dry cleaning

What Is Dry Cleaning?

Dry cleaning is fairly similar to conventional home laundry, however instead of using water and soap to clean your garments, a liquid solvent is utilized. The term “dry cleaning” refers to a solvent that contains very little or no water.

Large, technologically sophisticated, computer-controlled dry cleaning machines are used by dry cleaners. Although the liquid solvent is used to damp your garments, it dries out considerably faster than water does. Since the solvent is used instead of water, it is not drained and thrown away like filthy water from a washing machine is.

Throughout the whole cleaning cycle, the solvent is recirculated through filters to remove contaminants that were loosen during the cleaning process. The solvent is then filtered and distilled until it is crystal clear, ready for reuse.

Compared to wet cleaning or cleaning with water, dry cleaning offers two key advantages: The fibers swell in water. Many clothing experience shrinkage and dye fading as a result of this swelling action. Water is far less effective than dry cleaning solvents at removing oily or greasy residues, which are the main cause of many stains.

Your cleaner uses specialized finishing equipment to “finish” (press) your garments after they have been thoroughly cleaned.

Depending on the clothing being finished, several finishing techniques are utilized, but generally speaking, steaming and pressing are included.

Steaming is useful for easing creases, improving pressing, and improving cleaning by getting rid of any leftover water-soluble compounds and destroying microorganisms.

The final stage, pressing, yields results that are crisp and smooth and are challenging to replicate at home using a hand iron. This necessitates a lot of expertise and training and enables a last-minute review of the garment. Your clothes are pressed, given one last look over, and then wrapped in anticipation of your arrival.

Laundry has always been a typical household task. This method requires water and a mechanical activity, which is typically supplemented by soap or an alkali, whether the technology was beating the clothes on rocks by the river or pressing buttons on programmed washing machines. An alkali is used to saponify oils and loosen common soil and other debris.

The soapy ingredient often keeps soil in suspension as it becomes sloppy during the wash cycle and is then washed away during the rinse cycle and centrifugal spin.

Laundry at home is dried by either draping on a clothesline or tumble-drying in an electric or gas-heated dryer.

On the other hand, dry cleaning is distinct. It is a method for dry cleaning garments. Since there is no water involved, the cleaning procedure is referred to as “dry” since all clothing is immersed and cleansed in a liquid solvent. You may learn what happens to your clothes when you drop them off at the cleaners by reading this article’s behind-the-scenes peek at the dry-cleaning procedure!

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Chemicals for Dry Cleaning

Different solvents are used by dry cleaners to clean fabrics. According to the State Coalition for Remediation of Drycleaners (SCRD), a group whose members share information about cleanup efforts, early solvents included gasoline, kerosene, benzene, turpentine, and petroleum, all of which were extremely flammable and deadly.

Synthetic, nonflammable solvents like perchloroethylene (commonly known as perc or PCE) and decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (also known as GreenEarth) were created in the 1930s and are still in use today.

According to an SCRD paper titled “Chemicals Used in Drycleaning Operations,” detergents are generally added to the solvents to help in the removal of dirt. Three ways in which detergents support dry cleaning

  • carrying moisture to help remove soils that are water soluble.
  • preserving dirt after it has been removed from the fabric to prevent resorption.
  • serving as a spotting agent to permeate the fabric and allow the solvents to remove the stains.

Before dry cleaning starts, detergents are either added to the solvent, or they are added at certain intervals throughout the procedure.

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The Dry-Cleaning Method

The Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI), a global trade organisation for specialists in garment care, states that dry cleaning machines have four parts:

  • the foundation tank or holding tank used to store the solvent.
  • a pump that moves the solvent around the apparatus.
  • Either the solvent or the cloth are free of filters that collect solid contaminants and dirt.
  • a wheel or cylinder where the objects being cleaned are placed.

When dry cleaning is being done, the pump draws solvent from the tank and filters it to get rid of any contaminants. Once within the cylinder, the filtered solvent reacts with the fibers and eliminates any soil. The solvent then returns to the holding tank to start the procedure over.

Following the completion of the cleaning cycle for the items, the machine goes through an extraction cycle to get rid of extra solvent. The cylinder rotates faster throughout this procedure, much like the final spin cycle on a household washing machine.

If the machine is a closed system, the clothing are dried inside it or placed in a different dryer once the extraction cycle is over and the cylinder stops rotating. In order to return the extra solvent to the holding tank, it is collected, filtered, and transported.

