Dry Cleaning

by Cassandra Merkling
(last updated April 4, 2016)

Having "Dry Clean Only" garments can be a hassle. You have to gather up all such items and take them to the dry cleaner's when they're soiled, instead of just washing them at home. And that's not mentioning the cost that goes along with such trips. So, you're probably wondering what's so special about what a dry cleaner does to get your dry-clean-onlys cleaned. Well, you've come to the right place.

Dry cleaning is done without the use of water. That's why it's called "dry" cleaning. However, that's not meant to imply that there's absolutely no liquid whatsoever involved. Dry cleaning most often uses a solvent called perchlorethylene, known in the trade as "perc." The perc is placed in a machine that resembles the washer and dryer you may have at home and it (predictably) both washes and dries the clothing. The drum of the machine fills 1/3 full of the solvent, which is always kept at 30 degrees Celsius, and then rotates to agitate the soil out of the items. Then the solvent is cycled out of the drum, into a filtration system, and then back into the drum to wash again. This process repeats for the entire time the items are washed.

After 8 to 15 minutes if it's a machine that uses perc (other machines take 25 minutes), the liquid is spun out of the items and the drying process begins. Basically, the drum tumbles the items like a regular domestic dryer would, but the temperature is kept fairly cool (63 degrees Celsius). And like a regular domestic dryer, the liquid evaporates in the warmer air. Then cooler air is used to get the last of the liquid out and the items are then pressed and ready for you to take home.

It's also interesting to note that all the agitation received in the washing procedure can be damaging to some delicate items, so there are times when the items in question are placed in a mesh bag, which supports them through the entire process so they don't come apart in the machine. Sometimes there are garments with buttons or other embellishments that can come off in or be damaged by the machine, so the dry cleaner removes them or protects them. For example, buttons may be protected by a special padded covering that makes them impervious to the machine's roughness. Other times, the buttons will be removed entirely and sewn back on after the garment has come out of the machine.

Author Bio

Cassandra Merkling

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