Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

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Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby Oilburner » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:44 pm

I bought three pairs Ralph Lauren "Total Comfort" 100% wool dress pants. The care label says "Dry Clean Only". Being a Boglehead, I'd like to wash them to save money, if it won't ruin the pants. Using a front loader washer, I would wash using cold water and Woolite, on the "Knits/Delicates" cycle. I would remove from the washer promptly and then press them, using an iron. Anyone of you have experience with this? Will washing them ruin them? Make them shrink? It seems like it may be alright, since wool sweaters can be washed in water, using Woolite. Opinions?

Thanks.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby livesoft » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:46 pm

I don't see a problem, but I would not wash all 3 simultaneously.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby sscritic » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:51 pm

livesoft wrote:I don't see a problem, but I would not wash all 3 simultaneously.

Yes, better to ruin them one at a time rather than all at once.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby nisiprius » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:32 pm

Being a Boglehead and not liking to pay for dry cleaning, I mostly avoid buying things that have care labels that say "Dry Clean Only." The things that do have that label, I have dry cleaned, on the theory that dry cleaning costs less than having to buy a new suit because the old one got ruined. Or even a new pair of Ralph Lauren "Total Comfort" 100% wool dress pants at... how much did they set you back? Around ninety bucks a pair? Or even the $20 tie I just had cleaned for $4.

There are some things... what's the brand name... Dryel... that involve a clothes dryer and a bag and some sheets that release some kind of vapor, which claims to dry-clean things at home. I believe we've tried it occasionally, and it doesn't ruin the clothes, but it doesn't clean them very well, either.
Last edited by nisiprius on Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby sscritic » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:36 pm

The boglehead way is not to spill food on your wool pants. Wool is very tolerant of most other things. Dry clean once after 10 years, then again after another 10. Amortize your costs.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby Mrs.Feeley » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:07 pm

I have washed 100-percent wool garments in the way you've described and they've almost always shrunk. Maybe not a lot, but enough to affect the fit. Hand-washing sweaters in Woolite can also potentially shrink them which is why it is recommended that they be blocked, i.e., stretched with pins on a stretching board, as they dry. Assumedly it is the washer's agitation which is most responsible for shrinkage, but the act of getting them wet also bears some responsibility. When in doubt I take garments to the dry cleaner. That way there's no risk they'll end up looking kinda nappy after a trip through the washer.

It is worth noting that there are many garments with "Dry Clean Only" tags that do not need to be dry-cleaned. One of those news shows like 20/20 exposed this scam. The dry-cleaning industry pays garment makers to insert the tags regardless of fiber content. One-hundred-percent wool garments do not belong to this category.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby BL » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:47 pm

I would use Eucalan, not Woolite, for wools and fine fabrics if I did wash them. Knitters often use this product.

Agitation and temperature change can felt (full) your wool into something much smaller, so would caution you to be very careful.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby englishgirl » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:57 pm

I wash almost everything, with the exception of some jackets and coats that are dry cleaned very irregularly. But I have also ruined a fair few clothing items in my time - I view it as an additional learning expense - eventually, you learn what fabrics you can and can't wash, even if the label says dry clean. I mostly will try to check the label before I buy though, and try to only buy things that say they can be machine washed.

Having said that, I would not wash wool dress pants, especially not if they are lined - the shrinkage of the wool will become very obvious against a full lining. And some lining materials don't take well to washing either, and might crinkle.

If really insistent, you could test wash one pair, but be prepared to ruin them. Be sure it's cold water. Hang straight up on a wooden (or other suitably sturdy) hanger to dry before ironing.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby TS1 » Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:55 am

I'm not sure it's possible to get a good result washing wool pants in water, but I once watched Martha Stewart hand wash a cashmere sweater and she said that avoiding agitation is key. It was a dip-and-blot type of procedure.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby kitteh » Tue Apr 02, 2013 2:13 am

I used to hand wash wool sweaters in Woolite in lukewarm water years ago. I always put the wet sweater on a towel and adjusted the sweater to shape for drying.

Then they changed Woolite so that it was scented. Shortly afterward a so-called "original" Woolite also appeared, but at least back then it was not actually the original, it was some other scented version. So now I buy cotton sweaters.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby thirdman » Tue Apr 02, 2013 3:43 am

I found a dry cleaner that takes cash for orders below $15, and charges half of what other cleaners charge. They do a great job. I have my suits dry cleaned and my dress shirts done. I would only wash wool that says washable wool.

My sweaters get hand washed in woolite, since i don't like chemicals, but now i mostly wear fleece.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby stickman731 » Tue Apr 02, 2013 5:44 am

I personally avoid washing wool unless indicated as washable. Unlike cotton, wool is a protein based fabric and can be effects by detergents and enzymes in many cleaning formulations.

A very useful site on cleaning products is listed below:

http://www.aboutcleaningproducts.com/pr ... y-fabrics/
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby edge » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:43 am

Dry clean them
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby livesoft » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:53 am

Well, it now seems from the responses that there is only one way to find out if it is OK.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby Cherokee8215 » Tue Apr 02, 2013 9:15 am

I once accidentally machine washed and dried a pair of pure wool pants. They went from size 32x30 to something suitable for a newborn baby.

On the other hand, I have many pair of Brooks Brothers cotton "brushed twill" pants that specify "dry clean only". I had one pair that was getting ready for "retirement" from wearing to work due to condition. I decided to machine wash and dry them to see what happened. Even after 6 years of "dry clean only", they came out fine.

I think the wool is what makes the difference, it needs to be dry cleaned for some reason.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby SteveB3005 » Tue Apr 02, 2013 9:51 am

BL wrote: Agitation and temperature change can felt (full) your wool into something much smaller.


Plan B: Learn How to Felt Wool into an array of useful items and fun gifts. (pin cushions, pot holders)

http://www.motherearthnews.com/do-it-yourself/how-to-felt-wool-ze0z10zhir.aspx#ixzz2PJUk6RwQ
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby Rupert » Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:01 am

No, it isn't okay. You may not destroy them the first time you wash them but you will destroy them much faster than if you took care of them properly.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby Oilburner » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:03 pm

nisiprius wrote:Being a Boglehead and not liking to pay for dry cleaning, I mostly avoid buying things that have care labels that say "Dry Clean Only." The things that do have that label, I have dry cleaned, on the theory that dry cleaning costs less than having to buy a new suit because the old one got ruined. Or even a new pair of Ralph Lauren "Total Comfort" 100% wool dress pants at... how much did they set you back? Around ninety bucks a pair? Or even the $20 tie I just had cleaned for $4...


I paid $60 on sale and with coupons. I think the fictitious (retail) price was about $130.

Thank you everyone. I had no idea you could go longer without cleaning wool. I thought I would be sending the pants to the cleaners weekly. That's not so bad, every three months or so, with airings.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby CaliJim » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:14 am

I washed my wool slacks by mistake the other day. I noticed them when pulling the clothes out of the washer to put into the dryer. Rather than dry in the automatic dryer, them I hung them up from the cuffs to dry. They seem to be fine. But I don't recommend doing it this way all the time.
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Re: Is It O.K. To Wash Wool "Dry Clean Only" Dress Pants?

Postby leo383 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:14 am

I have washed my 7yo daughter's wool pea coat a couple times in our HE washing machine.

Delicate cycle all by itself, tiny bit of detergent, air dry.

It has turned out great, although I wouldn't do this many times.
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