious clothes — i.e., if ironing them will ruin it, it should say, "Do not iron."
Even "dry clean only" is supposed to be backed up with proof that any other method of washing will destroy the piece. But according to Gwen Whiting of The Laundress, oftentimes, clothes can be mislabeled. Even more confusing? The FTC considers "experience and industry expertise" to be "reliable evidence," alongside other methods such as fabric testing.
This is where things get a little shady. Brands might have industry expertise, but "brands will default to 'dry clean only' because it's safer for them," Whiting says. "Whether it's the brand that's making the decision or the factory that makes the garment for the brand, they're going to be defaulting to the label that's in the best interest of the brand."
So how can we decode how to actually wash your clothes without spending a ton of money on dry cleaning? Ahead, six major questions, answered.