How Does Dry Cleaning Work?

In dry cleaning a cleaning solvent is used where the entire article of clothing is submerged. No water is used in the process which is where it has earned the name “dry” cleaning. Let’s take a closer look at how dry cleaning works to keep your clothing clean.

Dry cleaning is a rather new industry in the United States, only coming about within the past 75 years. Initially, harsh solvents such as carbon tetrachloride and trichlorethylene were used to clean garments. Eventually though a product called perchlorethylene, known as perc, became the product of choice. Not only was this product faster and safer to use, but it cleaned garments much better. Having perc as the main cleaning solvent opened up new opportunities for dry cleaners. Now they could operate in smaller spaces with less equipment and could offer 1 hour cleaning services for clients.

Step 1 : Tagging

When you take your clothing to the dry cleaners the first step is for the cleaners to tag your items. During this step the cleaners will take an inventory of your clothing and tag each item. The tag will remain on your clothing through the entire cleaning process.

Step 2: Stain Treatment

In the next step, any difficult stains will be pre-treated, just like what you would do at home for normal laundry. The idea is to help eliminate the stain so that it will be easier for the dry cleaning chemicals to work to fully remove the stain. If you know the nature of the stain you can help in this process by doing a light stain treatment or simply blotting the stain to remove some of the substance. The earlier you are able to act to pre-treat a stain the more chance you have to fully remove the stain.

Step 3: “Dry” Treatment

From here clothing enters the cleaning machine which contains a stainless steel basket that holds the clothing. The basket is housed in the cleaning machine that is both the washer and the dryer. This is done so that nearly all of the cleaning solvent can be recovered and reused saving both money for the cleaners and the environment. The basket rotates through the machine as the solvent is pumped through the clothing. After the cleaning solvent step is complete the clothing is spun rapidly to air dry. From here, clothing will be placed over coils to completely dry the garments.

Step 4: Post Treatment

Following cleaning the clothing with the solvent the employees at the cleaners will examine the clothing and look for any stubborn stains. If some remain, the clothing will be post-spotted. Not every stain will be removed but this is a last attempt to remove the remaining stains. After the clothing is post-spotted the last step in the dry cleaning process is finishing. In this phase the clothing is pressed or steamed and any repairs to the garment are made.

Step 5: Steam & Return

At times the clothing will be immersed in steam to remove any stiffness that might have occurred as a result of the dry cleaning process. In conclusion, the article of clothing is officially declared finished, packaged, and returned to the client with the corresponding tag.