How does dry cleaning work
Posted on Laundry Tips

How does dry cleaning work?

It is no secret that dry cleaning leaves your garments as good as new, but have you ever been left wondering ‘how does dry cleaning work?’ Our complete guide to all things laundry will iron out those creases for you!
Dry cleaning is still favoured in 2022 for treating difficult fabrics and providing a deep clean that cannot be achieved at home. With a global market size of $60.88 billion and an annual growth rate of 3.4%, it is a popular choice for many people. The processes are ones that cannot be replicated using home-washing products and machines. Instead, the user of chemicals and heat-controlled machinery works to clean clothes without water and with gentle movement.
As well as eliminating a chore out of busy daily lives, dry cleaning is also a great way to reduce spending on electricity within the home. Due to the rise in the cost of living in 2022, 26% of adults are looking to reduce their utility usage. They are looking to achieve this by looking for alternative methods to fulfil the same household chores. Many modern dry cleaners are also better for the environment in terms of the chemicals used, offering green-focused consumers a service that enhances the work they already do to live sustainably.
Dry cleaning can also prolong the life of your products, meaning you can enjoy your pieces for years to come. This is also brilliant for children’s clothing that tends to be subjected to more wear and tear and often is then used as hand-me-downs. In line with less consumer spending, the cleaning method is also favoured for preserving household items such as bedding, curtains, rugs, and other linens which are subject to damage when washed using water-based methods.
In this blog post, we will teach you all about the history of the process, how dry-cleaning works, what the benefits are, and help you to understand how this fascinating process can be used to improve the quality and longevity of your garments and household accessories.
Continue reading to find out everything you could need to know about dry cleaning and how at Love2Laundy, we can make your daily life easier.

When can dry cleaning be dated back to?

You may be shocked to know that dry cleaning can be traced back to 70 AD as ruins of dry cleaning stores were found in ancient Pompeii. The ancient art of washing without water can also be traced to New York and France in its early years when many people were interested in unlocking the full potential of chemicals and processes.
In 1845, a Frenchman names Jean-Baptiste stumbled across the art of dry cleaning by accident when he spilt a bottle of kerosene on an already dirty tablecloth. In his panic of trying to get the tablecloth to the washing station, he realised that the chemical had dried and removed the stain at the same time. This was just the very start of water-less washing.
In the UK, dry cleaning has been used more predominantly since 1920, at which time dry cleaners discovered less flammable and safer chemicals that could be used for the process. From then onwards, dry cleaning businesses have been a staple on the high street within the UK and across the world.
In the 1930s, Perchloroethylene (PERC) was discovered to be one of the most effective solvents to use in dry cleaning and remains one of the most popular choices on the market today. There have, however, been advances over recent years for more ethical and sustainable products to be used within the cleaning process. This signifies a continuation of the traditional dry cleaning methods but with a modern touch that will ensure it stays around for another 100 years and beyond.

How can I arrange my dry cleaning?

Historically, dry cleaning would need to be dropped off at your local shop and collected when completed. This meant that whilst the actual clothes washing would be taken off your hands, you would still need to find time to transport your garments. You will be happy to know that we have changed that process as we understand that one of the benefits of dry cleaning is not needing to take time to think about cleaning your clothes.
At Love2Laundy, you book your washing online, and we collect, clean, and then return to your chosen location. You will find now that the dry cleaning processes have been digitised by many, but we are happy to stand out but offering collection within one hour with a next-day return option. This is handy for personal services but also for corporate clients who find that time and resources may be limited.
Thanks to contemporary dry cleaning services such as ours, all you need to worry about is keeping your wardrobe organised! Dry cleaning is therefore set to be a service that is favoured for a long time yet as it has moved and changed with the times.

What is the process for dry cleaning?

