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Understanding the Dry Cleaning Process and Chemicals

Understanding the Dry Cleaning Process and Chemicals

A Comprehensive Guide by Janet Davis Cleaners

Have you ever been curious about what happens to your garments once you hand them over to your dry cleaner? What does “dry” in dry cleaning mean? What chemicals are used? How does the process work? Understanding these details not only deepens your knowledge of the services you’re utilizing but also allows you to appreciate the expertise and work involved in caring for your garments. This comprehensive article aims to educate our valued customers about the various aspects of dry cleaning, providing a clear understanding of what goes on behind the scenes.

History of Dry Cleaning

Origins and early methods

Early methods of cleaning clothes without water date back to ancient civilizations, which used abrasive sands and soils. The actual term ‘dry cleaning‘ didn’t come about until the 19th century with the accidental discovery of turpentine’s cleaning properties. Over the years, the process evolved, leading to the introduction of modern synthetic solvents and advanced cleaning equipment in the 20th century.

Evolution of dry cleaning techniques

The modern dry cleaning industry has its roots in the accidental discovery of turpentine’s cleaning properties in the early 19th century. Jean-Baptiste Jolly, a French dye-works owner, found that turpentine effectively removed stains from fabric when his maid accidentally spilled a kerosene lamp on a tablecloth. This led to the opening of the first commercial dry cleaning business in Paris, known as “Teinturerie Jolly Belin.” The use of turpentine, however, was replaced by other solvents like gasoline and naphtha due to its flammability and strong odor.

Introduction of modern chemicals and equipment

The 20th century brought about significant advancements in dry cleaning technology, with synthetic solvents being introduced and gaining popularity. The most commonly used solvent, perchloroethylene (perc), was introduced in the 1930s and quickly became the industry standard. The development of advanced cleaning equipment and computer-controlled machines also revolutionized the process, improving efficiency, reducing manual labor, and minimizing the risk of damage to garments.

The Dry Cleaning Process

Garment inspection and pre-treatment

Identifying stains and damage

The first step in the dry cleaning process is to inspect each garment thoroughly for stains, damage, or any other issues that may require special attention. Professionals at Janet Davis Cleaners are trained to recognize various types of stains and treat them accordingly. Additionally, they examine garments for missing buttons, loose threads, or any other potential concerns.

Pre-treatment of stains with appropriate solutions

After identifying stains, professionals apply specialized pre-treatment solutions to loosen the stains and prepare them for the dry cleaning process. This step is crucial, as it increases the effectiveness of the cleaning process and helps ensure that stains are removed completely.

The dry cleaning cycle

Loading garments into the machine

Once garments are inspected and pre-treated, they are placed into the dry cleaning machine. These machines, specially designed for the process, use a rotating drum to agitate and clean the garments.

Soap injection and solvent immersion

A soap solution is injected into the machine, followed by immersion in a cleaning solvent. The combination of soap and solvent effectively breaks down dirt and grime, removing it from the fabric fibers.

Agitation and cleaning process

The dry cleaning machine agitates the garments, allowing the soap and solvent to penetrate the fibers and remove dirt, stains, and odors. This gentle agitation helps preserve the integrity of the garments while thoroughly cleaning them.

Extraction, drying, and solvent recovery

Following the cleaning process, the solvent is extracted from the garments. They are then dried using warm air, which evaporates any remaining solvent. The machine recovers and recycles the solvent for future use, minimizing waste and environmental impact.

Post-cleaning treatment

Steam pressing and finishing

After the garments are cleaned and dried, they are pressed using steam to remove any wrinkles and give them a crisp, fresh appearance. This step also helps restore the shape and drape of the garments, ensuring they look their best.

Garment inspection and packaging

Before garments are returned to the customer, they undergo a final inspection to ensure that all stains have been removed and that there are no other issues with the garments. They are then carefully packaged, ready for pick-up.

