How Does Dry Cleaning Work?

Dry cleaners use a chemical solvent to clean delicate fabrics. The solvent cleans without water, refreshing clothes without saturating them.

How Dry Cleaning Works
How Dry Cleaning Works

Taking special care clothing to the dry cleaners may be inconvenient, but the process cleans your delicate clothing without causing damage or shrinkage.

Here’s how dry cleaning works.

How Dry Cleaning Works

Have you ever wondered what happens when you drop off clothes at a dry cleaner? While the process may differ at each location, these are the general steps.

Step 1: The Dry Cleaner Tags Your Garment

When you drop off your dirty clothes, the dry cleaner will tag the garment with a number to keep track of your items.

Step 2: Inspection and Stain Pre Treatment

The dry cleaner inspects all of your clothes. Then, they pretreat stains based on the type of fabric and stain. 

The dry cleaner also covers embellishments or buttons with a cloth to protect them during the dry cleaning process. If necessary, the dry cleaner will remove embellishments before starting the cleaning process.

Step 3: The Dry Cleaner Washes Your Clothes  in a Dry Cleaning Machine

Your clothes go in a dry cleaning machine. The dry cleaning machine looks similar to a washing machine, only larger. But rather than using water and laundry detergent, a chemical solvent is added to remove dirt and lift stains. The clothes are agitated in the machine, like a regular washer.

Step 4: Stain Inspection

The dry cleaner will remove your clothes from the machine and check to see if all stains are gone. They also remove the cloth coverings placed on the buttons and embellishments.

If repairs are needed, the dry cleaner will make them.

Step 5: Wrinkle Removal and Bagging

After inspection, items are ironed or steamed to remove wrinkles. Many large dry cleaners use a form finisher machine that allows steam to release wrinkles in the position the clothing is worn.

After wrinkle removal, your clothes are inspected, covered in plastic, and ready for pick-up.

What Chemicals Do Dry Cleaners Use?

There are numerous solvents that dry cleaners may use to clean your clothes – Perchloroethylene (PERC) is the most common in the United States. But because of the dangerous health effects of PERC, including being a possible human carcinogen, many dry cleaners are phasing it out for “greener” options.

Some greener options dry cleaners use in place of PERC include Green Earth (siloxane), synthetic petroleum, wet cleaning, and liquid carbon dioxide.

If you’re looking for a non-toxic cleaning method, check with your dry cleaner before dropping off your clothes. 

How to Dry Clean Your Own Clothes

At-home kits aren’t as good as taking your clothes to the dry cleaner, but they can help you freshen and remove stains from delicate fabrics.

Here are some ways to dry clean at home:

Use a dry cleaning kit. You can purchase dry cleaning kits from Amazon, Walmart, or Target. Most kits come with a spray and a bag. You mist your clothes with the stain-removing spray, place the clothes in the bag, and then insert the bag in your dryer for a specified amount of time.

Follow the directions on your kit and read your fabric’s instruction label. Some kits can only clean sweaters, jeans, jackets, and blouses. If your item has a lot of embroidery or structure, save it for professional dry cleaning.

Steam clean your item. Use a fabric steamer if your clothing isn’t stained or dirty but needs a refresh. The steam will kill germs and release wrinkles.