Champion Cleaners Dry Cleaning Blog - With Birmingham Area Happenings

What Does "Spot Clean Only" Mean When It's Time to Dry Clean?

Posted by David Whitehurst on Nov 29, 2010 11:50:00 AM

Blouse with Spot Clean Only care label at Champion Cleaners in Birmingham, Alabama

Have you ever seen “Spot Clean Only” on a care label for your dress or blouse?

While infrequent, it's almost always found on high-end ladies' garments.  At Champion Cleaners in Birmingham, Alabama, we see them on care labels on “dressy” dresses, or on Mother of the Bride dresses and even on fancy blouses.  But wherever found, this label basically means that there is no safe way to clean that garment.  

What is Spot Cleaning?

Spot cleaning means that your dry cleaner applies a local spotting agent to a garment in the area of a spot or stain.  But the entire garment cannot be dry cleaned or laundered when the label says, "Spot Clean Only."  Because Spot Cleaning usually requires either wet cleaning (water-based cleaning technique) or dry cleaning (solvent-based cleaning technique) to remove the spotting agent, it might be possible to remove the spot but leave a visible and undesired “ring” of spotting agent on the garment. 

So if you can’t dry clean or wet clean the garment, you can’t remove the spotting agent…and you can’t clean the garment without risking damage to the garment.  In my opinion, the care label that says “Spot Cleaning Only” is just a way to make the consumer think it can be cleaned…when it can’t.

Why Do Care Labels say “Spot Clean Only?”

Maybe there are beads that cannot withstand the necessary action to clean a garment.  Or maybe there are blends of fabrics that together cannot hold up to the treatment.  Sometimes it’s the dyes in the fabric that cannot take the treatment.

Sometimes a garment is made and not properly tested by the manufacturer before mass production.  When it is discovered that the garment cannot be cleaned, the manufacturer slaps a care label in the garment saying to “Spot Clean Only.” I believe that is intended to remove liability from the manufacturer and still sell the dress to the uninformed consumer.  That’s a rip off!

You can call these garments, “One and Done.”  Don’t expect your dry cleaner to work a miracle unless you are willing to waive any damages to the garment.  And even then, success is neither easy nor guaranteed.  In fact, a "Spot Clean Only" garment is often damaged during cleaning even when handled by the most experienced dry cleaner.  But if the garment is so bad in need of cleaning that you cannot wear it again, it’s worth the risk.  Otherwise, you can either trash the dress or let it take up space in your closet.

If you haven’t seen the “Spot Clean Only” care label, be on the lookout and don’t be confused into thinking that your favorite Birmingham dry cleaner can always handle it.


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