Spot Clean Only dress - Image courtesy of Rosen Georgiev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net In the height of prom season, many consumers will be heading to the stores to buy formal gowns. Before you make that purchase, take the time to look at the care label. Many formal dresses that are heavily beaded or covered with sequins contain care labels that state, “Do Not Dry clean; Do Not Wash; Spot Clean Only.”

Cursory tests often show that the coating on the beads is not resistant to dry cleaning processes or solvents. In other cases, the base fabric is not immune to washing processes. As a result, dry cleaning or washing the article is not possible.

Such a label mandates that the garment be cleaned with localized stain removal only. This can be extremely difficult on some of these gowns because of the type of fabric used. For instance, removing stains from hard-finished taffeta and similar material can be especially tricky without leaving circles or rings where the area was spotted.

Removing discolorations from the underarm areas can also be difficult without disturbing sizings.

On garments containing such labels, the dry cleaner must inform the customer of the limitations of the procedures that can be used to care for these items. If the garment is heavily soiled or stained, localized stain removal may be impossible. The dry cleaner should not attempt to process the article in any way other than that recommended by the care label without the customer’s consent. If the garment is handled without prior approval and is damaged, the dry cleaner may be held responsible.