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Caring For Your Fabrics

Straight Talk about Dry Cleaning

There is no real mystery about dry
cleaning. Dry cleaning is simply the
use of solvents to remove soil and
stains from fabric. It is called dry
cleaning because the solvents contain
little or no water and do not penetrate
the fibers as water does.
Dry cleaning solvents are fluids that
actually dissolve greases and oils and
remove them from the garment. Water
by itself cannot do this. Natural fibers
such as wools and silks can shrink
distort, and lose color when washed in
water, but will dry clean beautifully.
Synthetic fibers such as polyesters also
respond well to dry cleaning. These
fibers can retain oily stains after
washing, but dry cleaning will remove
such stains.
A dry cleaning machine looks much
like a very large front loading home
washer. It produces similar mechanical
action to loosen embedded dirt. At the
same time the solvent is filtered
continuously to insure its clarity.

fullers earth was used to absorb

soils and greases from clothing too
delicate for laundering.
There are many stories about the origin
of dry cleaning, all centering on the
supposed discovery that when a
petroleum-type fluid was accidentally
spilled on a greasy fabric it quickly
evaporated and the stains were
miraculously removed. The firm of
Jolly Belin, opening in Paris in the
1840s is credited as the first dry
cleaning firm. In these early days
garment scourers and dryers found
several fluids that could be used as dry
cleaning solvents, including camphene,
benzene, kerosene, and gasoline.
These solvents are all dangerously
flammable, so dry cleaning was a
hazardous business until the
introduction of Stoddard solvent in
1926, the first petroleum solvent
produced specifically for dry cleaning.
This solvent does not ignite readily and
has the added advantage of being free
of odor and impurities.

In the 1930s perchloroethylene, a non

flammable fluid, was introduced and is
Professional garment care dates back to used today in a great majority of dry
ancient times, probably beginning with cleaning plants. Valclene, another
the advent of textile clothing itself. The synthetic solvent, was introduced
around 1970 and is also used very
ruins of Pompeii give us a record of a
successfully today.
highly developed trade of fullers,
who were professional clothes cleaners.
Lye and ammonia were used in early
laundering, and a type of clay called

A Brief History

Even the Best Cleaner Cannot

Remove some stains. The nature
and age of the stain, plus the color and
construction of the fabric, sometimes
make stains impossible to remove
without damaging the garment.
Prevent some colors from bleeding
or fading. If the manufacturer does not
thoroughly test the dyes to make sure
they are colorfast to both solvent and
water, some color may be lost during
dry cleaning or stain removal. This
must be considered the manufacturers
failure rather than the dry cleaners
Correct product deficiencies, such
as the separation of bonded or fusible
fabrics when they are cleaned. This is
again a failure in manufacture but, in
some cases, the dry cleaner may be able
to temporarily restore the garments.
Prevent excessive shrinkage in dry
cleaning. When fabrics shrink in
controlled dry cleaning systems, it is
because of the manufacturers failure to
adequately preshrink all component
parts before the garment is constructed.
Reverse worn or torn areas caused
by wear. In some cases small rips or
holes can be rewoven, but this type of
damage is the consumers
Prevent or correct holes caused by
insects or acid spillage. Such holes may
not appear before dry cleaning but they
result from a previous weakening of
the fibers.
Correct excessive shine on fabrics
caused by excessive heat and pressure
used in home ironing.

of delicate fabrics or failure to rinse

spotting chemicals from fabric.

Dry Cleaning is More Than Just

Professional dry cleaning is much more
than just cleaning. It is many different
operations, all performed by skilled
people and aimed at giving your
garments that like new appearance.
Procedures include:
Checking the labels for adequate
care instructions and fiber content.
Removing spots and stains with
steam and spotting agents.
Classifying the garment according
to fabric type, color, and degree of
Removing any spots and stains on
the garment.
Replacing sizing, water repellency,
and other finishes when necessary.
Pressing the garment on steam
equipment to restore its original shape
and appearance.
Replace missing buttons and
performing minor repairs whenever
Inspecting the garment to make
sure it meets your quality standards.
Packaging the garment neatly in a
protective wrapping.
Along with these basic responsibilities,
many professional cleaners offer
additional services, such as garment
storage, cleaning furs and leathers, rug
cleaning, drapery cleaning, smoke

Correct poor home spot removal

procedures such as excessive rubbing
Preservation, and alterations and

Heres How You Can Help

Have your garments cleaned when
soiled. This helps prolong their life.
Stains and soil left too long are
sometimes impossible to remove and
will shorten the wear life of the
Discuss any stains with your dry
cleaner. Be especially sure to point out
light-colored or invisible spills, such as
from soft drinks or white wine. These
stains contain sugar, which can
caramelize and turn brown with the
heat of drying unless flushed out with
water before dry cleaning.
Bring the garment in for
professional care as soon as possible
after staining occurs.
Avoid fabric contact with solutions
containing alcohol, such as perfumes
and lotions. Alcohol can affect some
Allow deodorants and
antiperspirants to dry before you dress.
Protect your garments from
excessive perspiration, especially silks.
Perspiration can weaken silk fibers.
Protect your garments from
prolonged exposure to direct sunlight
or strong artificial light.
Dont press stained or soiled
clothes. The heat may set some stains
and the pressure will force soil deeper
into the fibers.

removal, pillow cleaning, shirt and

family laundry, wedding gown
Q: Does frequent dry cleaning shorten
the life of a garment?
A: On the contrary, frequent dry
cleaning prolongs the life of a garment.
Not only do stains set with age, making
the garment unwearable, but groundin dirt and soil act as an abrasive, like
sandpaper, causing rapid wear of
fibers. Also, insects are attracted to
soiled clothes and will cause further
damage. A recent study carried out at
the University of North Carolina,
Department of Clothing and Textiles
tested samples of woolen fabrics for
changes after dry cleaning. The fabrics
were tested for ten possible areas of
change, including loss of strength and
loss of resilience, but no significant
changes were found, even after ten dry
Q: When a garments label says
washable, does this mean it cannot
be dry cleaned?
A: Not necessarily. The care label rule
states garments must be cared for
according to the instructions on the
care label. Dry cleaners should follow
the care label rule. If you want your
washable items dry cleaned, the
cleaner may ask you to sign a customer
Q: Should I have all matching pieces
cleaned together?
A: Yes. If all pieces are cleaned
together, any color loss will be uniform
and the pieces will still match.

Glad You Asked

Q: Does dry cleaning shrink clothes?
A: No, not if the dry cleaning process
has been carefully controlled. Excessive
shrinkage is caused by improper
preshrinking by the manufacturer.
Q: Are suede and leathers cleaned the
same as cloth garments?
A: No. Special procedures and
additives are used on leathers to help
retain their color and texture.
Sometimes suedes and leathers are
redyed to restore color loss.
Q: Can the dry cleaner safely stretch
A: Dry cleaners can steam finish and
stretch fabrics that have relaxed in dry
cleaning. This does not damage the
fabric. Excessive shrinkage caused by
poorly pre shrunk fabrics cannot be
totally corrected, however.

Q: Some garment labels, particularly

on down items, say dry clean with
petroleum or synthetic solvent or
with petroleum or chlorinated
solvent. Are these items really safe to
dry clean?
A: Yes. Most dry cleaners use a
synthetic, chlorinated solvent. Some
dry cleaners use petroleum solvent
instead. All professional dry cleaners
use one or the other.
Q: Will my freshly dry cleaned
garment be odor free and comfortable
to wear?
A: Yes. If the professional cleaner is
skilled in keeping fluid clean and pure
and following proper drying
procedures, your garments are
returned free of any odor or residue.