Home Drycleaning Kits: What They Can and Cannot Do

Over 30 years of experience cleaning haute couture and designer labels.

Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, the premier trade association for garment care, utilized its research and testing expertise to gauge the effectiveness of home drycleaning kits and found that in general, they do not provide complete removal of all types of stains. They also cannot remove ground-in soil. These products can freshen garments by eliminating odors and imparting a pleasant fragrance.

What do you get in a home dry cleaning kit?

Garments are freshened when they are placed inside the dryer with the cloth, which is activated by the dryer's heat. Up to four garments can be placed in a bag (along with the dryer-activated cloth) when using one of these products. The stain removal solution (which is dispensed from a plastic bottle) is applied directly on the stain while the user holds an absorbent pad underneath the stained fabric.

Consumers are instructed to apply the solution until the stain is no longer visible or until it is evident that the stain cannot be removed. For kits that employ only a dryer-activated cloth, consumers are advised to use the fabric to remove stains. All kits recommend removing stains before garments are placed in the dryer.

What can you expect?

In general, most of the products work well on freshening or removing odors such as smoke. Therefore, these products can be successfully used to freshen garments, for example, eliminating odors from sweaters after winter storage.

In terms of stain removal, DLI found that most of the products work well on water-based stains such as cola. Oil-based stains (ketchup, lipstick) presented more of a challenge for the home drycleaning kits. In some cases, these products caused the stain to spread, which created a more significant stain. None of the products removed ground-in soils, which consumers typically see as "ring around the collar" or dirty cuffs.

Can home drycleaning kits cause damage?

When using a home dry cleaning kit, consumers should beware of the following types of damage they could induce when using the stain removal solutions: rings, chafing, broken fibers on a loose weave, local shrinkage on crepe or water-sensitive fabrics.

DLI's testing found that home drycleaning kits failed to completely remove stains such as ketchup, lipstick, and cuff soil, resulting in a less-than-satisfactory appearance.

Home drycleaning Kits versus Professional drycleaning

Performance Factors

Home DC Kit

  • Professional drycleaning
  • Removes odors
  • Removes wrinkles
  • Removes water-based stains (cola, wine, milk)
  • Removes oil-based stains (vegetable oil, shoe polish, butter)
  • Removes difficult stains (ball-point ink*, lipstick, makeup)
  • Cleans (removes dirt, body oils)
  • Restores creases and pleats
  • Imparts crisp, tailored appearance

*Ball-point ink stains may be set when initially treated with water-based stain removal solutions.

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