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How Does Dry Cleaning Work?

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Tagged in: Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning MachineA dry-cleaning machine is similar to a combination of a domestic washing machine, and clothes dryer. Garments are placed into a washing/extraction chamber (referred to as the basket, or drum), which is the core of the machine. The washing chamber contains a horizontal, perforated drum that rotates within an outer shell. The shell holds the solvent while the rotating drum holds the garment load. The basket capacity is between about 10 and 40 kg (20 to 80 lb).

During the wash cycle, the chamber is filled approximately one-third full of solvent and begins to rotate, agitating the clothing. The solvent temperature is maintained at 30 degrees Celsius, as a higher temperature may damage it. During the wash cycle, the solvent in the chamber (commonly known as the 'cage') is passed through a filtration chamber and then fed back into the 'cage'. This is known as the cycle and is continued for the wash duration. The solvent is then removed and sent to a distillation unit comprising a boiler and condenser. The condensed solvent is fed into a separator unit where any remaining water is separated from the solvent and then fed into the 'clean solvent' tank. The ideal flow rate is one gallon of solvent per pound of garments (roughly 8 litres of solvent per kilogram of garments) per minute, depending on the size of the machine.

Garments are also checked for foreign objects. Items such as plastic pens will dissolve in the solvent bath and may damage textiles beyond recovery. Some textile dyes are "loose" (red being the main culprit), and will shed dye during solvent immersion. These will not be included in a load along with lighter-color textiles to avoid color transfer. The solvent used must be distilled to remove impurities that may transfer to clothing. Garments are checked for dry-cleaning compatibility, including fasteners. Many decorative fasteners either are not dry cleaning solvent proof or will not withstand the mechanical action of cleaning. These will be removed and restitched after the cleaning, or protected with a small padded protector. Fragile items, such as feather bedspreads or tasseled rugs or hangings, may be enclosed in a loose mesh bag. The density of perchloroethylene is around 1.7 g/cm³ at room temperature (70% heavier than water), and the sheer weight of absorbed solvent may cause the textile to fail under normal force during the extraction cycle unless the mesh bag provides mechanical support.

Many people believe that marks or stains can be removed by dry cleaning. Not every stain can be cleaned just by dry cleaning. Some need to be treated with spotting solvents; sometimes by steam jet or by soaking in special stain remover liquids before garments are washed or dry cleaned. Also, garments stored in soiled condition for a long time (two months or more) are difficult to bring back to their original color and texture. Natural fibers such as wool, cotton, and silk of lighter colors should not be left in dirty or soiled condition for long amounts of time as they absorb dirt in their texture and are unlikely to be restored to their original color and finish.

A typical wash cycle lasts for 8–15 minutes depending on the type of garments and degree of soiling. During the first three minutes, solvent-soluble soils dissolve into the perchloroethylene and loose, insoluble soil comes off. It takes approximately ten to twelve minutes after the loose soil has come off to remove the ground-in insoluble soil from garments. Machines using hydrocarbon solvents require a wash cycle of at least 25 minutes because of the much slower rate of solvation of solvent-soluble soils. A dry-cleaning surfactant "soap" may also be added.

At the end of the wash cycle, the machine starts a rinse cycle wherein the garment load is rinsed with fresh distilled solvent from the pure solvent tank. This pure solvent rinse prevents discoloration caused by soil particles being absorbed back onto the garment surface from the "dirty" working solvent.
After the rinse cycle, the machine begins the extraction process, which recovers dry-cleaning solvent for reuse. Modern machines recover approximately 99.99% of the solvent employed. The extraction cycle begins by draining the solvent from the washing chamber and accelerating the basket to 350 to 450 rpm, causing much of the solvent to spin free of the fabric. When no more solvent can be spun out, the machine starts the drying cycle.

During the drying cycle, the garments are tumbled in a stream of warm air (63°C/145°F) that circulates through the basket, evaporating any traces of solvent left after the spin cycle. The air temperature is controlled to prevent heat damage to the garments. The exhausted warm air from the machine then passes through a chiller unit where solvent vapors are condensed and returned to the distilled solvent tank. Modern dry cleaning machines use a closed-loop system in which the chilled air is reheated and recirculated. This results in high solvent recovery rates and reduced air pollution. In the early days of dry cleaning, large amounts of perchlorethylene were vented to the atmosphere because it was regarded as cheap and believed to be harmless.

