Cleaning “Spot Clean Only” Garments

October 10, 2023

Do you have a garment with a care label that says “spot clean only”? If you do, it means that the garment should not be cleaned in its entirety, whether dry cleaning, wet cleaning or handwashing. Instead, you should only clean the specific stained or soiled area of the garment, referred to as the “spot.”

“Spot clean only” care instructions are typically found on clothing items that are made from delicate or sensitive fabrics, or the dyes used to make it, or have intricate details, embellishments, or components that can be easily damaged by traditional washing methods. Here are some common types of clothing and materials that may be labeled as “spot clean only”:

  • Silk: Silk is a delicate fabric that can be easily damaged by water and harsh cleaning agents. Silk garments, such as blouses, dresses, and ties, often have “spot clean only” instructions.
  • Wool: Wool can shrink and lose its shape when exposed to water or agitation. Wool suits, coats, and sweaters may require spot cleaning to avoid damage.
  • Leather and Suede: Leather and suede items, including jackets, shoes, and bags, are often marked as “spot clean only” to prevent water stains and maintain their texture.
  • Sequined or Beaded Clothing: Garments adorned with sequins, beads, or delicate embroidery can be easily damaged in a washing machine. These items are typically recommended for spot cleaning to preserve their decorative elements.
  • Velvet: Velvet is a sensitive fabric that can lose its pile or become flattened if exposed to water or excessive friction. Velvet dresses, blazers, or accessories may have “spot clean only” labels.
  • Fur: Fur coats, stoles, and accessories are typically spot cleaned to preserve the integrity and texture of the fur.
  • Delicate Lace: Lace items, such as lingerie or dresses, are often labeled as “spot clean only” to prevent the delicate fabric from tearing or stretching.
  • Items with Leather or Suede Trim: Clothing that combines different fabrics, such as a wool coat with leather or suede accents, may have “spot clean only” instructions to protect the leather or suede components.
  • Vintage or Antique Clothing: Vintage clothing items may have fragile fabrics or be more susceptible to damage, making spot cleaning the safer option.
  • Items with Non-Removable Components: Some clothing items have components that cannot be easily removed, such as built-in padding, structure, or wiring. These components can be damaged in traditional washing machines, so spot cleaning is recommended.

Leather jacket

Here are steps to remove a stain from a “spot clean only” garment:

  • Identify the stain: Determine what type of stain you’re dealing with, as different stains may require different cleaning methods. Common stains include food, beverages, oil, ink, and makeup.
  • Act quickly: The sooner you address a stain, the easier it is to remove. Blot the stain gently with a clean, white cloth or paper towel to absorb as much of the stain as possible. Avoid rubbing the stain, as it can spread and set deeper into the fabric.
  • Check the care label: Review the care label on the garment for any specific instructions on spot cleaning. It may provide additional guidance or restrictions.
  • Choose a spot cleaning method:
    1. Water and mild detergent: Mix a small amount of mild detergent (like dish soap or laundry detergent) with water to create a solution. Test a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric to ensure it doesn’t cause any damage or discoloration. If it’s safe, dip a clean cloth or sponge into the solution and gently dab the stained area. Rinse the cloth and repeat until the stain is gone. Rinse with clean water and blot dry with a clean cloth.
    2. Commercial stain removers: There are various commercial stain removers available specifically designed for spot cleaning. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, and always test on a hidden area of the fabric first.
    3. Dry cleaning solvent: Some “spot clean only” garments can be treated with a dry-cleaning solvent. Apply the solvent to a clean cloth and blot the stain gently. Make sure to follow any safety precautions and guidelines on the solvent’s label.
  • Blot and rinse: Regardless of the method you use, always blot the stained area and avoid scrubbing or rubbing, as this can damage the fabric. Rinse the cleaned area with clean water or a damp cloth to remove any leftover cleaning solution.
  • Air dry: Allow the garment to air dry completely before wearing or storing it. Do not use a dryer, as heat can set stains.

If the stain persists after one attempt, you may need to repeat the process or seek professional help from a dry cleaner, especially if the garment is valuable or delicate.  Always check the care label or care instructions provided by the manufacturer to determine the specific cleaning recommendations for your clothing. Following these instructions carefully will help you maintain the quality and longevity of your garments.

If in doubt, bring it to the professional dry cleaners at Utopia Cleaners. Our fine dry cleaning service, Classic Care, is designed for handling delicate or “spot clean only” items. At Utopia Cleaners, spot cleaning is performed by our stain removal specialist on a spotting board using a combination of steam, specialty cleaning agents, vacuum and/or air drying. The spot cleaning agent is usually flushed out by dry cleaning fluid during dry cleaning, but in the case of “spot clean only” garments, this cannot be done. As a result, any residue of the spot cleaning agent will remain in the garment and may eventually develop a visible ‘ring’.

If you have a garment with a ‘spot clean only’ label, bring it to us for dry cleaning and we would be happy to discuss the options and risks of different cleaning methods.  Call our free laundry pickup and delivery service or visit one of our dry-cleaning locations in Boston today.

Beware that ultimately, the ‘spot clean only’ label may mean that there is no safe way to clean that garment, so you may wish to think twice before purchasing such a garment.

This post was updated on October 10, 2023.