Many think that dry cleaning does not get the clothes wet. The fact is, dry cleaning is similar to traditional clothes washing only that, it does not use soap and water, thus the term ‘dry’. Instead, a liquid solvent is used to remove dirt and stains from the clothes. The solvent does not penetrate fibers like water does in a washer.
How Does Dry Cleaning Work?
The substance used in dry cleaning is called perchlorethylene, or perc for short. The garments are immersed in this substance, and then put into a specialized machine. As the machine runs, the perc is extracted along with dislodged dirt and unwanted particles. Below is a step by step procedure of dry cleaning:
Inspection. The dry cleaner will check the labels in the clothes. These labels should not only help identify the owner of the clothes, but also in determining the location and type of stains in them. The clothes will also be inspected for tears, missing buttons, broken zips, etc.
Pretreatment. A cleaning agent that contains lye, water, ammonia and clay will be used to loosen up soils and spots in the fabric. This makes the perc more able to eliminate dirt.
Dry cleaning. The clothes will be immersed in perc, and then put into the machine. The centrifugal movement of the machine will allow the perc and dirt to detach from the garments. Throughout the process, the solvent and dirt are filtered to keep them from resettling on the garments. The garments are also dried in the same machine.
Post-inspection. The clothes will be checked for the last time for any blemish.
Finishing. The clothes are lightly steamed, pressed and ironed where applicable.
Why is Dry Cleaning Necessary?
Hand and machine washing are typically more cost-effective than dry cleaning. However, there are certain types of clothes that do not do well with soap and water. The natural silk fiber in your expensive gown or night dress can get distorted when subjected to spinning. Dresses made of muslin can tear easily with just slight pulling. Clothes with embroidery, fancy buttons, and other fashion embellishments can lose their glamour when machined washed.
The care tags in clothes should indicate if they are for dry cleaning only. Those that have severe stains and odor will have to be dry-cleaned right away. The earlier the dirt is treated, the easier it is removed from clothes.