What is dry cleaning

Published On: Tue Jul 16 2024

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Do we really know what Dry cleaning entails? In its broad definition, dry cleaning is thus a textile cleaning process, which applies a liquid solvent that is not water. This is important, especially for clothes made of materials that would survive the hardness of a washing machine. In this blog, we will discuss aspects related to dry cleaning including but not limited to its history, how it works, the benefits of the process, as well as its effects on the environment. So, let’s delve into it!

History of Dry Cleaning 

The origin of dry cleaning can be loosely dated back to old Greece and Rome, where powdered chemicals and clay that can absorb water were used in the cleaning of garments without water. The French began to wash with fluids derived from turpentine in the 1700s.

It may be speculated that the modern solvent-based dry cleaning process began when an American businessman Thomas L. Jennings patented a “dry scouring” technique in 1821. Jean Baptiste Jolly, a French dyer of 1845 discovered a way of washing clothes with oil and gasoline. He went on to open the first dry cleaning service business in Paris.

The first solvents ever used were highly flammable and this informed the development of safer solvents like the Stoddard solvent in the 1920s. Since it burns and cleans well, perchloroethylene (perc) grew to be the most sought-after dry cleaning solvent in the 1930s.

However, the dry cleaning business has evolved over the years. It now uses solvents that are less dangerous to the earth and new technologies that help make it safer and more efficient.

Understanding Care Symbols

Common Care Symbols

Regarding care symbols on clothes, they can be confusing to decipher at times. The general symbols include a circle with words written ‘dry clean’, a circle containing a letter conjunction with the words ‘use certain solvents’, and a circle enclosed by a cross meaning ‘do not dry clean’.

How to Read Them

Of course, it is valuable to understand what these marks imply so that your clothes do not suffer any damage. An item containing a circle can be cleaned with the dry cleaning method. The letters drawn inside the circle such as P or F inform you the solvents to utilize. If the circle is drawn across the symbol then the item should not be dry cleaned.

Why Care Labels Are Important

With disregard of care symbols, your clothes might shrink, fade or even get damaged. Make it your practice to follow the care instructions to the letter to ensure the clothes will last as long as possible.

Step-by-Step Process of Dry Cleaning

1. Inspection and Tagging

Every piece of clothing is checked for spots, blank buttons, and anything else that is incorrect. To avoid a mix up of items they are labeled with their identification number.

2. Pre-Treatment

The right cleaning solvents are normally first applied on the stains to be removed. This entails use of specific    cleaning agents on the easily identifiable stains in order to help dissolve them prior to the main cleaning steps.

3. Cleaning

Clothes are put into a dry cleaner and soaked in a cleaning solution which can be perc or a hydrocarbon. The machine then generates a mild combination of rotating and tumbling to clean the clothes.

4. Post-Treatment

The stained area is treated again with the stain repellent solution. Professionals employ several methods to make certain that every dent and stain is removed.

5. Pressing and Finishing

Wearing apparels are ironed and steamed to make the wrinkles disappear. This step helps a garment to look neat immediately when they are ironed. Minor adjustments are also made where buttons may have been removed or where repairs could have been made.

6. Final Inspection

This product goes through another round of inspection in order to ensure its quality before dispatch. 

Special Attention

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Benefits of Dry Cleaning

Preservation of Fabric Quality

Dry cleaning is considered to be more beneficial than washing since it does not add pressure to the fabric. As with all fabrics, it preserves the shape, color, and texture of the garment and therefore enhances its durability.

Effective Stain Removal

It is a fact that the dry cleaners employ aggressive solvents that are capable of removing greasy and oily dirt which water-based detergent cannot remove. This makes it possible to clean to an extent that routine washing cannot manage to do so successfully.


Dry cleaning is useful, as it saves a lot of time. Taking your clothes to a dry cleaner also transacts that you do not spend a lot of time washing the clothes yourself.

Professional Finish

Clothes that have been taken to the dry cleaner do look all new and fresh, and it is difficult to get such a touch in the comfort of your home. The pressing and finishing steps make your clothes look clean with the least wrinkle that one can imagine.

How to Get the Best Results from Your Dry Cleaner

  • Ensure that dry cleaning is recommended for your garments on the care label requirements. Some dry cleaning care labels include a circle and a letter that expresses the solvent being used with cleansing.

  • It is helpful to inform the dry cleaner regarding stains that may be present before the clothes are dropped off. There are many methods and types of stains, which should be pretreated before dry cleaning is performed. Some of the stains found on garments include coffee, oil, alcohol and many others and it would be of great help to the dry cleaner to get to know what caused the stains so that they can recommend a pretreatment solution.

  • Do not wash dry-clean-only clothes with ordinary household detergent. This is the reason why clothes labeled to be dry cleaned come with such an indication. Cleaning chemicals could be more effective within the dryer as regards to eradication of odor and removal of wrinkles and light colored stains than in the role of drying. Nevertheless, they do not clean off stains as thoroughly as dry cleaner solutions and processes do.

  • Removal of the plastic covering of the dry cleaned items should be done at home but should not smell of solvent or perc. This means that the dry cleaner is not adequately cleaning or filtering the solvent which results in emitting the not-so-friendly gasses into the atmosphere. That only implies that you should go and get a new dry cleaning!

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

The traditional and common dry cleaning solution perchloroethylene (perc) is a detrimental chemical for both the environment and our health. In this contemporary era, instead of this traditional perc solution modern dry cleaners opt for eco-friendly practices, they use environment-friendly solvents which are less harmful for our health and the environment. There can be seen a variety of eco-friendly solutions modern dry cleaners are using which are:

  • Instead of perc modern dry cleaners use silicone-based solutions which are odorless and chemical-free solution for removing stains from garments.

  • Petroleum-based cleaning solvent such as DF-2000 hydrocarbon can be used instead of perc. But there are some health concerns using this solvent.

  • Liquid carbon dioxide is also environment-friendly and safer than perc and it should be utilized under high pressure to get a better result.

  • For those garments which are suitable for “dry cleaning only” wet cleaning is the best option for those garments rather than using perc. Wet cleaning uses water and biodegradable detergents which doesn’t create any health concerns and harm the environment.

Dry cleaning is a special service which has been still developing for years. Despite having a long history of evolution in today’s process, dry cleaning has many advantages such as it does not damage fabrics and they are effective to remove stains and it saves time. However, its impact on the environment should come to your mind and you should always opt for an environment friendly option where possible.

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