Does Dry Cleaning Really Clean? Some types of fabric simply cannot withstand the rigors of washing and dry at home. They could be too delicate, such as silk, or they may not tolerate water well, such as leather.
Either way, what’s a person to do when their fabric needs to be cleaned and they can’t just toss it in the washer or hand wash it? Simple–you drop them off at the dry cleaner’s. But, how do you know the dry cleaner is actually getting your fabrics clean?
Is it actually effective to have clothes cleaned without water? How clean can they really get if they are never submerged? These are all great questions to ask when considering if the cost of professional laundering is actually worthwhile.
Before we dive in to answering whether dry cleaning works, let’s first address what dry cleaning is. Keep in mind that “dry” is a bit of a misnomer. Not all forms of dry cleaning are truly dry.
Though this process does include some liquids, dry cleaning avoids the utilization of any water. Instead, people clean your fabrics with solvents. Wet cleaning is the kind of cleaning you do at home in your washer.
In contrast, dry cleaning washes your clothes with a different solvent that skips the water entirely, hence the name.
Keep in mind that not every item dropped of gets dry cleaned. The dry cleaner will wash some pieces of clothing the traditional way when the fabrics themselves can tolerate it.
However, those fabrics, such as dress shirts, are pressed shortly after being washed to prevent wrinkles. You typically pay for the pressing.
When you wear clothes, they naturally accumulate all sorts of dirt and grime. They absorb oils from your skin. They may get dirt or sweat on them. Other fabrics, such as curtains, may accumulate dust, animal hair, grime, and oils as well when you touch them.
At some point, if you want to prevent odors, you need to clean them to remove these contaminants.
Chemical solvents, such as perchloroethylene, or perc for short, allow for cleaning without water. Other solvent options, such as silicone-based and organic options, exist as well. All of these work the same way.
The dry cleaner takes your sensitive fabrics, pretreats stains, and dry cleans them. During the dry cleaning process, the dry cleaner cleans your fabrics in a cleaning machine. The fabrics rest in a stainless-steel basket held in the cleaning machine.
Fabrics rotate in the basket with a steady stream of solvent sprayed by the pump. This soaks the clothes while also pushing them against the basket, causing dirt and oils to dislodge.
The solvent flows through a filter to recirculate during the dry cleaning process to minimize the amount used. Thanks to the force used and the size, machines have the pumping power of up to 1,500 gallons per hour.
This means that during a typical eight-minute cycle, 200 gallons of solvent flow through the fabric.
Then, after dousing the fabrics, the next step is to rapidly spin the basket. The force from spinning causes the solvent to leave the fabric, pulling as much out of the fabric as possible. Then, warm air flows through the fabric to evaporate the solvent.
As the solvent evaporates away, it leaves your clothes clean and fresh, ready for you to pick up. Keep in mind that this process primarily removes dirt, grime, and stains. However, it is not particularly effective on removing odor issues, especially for those related to sweat.
If you have problems with odor, you may need to consider other alternatives for your fabric.
The bottom line here is that yes, dry cleaning does work. It can be highly effective at treating a whole host of staining and dirtiness thanks to how it works. Pushing the solvent through the fabric is highly effective at also pushing out the dirt and oils in the fabric.
However, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. When in doubt, take your fabric to your local dry cleaners and get their professional opinion. They will be able to determine what the best approach to cleaning your fabric would be.