Oh oh… Does That Label Say “Spot Clean Only”?

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I don’t know about you, but I never read care labels on garments. When I go shopping, the last thing on my mind is figuring out how to clean the clothes I have yet to buy. More often than not, all that I’m thinking about is how that dress is going to look; the care label can wait until later.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably lost quite a few staple pieces in your closet because of this. The worst is when you buy that expensive little black dress that looks amazing and can be worn anywhere only later to find it’s labeled “spot clean only.” So what do you do? You’ve already fallen in love with the dress, but you’re too scared to clean it on your own. Was the dress worth the price if you can only wear it once? What does spot-clean mean anyway, and how do you get around it without ruining your dress?

Don’t worry; we’ve got all the answers you’re looking for. Care labels are tough. You hardly think about them when making a purchase but they are so important! Here are the answers to some FAQ’s that will make it easier for you to decide what to do with your “spot-clean only” garments.

1. What does “spot-clean” even mean?

In simple terms, spot-cleaning something means cleaning only the part of the garment that is dirty or stained. You cannot clean the entire garment. Usually the more expensive your garment is, the more likely it has a spot-clean only label. Any time that a garment is made using a delicate fabric such as silk it gets labeled “spot-clean only.” If you’re not careful and soil your garment in water, it can get ruined!

2. Why are “spot-clean only” garments tricky to clean?

To spot-clean an item, you can use either a water based or chemical based formula. Although you may be successful in removing the dirty spot on your garment or that stain, the overall result may not be the best. Usually, using such a technique does get the job done… on that one spot. Your garment may be clean in that one spot, but it may leave behind a noticeable ring around the spot you just cleaned. Since you are not cleaning the entire garment, you may also notice that the spot you cleaned is cleaner than the rest of the shirt. Though less noticeable than a stain, it’s still going to be an eyesore.

A lot of professional cleaners will refuse to spot-clean an item in fear that the garment will come out looking worse than before. In fact, they often ignore the label and clean the entire garment. Don’t try this at home though! Professional cleaners are trained specialists who know what they’re doing. The chance of your garment getting ruined if you put it in the machine to wash, or try to clean it by hand is high. Sending it to people who have cleaned like-items thousands of times ensures that your garment will come out looking great.

If the garment is permanently ruined because you overlooked the instructions on how to clean it, professional cleaners cannot guarantee that it will be brought back to the way it was before it was stained. Make sure to have a conversation with your cleaner to set expectations.

3. What should you do?

The best advice is to read every label before purchasing a clothing item. You don’t want to be surprised, and you sure don’t want to throw that expensive shirt in the wash for it to come out the other end damaged and ruined. Once you’ve gotten the hang of looking at care-labels, you need to make up your mind about how much “care” you’re willing to put into your wardrobe. And when making the decision to invest in those higher quality pieces for yourself, be sure to let a skilled professional who uses proper spot-cleaning techniques take care of it for you. This is the only way your garment will maintain its shelf life!

Remember to have a conversation with your local cleaner about your garment. Tell them what you’re worried about and ask them if they are sure they can clean it without wrecking or ruining it. If they decide that it cannot be done, they will let you know! They won’t risk ruining your garment without warning you about the possible risks associated with cleaning it. Be open and ask them what they can do for you… It’s the best way to make sure your “spot-clean only” dress can get cleaned without getting damaged.

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About Mergime Berisha

Mergime is driven by a nagging curiosity and need to know, blessed with a strong work ethic and skilled in multi media, research, documentary making, editing, and writing. She is a published children’s novelist and has written articles for several digital and print newspapers. She graduated from Carleton University where she earned a Master's of Journalism Studies.
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