Chemicals Used in Dry Cleaning

Overview of common dry cleaning solvents

Dry cleaning relies on various solvents to clean garments. The most common solvents used in the industry include:

Perchloroethylene (perc)

Perc has been the most widely used solvent in the dry cleaning industry for many years due to its effectiveness in removing dirt and stains. However, concerns about its environmental impact and potential health risks have led to a gradual shift towards alternative solvents.

Hydrocarbon solvents

These solvents, such as DF2000 used by Janet Davis Cleaners, are petroleum-based and offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to perc. They have a milder odor and are considered safer for both the environment and human health.

Green Earth solvent (silicone-based)

Green Earth is a silicone-based solvent that is chemically inert, making it a gentle option for cleaning garments. It’s also biodegradable and doesn’t produce hazardous waste, making it an eco-friendly alternative to traditional solvents.

Water (Professional Wet Cleaning of Dry Clean Only Items)

Some garments labeled “dry-clean-only” can be safely cleaned using water and specialized detergents in a process known as professional wet cleaning. This method is gentler on fabrics and is environmentally friendly.

Advantages and disadvantages of each solvent

Each solvent has its own strengths and weaknesses in terms of cleaning effectiveness, environmental impact, and health and safety concerns. Perc, for example, is highly effective at removing stains but poses potential environmental and health risks. Hydrocarbon solvents like DF2000 are less aggressive but are considered safer and more eco-friendly.

How Janet Davis Cleaners selects the appropriate solvent

At Janet Davis Cleaners, we carefully select our cleaning solvents based on a balance of cleaning effectiveness, environmental impact, and health and safety considerations. We use DF2000, a hydrocarbon solvent, and water in our cleaning processes to provide excellent results while minimizing our environmental footprint and ensuring the safety of our staff and customers.

Care Tips for Dry Cleaned Garments

Proper storage and handling

After collecting your freshly cleaned garments, we recommend hanging them up in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, to maintain their pristine condition. Use appropriate hangers that provide support and help garments maintain their shape.

Frequency of dry cleaning

Try to dry clean your garments as infrequently as possible, as the process, while thorough, can cause wear over time. Many garments can be freshened up by airing them out or spot-cleaning minor stains at home. Consult the care label on each garment for specific cleaning recommendations.

How to address minor stains and spills at home

For minor stains and spills, blot the affected area gently with a clean, absorbent cloth to prevent the stain from spreading. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing, as this can damage the fabric fibers and make the stain more difficult to remove. Test any stain removal products on an inconspicuous area of the garment first to ensure they don’t cause damage or discoloration.

When to consult a professional dry cleaner

If you’re unsure how to handle a specific stain or if a garment requires special care, it’s best to consult a professional dry cleaner for advice. At Janet Davis Cleaners, our experts are happy to answer any questions and provide guidance on the best course of action for your garments.

The Environmental Impact of Dry Cleaning

Traditional solvents and their effects on the environment

The use of traditional solvents like perc in the dry cleaning industry has raised concerns about their impact on the environment. Perc, for example, can contaminate soil and groundwater if not properly managed and has been classified as a possible human carcinogen.

Regulations and industry initiatives for safer chemicals

Government regulations and industry initiatives have led to a shift towards safer, more environmentally friendly cleaning solvents. Many dry cleaners, including Janet Davis Cleaners, have adopted alternative solvents that offer a greener, more sustainable solution to garment care.

Janet Davis Cleaners’ commitment to sustainability

At Janet Davis Cleaners, we are committed to minimizing our environmental impact by using eco-friendly solvents and adopting sustainable practices wherever possible. We continuously strive to improve our processes and stay current with industry innovations to ensure that we provide the best possible service while protecting the environment.


Understanding the dry cleaning process and the chemicals used in it helps to appreciate the complexity and care behind preserving your garments’ cleanliness and longevity. When choosing a dry cleaner, consider not just the quality of cleaning but also the environmental impact and safety measures taken by the service provider. We invite you to experience the Janet Davis Cleaners difference – a place where expert cleaning meets responsible practices.

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