The proper way to clean fabrics depends on the fibers from which they are made, any pre-treatments by the manufacturer and the potential for color bleed. The best way to clean many fabrics is in the washing machine, but other fabrics require the special techniques used by professional cleaners.
Read the care label
The care label of the item provides instructions as to whether the fabric is safe to wash in water or requires dry cleaning. Look for these labels on clothing, drapes and furniture with removable covers. If the covers on furniture aren't removable, it's often possible to clean the fabric using a carpet cleaner with an upholstery hand tool, provided they are washable in water.
Determine if the fabric is pre-shrunk
Manufacturers often include this information on the care label. Fabrics that aren't pre-shrunk sometimes shrink with cleaning. Leave the cleaning of these item to professionals; they use special techniques to ensure fabric retains its original shape.
Determine if the fabric is colorfast
Dark colors are more likely to bleed into adjoining colors. Test for colorfastness by rubbing with a damp, wet washcloth. If the color transfers to the cloth, the item isn't colorfast and requires special cleaning techniques to prevent damage.