Whilst the collection process may have changed, the process for actually cleaning your clothes has remained in place for many years. This is because the service is designed to run quickly and efficiently with no room for error. If you have a stubborn stain, delicate fabric, or even a special request, we can ensure it is accommodated by maintaining the same processes for all clothing.
This is also how we have achieved a 24-hour turnaround for our services.
When we collect your clothes, they, therefore, go through the below phases with quality assured at every stage:
Booking in and tagging To ensure that clothing remains in client bundles and is treated with the correct processes, we tag each garment upon arrival. This process also allows us to check for any signs of wearing or damage when we receive the piece. We promise to always return your pieces in better condition than when they left you, so we need to assess each task properly.
Everything is, of course, digitally recorded at this stage to allow us to record items so that your invoice is also correct. This is another example of how the cleaning process has been adapted using modern technology over recent years.
Treatment before washing Dry cleaning is often chosen as a deep-cleaning method of choice, so if you have any stains or marks, we will be able to remove these thanks to our industrial solutions and machinery.
The best way to ensure a complete clean is to pre-treat clothing with no harder-to-removal marks. It is also best to provide the garment to your dry cleaner as soon as possible, as stains left for longer can be harder to remove. Whilst the more targeted cleaning products have a greater chance of success, if a deep stain had been left on a delicate fabric for a while, it could be hard to get rid of completely.
We also offer you the chance to confirm any pieces that need extra attention when you place your order so we can ensure they are worked on first. This is also because sometimes, multiple solutions will be needed for one stain which cannot be used at the same time. We, therefore, need this heads-up to sufficiently plan the proper process needed to treat the items.
Clothing is then dry cleaned You may think the term relates to the whole process, but it is the name given to the cleaning portion of the process.
Clothing is put inside the dry cleaning machine, which gently moves the clothing around whilst it is mixed with a cleaning solution. The name dry cleaning is derived from the fact that no water is used as the cleaning solutions feature all of the chemical components needed for a thorough wash. The machines are much larger than home washing machines, meaning more clothing can be tended to at once. This also offers a more environmentally friendly solution to garment cleaning.
Post-washing quality spottingThe process does not stop there! In fact, once the machine portion of the process has been finished, garments can be further treated to ensure any other marks are removed.
Using professional equipment and solutions, any stains are removed, and clothing is re-processed if deemed necessary. Any other issues such as running colours or garment deterioration are resolved at this point. Dry cleaning does have a much higher success rate than home cleaning machines and products, so this stage is often just used as part of the quality checking and finishing.
The introduction of fast fashion also means that clothing can sometimes be harder to dry clean as the materials are unknown due to different blends being used. In this circumstance, dry cleaners always proceed with caution and use a mild form of cleaning solution. The spot checking phase is therefore important as it can be used to fix any issues that remain if the solutions were not strong enough for the stain.
Signature dry cleaning finishing – One of the most significant benefits to having your clothing dry cleaned is the premium, just-purchased feel that clothing is left with. The fresh scents, soft fabrics, and perfect pressing are all signs that you have had your clothing professionally dry cleaned.
The finishing phase is therefore used to return your clothing to its intended state using steam, ironing, or pressing. This removes any creases and restores the shape and structure back to its intended design. Pieces that have been dry cleaned also tend to last for longer before needing to be treated again so the finishing stage also helps to seal in the treatments.
Hard-to-iron items such as collared shirts, pleated items, or clothing with darts also benefit from this more professional process as it ensures that any details are retained. Delicate steaming and industrial ironing machines work to create a finish that is not possible to achieve using household items.
Clothing is then placed into protective bags so that the next person who touches your clothing is you! You can also rest assured in knowing that you have saved, on average, 88 hours per year on not having to wash and finish your clothes yourself.
As you can see from the above image, when you receive items back from dry cleaners, they are returned as good as new. Shirts often lose their curved-edged structure when washed and ironed at home so garments such as they really do benefit from professional processes.

Why can’t I achieve the same dry cleaning results at home?

You may have wondered why some clothing labels say dry clean only.
Dry cleaning uses liquid solvents to treat delicate materials in a protective way. Whilst many of these are environmentally friendly, they are unsuitable for standard washing machines. To achieve the same results using household products, you need to know your laundry maths in exact detail. Even being a degree out in temperature can be the difference between your clothing coming out of the machine in wearable condition.
Dry cleaning also does not use water which means that even if you have the correct chemical solutions, the end result would not be the same as they rely on dry and heated use. Washing machines world on a wash and spin process whereas dry cleaning machines are reliant on heating elements to encourage the chemicals to work.
There is also the element of garment finishing that you need to consider. No matter how much of an ironing whizz you may be, without industry pressing or steaming machines, the finish of a dry-cleaned garment is tough to replicate. You also run the risk of losing clothing definition that once it is gone, you cannot bring back (think pleating, pressing, and darted items).

Finally, you may notice that dry cleaning smells different to laundry that is done at home. Fabric-conditioners and home detergents often feature perfumed scents, which provide a strong aroma. This doesn’t, however, equal clean. Dry cleaning doesn’t have a strong scent but a simple, clean odour that lasts longer than perfumed scents on clothing. Dry cleaning is used to break down tough odours, stains, and marks, meaning that the clothes are deeply cleaned. This is not a result that you can achieve using home products or machinery.

What items can be dry cleaned?

