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How is Dry Cleaning at the Dry Cleaners Different Than Washing at Home?

Professional Washing Dry Cleaning Machine

I am often asked about the difference between washing at home and the process we call dry cleaning. It’s a natural question really. I mean, why take your suit to the dry cleaners if you don’t have to (besides the fact that you like to see us every week)? I’m going to discuss the major differences between washing and dry cleaning.


There are three things that cause shrinkage heat, moisture and agitation. By controlling these three factors, you can nearly eliminate shrinkage from your clothes. There are computer controls on our dry cleaning machines that control all three however by dry cleaning something, you are nearly eliminating moisture from the process.

Wet, but not water

Dry cleaning solvent has no moisture but is still a liquid. Let’s break down the phrase dry cleaning solvent into it’s parts to better understand how it works. Dry means it has no water, and therefore no pH value. Cleaning logically means it is used in the cleaning process and has cleaning properties (even before you add soap). Finally solvent is anything that dissolves something else (so technically water is a solvent, but it is not dry, so we cant use it for dry cleaning in the technical sense although wet cleaning is becoming more and more popular). So dry cleaning solvent is any liquid that dissolves something else that doesn’t have water in it used to clean garments. There is a bit of moisture used in most dry cleaning soaps, but it is a very small amount that is controlled to help remove ‘wet side stains’ in the dry cleaning process.

Cleaning ability

Dry solvents excel at removing oil based (greasy food, car oil, etc.) or ‘dry side’ stains. Since dry solvent has no water, it isn’t very good at cleaning water based stains (coffee spills, salt rings on your cuffs, etc.). This is where the proper use of soap comes in. A soap that is properly injected will help to remove the combination stains (like lipstick and mustard) and water based spots in addition to oily type spots.


After you wash a load at home, you can watch all of the water go right down the drain, this isn’t the case with dry cleaning. In fact, our used dry cleaning solvent never goes down the drain. All modern dry cleaning machines have distillers built in. Here at Janet Davis Cleaners, we distill our solvent after every load. This is what help keeps our whites white and colors bright in your clothes. Most cleaners, however, only distill a portion of their solvent after each load (this is a cheaper way of doing things). Distillation is the process of separating mixtures based on boiling points, this this case it leaves us with two tanks. One tank is then 100% pure dry cleaning solvent and the other is all of the waste (which we pay to have hauled away and recycled).

At the Cleaners

Your dry cleaners should be able to clean whatever you bring them, using the best method possible. Most dry cleaners now also have wet cleaning and other abilities to get your clothes as clean as possible while being very safe.

Photo Credit: robinsonsmay

KyleDry Cleaning At Your Door
We’ll give you $10 in free cleaning to get your suit cleaned when you signup for our complimentary home pickup and delivery service (in the Detroit, Michigan area).

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