What is Dry Cleaning?
Exploring the Process of Dry Cleaning
An article by Steve Grace, Professional Dry Cleaner and President of Fairmount Cleaners Incorporated.
Most of us have taken a garment to a dry cleaner or know someone who has. Either the label suggests a garment be dry cleaned, or we are intimidated by the prospect of damaging a garment if we care for it ourselves.
Chances are when we retrieve our things from the cleaner we have something ready to use, but what is it the dry cleaner does that we cannot? What is dry cleaning?
About Dry Cleaning
Dry cleaning is in many ways quite similar to the washing and drying we do ourselves at home.
Dry cleaning is an immersion process, which means when the garment is dry cleaned it is soaked in a liquid, agitated with detergent, spun and tumble dried. Typically all this is done in one machine, The Dry Cleaning Machine.
Difference Between Dry Cleaning and Wet Cleaning
Unlike at home where we use water as the liquid, the dry cleaner uses a solvent. It is the absence of water that makes dry cleaning "dry." At home, when we wash, we are "wet cleaning."
Spot and Stain Removal
Spot removal presents a unique set of challenges to the dry cleaner. The majority of spots and stains that we create on our garments are water based, meaning they contain water in their original state and partially dissolve in water. The challenge is to remove these stains without washing, while not damaging the fabric or removing dyes.
Types of Stains
Some common water based stains would be beverages, food, mud, grass stains, perspiration, blood and other body fluids. Some spots we may get on our garments are 'dry' in nature, meaning they are not water soluble (dissolvable in water), but solvent soluble (dissolvable in solvent). Some common solvent soluble stains would be grease, oil, wax, ink and oil paints.
Assessing the Damage
The trained cleaning technician called a Cleaner-Spotter, will asses the damaged area or spot and apply a pretreatment to it at a devise called the Spotting Board, a table resembling an ironing board. This chemical recipe will begin to dissolve or soften the spot.
Various tools like small brushes or knife shaped spatulas many be used to further loosen the spot, allowing it to be flushed out of the garment with steam or solvents. A skilled Spotter attempts to do this without disrupting the fabric or removing dyes thereby damaging the garment.
Finishing the Garments
Once dry cleaned, garments require finishing. Most finishing in a dry cleaning plant is done at a machine called a Press.
Presses are different shapes, and sometimes specifically shaped for certain garments such as a "Topper and Legger," two machines designed to restore the shape to pants and slacks.
All presses use heat and pressure in different levels to restore the shape of the garment. Most use steam to soften the garment, allowing it to be manipulated before it is 'cured,' or dried in place with a vacuum device piped to the press.
Ready to Go!
After the clerk has received and ticketed your garment, the cleaner has cleaned it, the presser has pressed it, and the inspector has inspected it, it is placed back with the invoice identifying the owner, packaged, and placed on the ready rack awaiting you to come claim it for use again.