When considering how dry cleaning works, it’s not just clothing that can be factored into the equation. In fact, household materials also benefit from professional services. The process is, therefore the same, but the products and treatments are tailored to the item in question.
You can successfully dry-clean the following items:
  • Everyday laundry which includes dresses, skirts, trousers, shirts, underwear, and tops. Whether you have a large family or are single, washing can mount up very quickly. What would typically take you multiple loads of washing, drying, ironing, and organising, can be done in one load at the dry cleaners. Dry cleaning is also less likely to cause allergic reactions for those with sensitive skin making it a great option for children as well. What a lifesaver!
  • Special garments including wedding dresses, suits, and event attire. Returning your memory-evoking and special occasion attire to its intended state is essential for ensuring longevity. If items are not washed correctly and treated with professional solutions, they risk deteriorating even when placed into storage. As dry cleaning also works to remove odours, not add them back in, it means that pieces that are stored or shut away will smell better when they are returned to.
  • Household products which include bedding, towels, curtains, and blankets. Most standard drum washing machines can only fit a couple of large items. That is only half of the battle as products such as curtains, and large blankets cannot just be hung out to dry or placed in a tumble-drying machine. Dry cleaning your household products is, therefore, a brilliant way to keep items fresh that are sometimes forgotten about. The nature of thick and heavy-duty materials that are lined also means that water washing is not needed. Instead, dry cleaning accessories such as curtains ensures that the structure is retained, and usage is not impeded.
  • Outdoor clothing which includes coats, blazers, jackets, and gilets. ​Outdoor clothing features different insulation than normal clothing meaning the washing and drying process can be more complex. If you don’t want to run the risk of damp duck features or stiff faux-fur hoods resulting from your cleaning, then we would always recommend dry cleaning these products.
On a side note, as many dry cleaners are clothing experts by trade, you can also book in for alterations and repairs at the same time which is another brilliant use of the service.
To summarise, most pieces can be dry cleaned, but not everything can and should be washed using home washing machines. For our complete price list, click here.

How does the dry cleaning process preserve my clothes?

Want your clothing to offer better value for money? Dry cleaning can do just that!
The gentle solvents and machinery ensure that clothing is not subjected to the same rough processes that everyday washing and drying machines cause. Temperature is also key which is something that dry cleaning encompasses to ensure that clothing retains a soft or structured finish depending on the garment in question.
As well as being less arduous than standard washing machines, the industrial products that are used have been designed to treat large batches of clothing based on factors such as materials, colours, textures, and age. To separate all of your clothing this way at home would take a very long time and is impossible for most people.

Some household stain removers feature bleach and colour stripping chemicals that can cause damage. Although the stain may be removed, you will likely notice that the rest of the clothing has been slightly affected. When re-used over time, this causes ongoing damage, which results in clothing that is no longer suitable for wearing. When people are trying to save money, dry cleaning is an excellent solution for ensuring that even lower-priced items are washed in a way that helps them last.

Some materials should only be washed professionally to preserve their quality. Without following a dry cleaning process, the materials are subject to deterioration.
Silk Dupioni: This lightweight and delicate fabric is susceptible to shrinking, snagging, and burning. Whereas usual, silk should be hand-washed only; this form can only be dry-cleaned to preserve the texture and colours.
Wool: Again, wool can run the risk of shrinking if not appropriately treated. The fibres can also be stiff over time, making for uncomfortable clothing.
Suede: Due to the nature of the type of leather, suede cannot be washed completely. Instead, it should only be treated with water-based cleaners at temperatures to maintain the brushed finish.
Rayon: This material’s semi-synthetic nature makes it susceptible to breaking down when harsh products or high heat is applied to it. Dry cleaning, therefore, offers the safest option.

Do you feel more clued up on how dry cleaning works?

Hopefully, you now feel educated about how dry cleaning works and what complex processes go into looking after your clothing. We think that the benefits around environmental sustainability, at-home money saving, and clothing lifespan assurance all offer you ways to understand the benefits. Dry cleaning is a traditional form of cleaning garments which has been developed over the years to suit both modern and old-style clothing.
Dry cleaning is a process that cannot be replicated at home due to the chemical components and industrial machinery that is needed to achieve the end results. The process also works to create better quality products that are not subject to ageing thanks to harsh chemicals, over-washing, and perfumes.
At Love2Laundry, we have created a service which is tailored to modern people with busy lives. As well as all the other benefits to clothing and lifestyle, the biggest gain you get is saving time. We are sure you have lots of other household duties to fit into your busy schedule, so why make laundry one more thing to add to the list?


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