Some clothing labeled "dry clean only" actually can be hand-washed in cold water and hung to dry without any damage being done to the garment. This includes sweaters (yes, even cashmere), rayon, silk and some wool. If you normally dry clean a garment once a month, this can save you $150 a year.
This is a great way to save the planet. Perchloroethylene—or perc—the chemical used in most dry cleaning operations, is listed by the EPA as a hazardous substance to both human health and the environment. Long-term exposure to perc can cause liver and kidney damage and is classified as a possible carcinogen.
Professional cleaning is recommended for angora, fabrics with fancy stitching or embroidery, and structured or lined garments. After you pick these items up at the cleaners, remove the plastic covering protecting them and let them air out for five days or more before wearing them.