Ever wonder what dry cleaning is exactly and what goes on in the process?

In general, laundry cleaning is distinguished between the commonly known “laundry” or “wet cleaning” and “dry cleaning”. Wet cleaning or laundry refers to washing garments using water with other agents like detergents, soap or softener. Dry cleaning, on the other hand, refers to cleaning clothes without water. It doesn’t mean that your clothes don’t get wet, they do but not with water. In dry cleaning, the fluid contains little or no water, and doesn’t penetrate the fiber as in the case of wet cleaning.

So, why would it be necessary to have dry cleaning over wet cleaning?

It is not uncommon to come across garment tags bearing the words “Dry Clean Only” and it is better off to heed these words, more so if the garment is a piece of suit or something weaved from wool. Dry cleaning helps to remove oils or stains not possible through normal cleaning with water. They also minimize shrinkage as in the case of long curtains and other highly shrinkable materials since dry cleaning solvents do not penetrate fabrics. As such, your garment will also undergo lesser stretching with better preserved colors. Finally, your garment will see less of wear and tear, better protected texture and a much longer life. Another extremely good effect of a dry cleaning treatment is its capability to drastically kill dust-mites, thereby improving the conditions for allergy and asthma victims.

It is however, not necessary to follow hundred percent of what’s written on the care label of your garment. Take the case of some random shirts which you might consider absurd to bring to your laundry cleaner, though they’ve also been imprinted with the familiar “Dry Clean Only”. One great tip you can safely rely on says that after one year abiding faithfully to the label words, you can break loose and apply the same treatment as you would in your normal household washings. Bear in mind, however, that these items must not be silk, wool or cashmere fabrics. Suits and silk made garments definitely need dry cleaning. For suits, one does not have to send for dry cleaning after every use, sometimes airing in a well-ventilated environment is good enough. Experts recommend that so long it is free from stain or odour; a once-a-year dry cleaning service may just be enough.

In dry cleaning, perchloroethylene, or commonly known as perc, is used to remove stains in garments because of its capability to dissolve oils and yet lessens wrinkage and shrinkage of fabrics. Strong color retention and lesser fabric wear are some other good points. Perc is, however toxic and regarded as a hazardous substances. Extreme care must be exercised when handling it. Besides being cancerous and health threatening, workers also run the risks of irritant skin as well as allergic complications if exposed to it. With fabrics, it tends to also leave behind an unwelcome scent.

Today, many leading dry cleaning companies employ instead, safer hydrocarbon dry cleaning solvent as alternatives to perc in their cleaning processes. Generally, hydrocarbon solvents have higher purity, are environmental friendly and do not pose health problems to workers. Your garment also smells nicer compared to the same treatment from perc.

At the dry cleaning processing plant, your garment will first go through a marking and inspection process, followed by a stain pre-treating session using special cleaning solvents. Next, the clothing is dropped into baskets immersed in perc or hydrocarbon cleaning solvents for washing. An extraction process follows to remove the solvent from the clothes. Once the cleaning solvents have been drained, the machine starts a drying cycle which is then succeeded by a deodorizing cycle, to take out the last trace of solvent. At this stage, all stains on your garment should have been cleaned, but an inspection process is next in place to re-affirm that. Any detected remaining stains will be post-treated if required. When that’s done, your garment will undergo a light steaming and iron session before being sorted out and packaged for your picked-up. Depending on the agent you pick, the whole process from dropping your garment at your agent to your collection takes about

While one may find dry cleanings to be an expensive, wasteful and somewhat annoying chore, the fact remains that not many people have access to dry cleaning facilities. And when you want the effects that only a dry cleaning can deliver, you don’t have much choice but simply have to depend on it.

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