It’s called “dry cleaning”, but actually, it’s not that dry. It just doesn’t use water, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t use other liquids to clean your clothes. So, first and foremost, let’s put things straight: What is dry cleaning? It’s a cleaning process other than the soap-and-water cleaning that we’re doing at home, but it still involves liquids. The general opinion about dry cleaning is that it’s safe; at least safer than water. Water is our dear friend, but it can damage certain types of fabric, like wool, leather or silk. Moreover, the washing machine is not a safe harbor for the most delicate laces, sequins, buttons and delicate kinds of decorations that we also have on our clothes. This is where dry cleaning does its job best.
How does dry cleaning work?
Dry cleaning is actually chemical cleaning. As we were saying, dry cleaning is not “dry”. It uses chemical solvents that clean the fabric better than anything else. These chemicals are nonpolar molecules that can interact with your clothes without affecting the fibers in any way. By comparison, water interacts with the fabric molecules, causing them to swell or stretch in the process and this is the last thing you wish for when cleaning your $1,000 dress, right?
The first types of dry cleaning were possible due to substances like gasoline, kerosene, benzene, turpentine or petroleum. As you very well know, these are very flammable chemicals so the need for a safer dry cleaning procedure occurred. By 1930, other synthetic and safer products were introduced. They have some complicated names. Are you ready? Perchloroethylene and Decamethylcyclopentasiloxane are still used in the dry cleaning process today. More than these chemicals, dry cleaning also implies the use of detergents. How about that for a “dry” experience? Detergents are needed to remove all possible soils and avoid the absorbance of these soils after they have been removed from the clothing. Detergents also penetrate the fabric and aid the cleaning solvents to do their job more efficiently.
The dry cleaning process step by step
1. You drop the clothes at the dry cleaning. They are checked thoroughly for stains and also your pockets are emptied. Sometimes, too delicate buttons or other decorations are removed to avoid being damaged by the cleaning solvent.
2. The cleaning solvents are usually heavier and denser than water so your gentle clothes might even be packed into special bags before being cleaned.
3. Then they are put into the dry cleaning machine which looks pretty normal an by normal we mean your washing machine at home. The process is quite the same: put the clothes in, add the chemical solvent and sometimes soap or detergent (we’ve told you above why) and start the machine. The cleaning takes from 8 to 25 minutes, depending on the type of chemicals used.
4. After the washing is done, they remove the chemical solvent and then start the rinse process. In this case, they use a special rinse substance which prevents soil particles to get back on your clothes.
5. After the clothes are rinsed, the solvent is drained out and the garments are then spun at 350-450 rpm to make sure there is no more liquid left.
6. This is the step where the word “dry” is really needed. After the washing and rinsing comes the drying which consists of warm air being introduced into the washing machine. The temperature is somewhere between 60-63 Celsius. The hot air is then vented out and passes through a chiller that condenses any residual solvent.
7. Then there is the cool air cycle and finally, the clothes are done, put into plastic garment bags and handed to you.
Take care of them! They’ve been through a pretty complicated process!