Dry Cleaning vs Steam Cleaning Clothes

Dry Cleaning vs Steam Cleaning Clothes [Pros, Cons & Final Verdict]

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Both are cleaning methods, but that’s about the only similarity they have.

So, today I want to lay all the facts down and give you all you need to know about dry cleaning vs steam cleaning clothes. You’ll also get to see how both of them work and where they differ.

So, what should you expect from each cleaning method, and which offers the best way to clean your clothes?

Read on till the end and find out!

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Is Steam Cleaning the Same as Dry Cleaning?

Steam cleaning is very different from dry cleaning. It’s a modern way to clean your clothes fast, effectively, and cheaper.

Let’s check out how each of these methods works before we move further…

1. Dry Cleaning

This method is mostly used on garments that have a ‘Dry Clean Only’ label on them. It’s also a popular way of cleaning sensitive outfits like suits and wedding gowns.

In a dry-cleaning process, most of the time your clothes get dumped in a machine and are cleaned with the help of a solution called perchloroethylene.

However, perchloroethylene is a known health and environmental hazard. That’s why many people are seeking green alternatives like wet/eco dry-cleaning instead.

Also, with dry cleaning, you have to deliver your dirty clothes then go pick them up at a later date.

2. Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning is a sure life-saver if you’re pressed for time and need to make a quick dash on short notice. It is one of those “in-and-out” kinds of solutions for your fabrics!

Basically, it works by blowing steam from heated water right onto your cloth. The steam released is under very high pressure and works like magic to rid your favorite fabrics of dirt, odors, and other muck.

Steam cleaning can help you get rid of not only stains, but also germs, dust mites, and mold growths. That is why many homeowners have also lauded steam cleaning for how effective it is when cleaning carpets.

Pros and Cons of Dry Cleaning

blue dry cleaning machine - dry cleaning vs steam cleaning clothes

Let’s see some of the pros and cons of dry cleaning.


  • Great for cleaning bulk loads.
  • Decreases level of cloth decolorization.
  • There is less shrinkage and/or fabric distortion.
  • It’s a good method for removing tough stains.


  • Expensive when compared to steam cleaning.
  • May involve chemicals such as perchloroethylene that are harmful to your health and the environment.
  • Time-consuming (if you consider the drop-offs and pick-ups).

Pros and Cons of Steam Cleaning

Now, let’s look at some of the main benefits and limitations of using a steam cleaner over a dry cleaner.


  • Needs less space as you can steam the clothes while hung upright.
  • More cost-efficient.
  • Quicker than most traditional methods.
  • Carries our deep-cleaning on your clothes’ fibers to remove wrinkles, stains, odors, and germs.
  • Gentle on most compatible fabrics.
  • Very convenient. You can do steam cleaning at home, it relieves you of all the hassle of delivering and retrieving your clothes from the dry cleaners.


  • Needs more effort when cleaning bulk clothes.
  • Steam cleaners have maximum use times beyond which they’ll stop working.

Is Steam Cleaning the Better Option?


If you don’t like the idea of having to constantly drop and pick up your laundry from the dry cleaners, then steam cleaning is your safety net.

Even better, it gives you the power of removing tough stains, dirt, and wrinkles and can be done with little space (doesn’t need an ironing board).

It works great on most cotton, wool, silk, and polyesters!

Also, steam cleaning provides deep cleaning and eliminates germs, mold, and foul odors all at a more affordable cost.

How to Steam Clean Your Clothes

Steam cleaning your clothes is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do at home. It’s straightforward and gives you the desired results in a matter of moments.

Now, I highlighted the following steps as basic guidelines that apply to most steam cleaners out there. Ensure that you run through them before you get your ball rolling on the actual cleaning.


1.     Fill your steam cleaner with an adequate amount of water. You’ll have to detach the water canister off your steam cleaner. Most of them have a mark or line showing you the maximum level of water they should hold. Be sure that you don’t fill beyond the indicated line or the steam cleaner may jam along the way.

2.     Add an attachment of your choice. There are a few steam cleaner attachment options that you could use depending on the size or type of cloth you want to clean. These attachments come in various shapes/sizes and normally the manufacturer suggests the best for each use case.

3.     Plug into a power source. Extend your steam cleaner’s power cord and plug it into a wall. Ensure that you’ve untangled the entire length to avoid accidentally tripping over the wire when cleaning.

4.     Turn the steam cleaner on. The power button may be positioned in different places depending on the model you have. Once you turn it on, allow the pre-filled water to heat up to about 200+ degrees Fahrenheit (optimal temperature) first.

5.     Put your cloth on a hanger, door knob, or over a closet. Most cloth steam cleaners are hand-held and so the best way to use them is when you hang a cloth upright. Some steam cleaners offer cloth hangers as an accessory.

6.     Steam away! Most manufacturers recommend that you keep the steam cleaner’s nozzle at least 6 inches away from the cloth. When wrinkles don’t straighten out from the first pass, flap the cloth and take another swing at it.

That’s it!

Note: Different steam cleaners come with their specific directions for use and handling. Make sure that you go over your steam cleaner’s Manual before using it to avoid any malfunction or personal injury down the line.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Items Should You Avoid When Steam Cleaning?

There are a few surfaces or materials that will react badly if exposed to extremely-heated moisture. Some of them include suede and waxed jackets (as they can MELTmelt).

To be safe, ensure that you check the fabric’s care guide on the label for the best directions.

2. Is Dry Cleaning Effective in Removing Body Odor?

Well… Not so much. I am sure that there are a couple of times you took your clothes to the dry cleaners only for them to return with odor.

Body odors like perspiration from armpits normally don’t clear from regular dry cleaning. You’d have to put your clothes through other alternatives if you want the odor dealt with effectively.

3. Is Steam Cleaning Better than Ironing?

Yes, it is. When ironing, your clothes literally get exposed to a burning surface that causes the fabric’s fibers to break and crumble after prolonged use.

With steam cleaning, you don’t have to worry about that as it only depends on hot, dry steam blown under high pressure to remove wrinkles from your favorite outfits. Steam cleaning also does not break cloth fibers and leaves them feeling soft even after several uses.

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