When you drop off your garments at the cleaners, the staff follows a routine that is common to nearly every dry-cleaning business in existence today. Your clothing experiences the following processes:

  • Tagging and inspection – Some method is employed to identify your clothing so they don’t get mixed up with everyone else’s, whether it’s tiny paper tags or tiny labels put on a shirt collar. In order to avoid having to blame the dry cleaner, clothes are also checked for missing buttons, tears, etc.
  • Pre-treatment: The cleaner inspects your clothing for stains and applies a pre-treatment to make removal quicker and more effective.
  • Dry cleaning involves putting the clothing in a machine and using a solvent to clean it.
  • After spotting, any remaining stains are cleaned off.
  • Finishing touches like pressing, folding, and packaging fall under this category.


Each order is identifiable when your garments are dropped off. The procedure of item identification includes numbering and characterizing the articles, though the specifics may differ from dry cleaner to dry cleaner (e.g., shirt, blouse, slacks). The dates that they were dropped off and when they will be ready for the customer to pick up are also indicated. Then, each article of clothing is given a small, colored tag that is attached to it with a safety pin or staple and stays there during the entire dry-cleaning process. Additionally, the dry cleaner creates an invoice and inputs the order’s details, including the customer’s name, address, and phone number, into a computer. This makes it easier to remember the order.

There is a unique colored tag that gets attached to that specific article of clothing if it requires special care, such as eliminating a red wine stain from a shirt or adding a double crease to pant legs. A quality check is performed once the dress has been washed or dry cleaned, and the order is then put back together. This indicates that the garment is packaged for the purchaser to pick up. Remember that each order has a colored tag with a number on it that serves as an identification, allowing the person who reassembles the order to know which shirts and which pairs of pants fit together and to whom they belong.

Should Stains Be Pre-Treated?

Although suggestions differ, some dry cleaning websites advise against treating stains before bringing clothing to the dry cleaner because doing so runs the risk of making stains more difficult for the dry cleaner to remove. Different substances from water that you might use are available to cleaners that they might employ to remove stains from textiles. The residue from such substances may cause issues during dry cleaning and exacerbate the damage to your clothing, so it’s crucial to let your cleaner know about everything you’ve spilled on the garments.

Call your cleaner and ask them what to apply if you are unsure of what to do when a stain occurs.

Air Drying

Despite the name, dry cleaning doesn’t actually keep the clothing dry. They get soaked! Cleaning machines come in a wide variety of brands and producers, but they are all identical in concept and operation. In a spinning, perforated stainless steel basket, a cleaning machine is a motor-driven washer/extractor/dryer that can carry up to 100 pounds (9 to 45 kg) of clothing or materials. A housing with motors, pumps, filters, a still, recovery coils, storage tanks, fans, and a control panel houses the basket.

The washer and dryer are housed in the same appliance in all modern technology. Due to this, almost all of the perc used during cleaning may be recovered, benefiting the environment and saving the dry cleaner money.

A steady stream of clean solvent from the pump and filter system is flowing as the clothing revolve in the perforated basket. The solvent continuously squirts into the chamber and basket, soaking the clothing as well as gently dropping and bashing them against the baffles of the cylinder. The contaminated solvent is continually pumped through the filter and recirculated dirt-free of debris that becomes lodged in the filter.

In a typical machine, solvent might be pumped through the clothing at a rate of about 1,500 gallons (5,678 litres) per hour. Perchloroethylene, also referred to as “perc” in the industry, is the most frequently used solvent. Perc weighs around 69% more than water. The clothing would be mechanically soaked in 200 gallons (757 liters) of solvent over an eight-minute cycle. This is more than enough to completely clean the clothing.

In the following cycle, the clothing are drained, quickly spun to remove the solvent, and then dried by passing warm air through them. Warm air is used to vaporize the leftover vapors and solvent, which is then condensed over cooling coils and expelled through a secondary air control.

The water that could have remained in the clothing or system is removed, and the distilled solvent is then separated from it and put back in the tank as distilled solvent. It is rather easy to separate it since any moisture that may have condensed into the water during the procedure floats on top of perc.

Whichever solvent the dry cleaner chooses, the quality of cleaning, the extent of grime removal, the color brightness, the freshness, the odor, and the softness are all dependent on how well the cleaner manages the condition of his filters, solvent, and moisture. If the cleaner is not continually paying attention to these elements, quality control may change from day to day.


The method of quality control also includes post-cleaning spot removal. Known as “post-spotting,” this procedure makes use of specialized tools and chemical preparations that involve steam, water, air, and suction. An easy procedure is used to get rid of a stain during post-spotting. The stain can only be removed with water or wet-side chemicals if the paint originally contained water (bean soup, for example). If the color was on the dry side (oil-based paint, tar, nail polish, grease), it requires solvents or dry-side chemicals to remove the stain.

