Dry Cleaning at Home

Not quite too good to be true
by Noël-Marie Taylor

Do you know what always makes me groan? Finding a dress I like, and discovering that the tag says "Dry Clean Only." Oh right, I have the time to take things to the cleaner whenever I've worn them? Not to mention how unlikely I am to plan that far ahead--if I know the day before that I want to wear a certain outfit, it's amazing! Forget the idea of planning several days ahead!

I'll admit, I actually hand-wash (and sometimes even machine-wash) some of my dry clean only blouses. But there are a number of items I'm not willing to risk destroying by mis-cleaning them. So I wear them once or twice, and then they sit for months before I can wear them again.

Needless to say, the commercials for Dryel--"the at-home dry clean only system" from Proctor and Gamble--immediately caught my eye! Do my own dry cleaning, on my own time, at home??? It seemed to good to be true!
To my delight, it's only partially too good to be true. Dryel does in fact work for most of my dry cleaning needs, though not all of them. There are some items--leather, irreplaceable wedding gowns, furs, etc--that aren't meant to be cleaned with Dryel. Velvets are also in the "don't do" category, but the items I tested worked fine.

What you do
The basic Dryel kit sells for about $10 to $15 (often less on sale) in most grocery stores, as well as in many other retail stores. It contains stain removal liquid and pads, the "Dryel cloth" (this is the item that does the cleaning), and a fabric bag.
The process is quite simple:

  1. First, check the garment for noticeable spots. Treat with the stain removal liquid: Place an absorbent stain removal pad under the stain, and use the stain removal liquid to treat the top of the fabric. The stain will "leak" out of the fabric and onto the pad.
  2. Next, put the garments to be cleaned into the Dryel bag, along with one of the Dryel cloths. One to four items can fit in the bag at a time; I found that three was the most I could fit and find the product still useful. Seal the bag (it has a Velcro closure).
  3. Toss the bag in the dryer, set the temperature to medium or high. Run dryer for 30 minutes.
  4. Immediately remove the bag from the dryer and hang garments. In most cases, this means no ironing! Toss the Dryel sheet in the garbage, and save the garment bag for future use.

That's it! It definitely seems simple enough. But what's really happening here?

How it works
When the Dryel cloth is heated in the dryer, it releases several chemicals and some moisture onto the items in the bag. The moisture helps to remove wrinkles from the fabric, and the chemicals "clean" the fabric.

Actually, what they really do is remove odors, and replace smoke and other scents with a mild perfume. Note, however, that it IS a perfume, and may cause allergic reactions.

What's the catch?
Like most "too good to be true" products, Dryel isn't a perfect product. It removes treated stains (most of the time) and odors. It does NOT remove general bits of dirt that permeate clothing whenever you wear it.

Some smells come out easily (smoke, perspiration), others do not. Similarly, some stains come out easily, while others will still need a trip to a professional dry cleaning shop. As with any stain remover, of course, there is a risk to the fabric - non-colorfast clothing should have an inconspicuous bit of fabric tested before much stain treatment is done.

Like any cleaning chemical, the Dryel products should be kept away from children. Proctor and Gamble states that swallowing the stain remover will only cause "mild stomach upset", but there's always the chance of worse reactions.

So is it worth it?
Overall, the product is useful. For minor stains, or for dry clean only clothing that simply needs freshening (rather than a serious clean), Dryel is certainly easier and more cost effective than a trip to the cleaner's shop. Within its stated guidelines and limitations, the product works well. At a cost of about fifty cents per use, and less per use when refill packages are purchased (refill packs contain dryer cloth and stain removal items only), I'm certainly inclined to keep Dryel on hand.

Note: When a garment tag states "Dry Clean" it is safe to hand-wash the garment. If the tag states "Dry Clean ONLY" you should NOT hand or machine wash the garment, unless you are Noël-Marie. [SMILEY]--Ed.

Noël-Marie Taylor is a freelance writer located in Columbia, Maryland. Her work has appeared in many magazines, including PC Magazine and The Mother Is Me. A stay-at-home mom to two children, she is also the designer of several cross-stitch kits for children.


Guest's picture

I also have Marietta's problem- will dryel work to kill bedbugs?

Guest Rudante Bautista's picture

in the Philippines, where can I buy this product

marietta's picture

I am undergoing bedbug treatment in my bedbug ridden building (a calamity I was not made aware of when I moved in last November). Part of the treatment is having all my clothes washed/or dry cleaned... my dry cleaning bill will be in the thousands , unless by some major miracle, home dry cleaning will work... please advise...


bgame's picture

What is in that cleaning stuff that comes with dryel kit?Is it like febreez? will i have same reaction

Guest's picture

Fabreez will NOT work. It is a cheap perfume which only covers your stink. Try REAL cleaningff and do some work; throw that crap away!!!!

Linda Yakonich's picture

Where can I buy Dryel for home dry cleaning?

Lynn's picture

You can find Dryel at Amazon.

CathyMM's picture

Can I use this product for my Drapes that says dry clean only?

Bill Smyth's picture

Can I buy Dryel in the UK?

Sherry Giuliano's picture

Is this product safe to use in the newer front loading L.G. Dryers?

Guest's picture

Noel-Marie may like Dryel but I've tried it twice and think it's quite awful. After the first disappointment, I waited several months and tried it a second time, thinking it may have reformulated the scent. No...it was still the very sickening floral smell and after treating my clothing, I had to hang them outdoors for a couple of days to try to remove the smell. It seemed to me that it was just "covering up" rather than actually cleaning and honestly, the scent was nauseating. Although dry cleaning is both expensive and full of chemicals, it is something I'll no longer compromise just to have convenience at home. I just choose which garments I have professionally cleaned on a rotating basis to keep the cost from ballooning out of control in any month. FYI.

Guest's picture

Save yourself a lot of money by buying products that are not dry clean only. Many fabrics can be hand washed and done at home to save money ... try washing in cold water with cold water tide or gain to have fresh smelling clothes!

guest's picture

a good post click

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