It is often frustrating to find that perfect item of clothing, only to learn it must be dry-cleaned or hand-washed. Does everything with such labels really need special care? Dry-cleaning specialists advise that when in doubt, spend the money. Taking a chance and washing something that states “Dry Clean Only,” only to pull an unrecognizable mess out of the washer, is disheartening. His business obviously depends on it, but owner Kav Apadana of San Diego, Calif.-based Apadana Cleaners, points out that labels are there for a reason. The maker of the clothing does not benefit from cleaning fees. Apadana says both dry-cleaning and gentle-washing services (actually a wash in a special “very gentle” machine with a mild cleanser) are the same price. “We look at labels and follow instructions very carefully,” he says. He points out that hand-washed items sometimes last a little longer, in general, than clothing requiring dry cleaning because the latter involves slightly harsher chemicals. He suggests that those planning to hand-wash should use a detergent specifically made for hand-washing, and follow directions that state whether items should be hung immediately or laid out flat on a towel to dry. If you want to treat your clothes right but don't have time for a daily dry-cleaning run, consider purchasing a delicates bag for your washing machine, a home dry-clean kit, and certainly the right detergent. Before washing a fabric at home, spot-test an area on a seam or a less-visible section with water and a dab of the cleaner to learn the reaction. The dryer is the ultimate enemy for dry-clean-only clothing, so avoid at all costs.