The washing process usually gets rid of the majority of wet-type stains when doing laundry at home. But grease doesn’t. The wet-side stains will remain intact following the cleaning cycle in dry cleaning, which works in the reverse way. While the cleaning cycle is running, the solvent, on the other hand, eliminates grease and oils. It is possible to make an exception to this rule by adding a “charge” of specially formulated dry-cleaning soap (an anhydrous emulsifier) to the washing cycle.

If any stains are still present after cleaning, the dry cleaner will inspect your items. Post-spotting makes an effort to remove them if they occur. The vast bulk of dirt and humiliation will be eliminated by an attentive cleaner. However, a small percentage of extremely persistent stains may never be completely eliminated for a variety of reasons, including:

  • By heat and time, tannin stains are established.
  • original color faded or washed away.
  • Sun-bleached materials or areas
  • deposit of non-local dye


The garment is finished, pressed, steamed, ironed, and any repairs needed to restore it are made during the last stage of dry-cleaning procedures. Given that the majority of dry-cleaning shops display their high-end finishing gear in full view of consumers, this is the technique that is least mysterious.

After cleaning, the clothing is “completed” by pressing it. These procedures’ steps are as follows:

  • To soften the fabric, use steam.
  • by means of rapid drying, reshape it
  • air or a vacuum to remove the steam
  • the garment under strain

The binding machine’s head generates pressure, and its bottom disperses steam. The majority of equipment may not only emit smoke but also remove it by vacuuming!

Commercial Trends

Government laws and heightened public awareness of environmental issues have raised the market for ecologically friendly items in recent years.

Alternative solvents, such as those that make use of silicone and compounds from corn, as well as those based on hydrocarbons, have been created to replace perc.

Dry Cleaning

Factors Choosing the Cleaning Technique

Whether a garment is washed in water or a solvent depends on four main factors:

  • types of soil that are present
  • The fiber mix and design of the garment
  • the color of the fabric’s dye
  • The type of various linings, trimmings, or other findings that are utilized in the garment is possible.

The suitability of a dry cleaning or wet cleaning technique for a certain garment or material depends on a variety of criteria. To choose the method that will return the clothing to “new” condition, your expert cleaner must apply their professional judgment.

Background of Dry Cleaning

According to the DLI, dry cleaning has been around since ancient times. Records describing sensitive object cleaning techniques have been discovered in the area ravaged by Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in the year 79. Since wool was known to shrink in water back then, wool was used to make a lot of clothing. Professional laundry cleaners, or fullers, used lye and urine-derived ammonia as solvents as well as fuller’s earth, a type of clay that is particularly effective at absorbing grease, sweat, and grime stains.

According to the DLI, a tale about a careless maid who accidentally spilled some kerosene on a greasy tablecloth is the oldest instance of anything approximating contemporary dry cleaning. She observed how much cleaner the area where the chemical fell was as the kerosene soon evaporated. After that incident, numerous tests were conducted to ascertain which solvents were most effective at removing oily stains. According to the SCRD, these compounds included turpentine spirits, kerosene, petroleum-based fluids, gasoline, and camphor oil.

The company, which began operations in 1825, is credited with being the first commercial dry cleaner, according to the Handbook of Solvents. Undoubtedly, fashion played a significant role in society. The garments were first placed in a kind of washing machine that predated modern ones before being air dried to allow the turpentine to dissipate.

In order to clean garments that conventional washing techniques might harm, the first dry cleaner, who appeared about the same time and is also the first known to secure a patent, utilized a technique called “dry scouring.” His method was copyrighted in 1821, and he maintained a very prosperous dry cleaning and tailoring business.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Services

What do customers want from a cleaning company?

Customers want trustworthy, courteous, and well-trained employees. Other important aspects of what customers are looking for, has to do with your cleaning technicians and office personnel. Your role as the owner of the cleaning business is important, but your employees act as the face of your company.

What is the demand for cleaning services?

Is there high demand for cleaning services? Cleaning service industry growth is consistent, and services are always in demand. Residential cleaning industry trends show 20% growth year over year, with 80% of households being expected to use house cleaning services by 2024.

What is the most common mistake of people when using cleaners?

Many people think that mixing two strong cleaners will give better and faster result. In some cases this might be true, but when you mix ammonia and bleach (or products, containing bleach and ammonia) they form highly toxic gases. These vapors are very dangerous and can be lethal.

What is the risk in cleaning service business?

Physical hazards encountered in cleaning work include wet and slippery floors, working at height, falling objects, sharp objects, and moving or rotating machinery parts (both from equipment and in the workplace generally). These can cause slips, trips, and falls accidents, as well as cuts and bruises.

What is the responsibility of a cleaner?

Responsible for all basic cleaning in and around residences or office buildings. Cleans floors and rooms. including dust mopping, damp mopping, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, picking up larger objects off the floor, and spot cleaning glass and windows.