After the drying cycle is complete, a deodorizing (aeration) cycle cools the garments and removes the last traces of solvent, by circulating cool outside air over the garments and then through a vapor recovery filter made from activated carbon and polymer resins. After the aeration cycle, the garments are clean and ready for pressing/finishing.

Facts about color failure

Posted by: Administrator

Tagged in: FAQ's , Fabric Care , Dry Cleaning

Facts about Color Failure and Dry Cleaning

color-fading-dry-cleaningSince earliest time fabrics have been enhanced by the addition of color. Colored fabrics are produced in several different ways. Some fabrics are woven from dyed yarns, some fabrics are dyed after weaving, and some fabrics are colored by printing the surface, often with several different colors. Modern technology has brought great improvements in color performance, but color failures may still occur from a variety of causes.

Color Loss in Dry Cleaning

Some dyes are soluble in dry cleaning solvent. This may result in severe color fading if such an article is dry cleaned. If two or more dyes have been used and only one is solvent soluble, a dramatic color change can occur. For example, the yellow component may be removed and leave a green garment blue. The only clue of the former color may be the thread, which was dyed by a different method.

The same color on two different garments may also be affected differently. For example, you may buy a dress with a coordinated jacket in a blue and white print. When they are dry cleaned, the dress, which was vat dyed, may be unaffected, while the blue print of the jacket may fade so the blues no longer match.

Color failure is frequent in household items such as bedspreads and draperies. Often the fading does not appear severe, but it can be very noticeable when the item is compared with a matching item. For this reason, matching bedspreads and draperies should all be cleaned at the same time.

Water-soluble Dyes

Some dyes bleed when wet. This can occur in laundering or simply upon exposure to perspiration, rain, or water spillage. Some stains require water and water-soluble chemicals for removal, so even a dry cleanable item should have dyes with some resistance to water.

Sizing Disturbance

Fabrics often have sizing to give them body. Sometimes water spills can cause sizing to migrate and form dark rings or streaks as it dries. This can be a problem with rayon, which is often heavily sized. Sizing can also become lightened on exposure to water. These discolorations are difficult to remedy on dry cleanable fabrics because they require additional water to remove the sizing buildup, and this may aggravate the problem.


Crocking is the rubbing off of color from the fabric surface. Crocking may occur from wear alone, along edges of hems and creases. Crocking can also occur in washing or dry cleaning. This phenomenon is expected in some garments, such as denims, but the technology exists to produce deep colors that do not streak or fade.

Fading From Light Exposure

Eventually most dyes fade on exposure to light, especially sunlight. But sometimes color failure occurs rapidly on exposed areas such as shoulders, collars, and sleeves. Usually sunlight is the cause, but artificial light can also cause fading. Many blue, green, and lavender dyes are particularly light sensitive, especially on silk and wool fabrics.

Chemical Damage

Many common substances found in any household can cause chemical changes to dyes. Exposure to perspiration or to alkaline substances, which are present in many toiletries, can cause color change. Dyes used on silk can fade on exposure to alcohol. Even acid from lemon juice can cause bleaching on some dyes. And spillage of chlorine bleach is a very common cause of color loss and even fabric damage.

Fume Fading

Fume fading is the result of a chemical change in the dyestuff. Acid gases that form in the atmosphere as a product of combustion react with some dyes to cause a gradual color change. This type of change can occur even while a garment is stored in your closet. It is usually not uniform, but is more noticeable on exposed areas such as shoulders and sleeves. Sometimes this type of color change may not be noticed until after washing or dry cleaning, but these immersion processes cannot cause this localized type of change. Fume fading is most common on acetates.


White is actually a color, too. In their natural state, many fabrics have an off-white or yellowish cast and are therefore often bleached to remove this natural color. In addition, many white fabrics are treated with whiteners during manufacture. These optical brighteners, also called florescent whitening agents, change the reflective quality of the fabric to make it appear whiter and brighter.

Different brighteners are used with different types of fabric. Some of these agents are unstable and may break down and lose their whitening power, so that the fabric reverts to a yellowish or grayish appearance. Some fabrics may take on a pinkish or greenish blue. When a fluorescent brightener breaks down due to light exposure, the unexposed areas will be unaffected. For example, the front of a sweater laid out to dry in the sun may turn yellow while the back remains white. Brighteners are especially sensitive to light exposure when garments are wet. This is why some care labels specify drying out of direct sunlight.

Another cause of yellowing of white may be resins added to impart a permanent press quality. These resins can yellow when they are exposed to chlorine bleach. In this case, the yellowing will be uniform. It can be avoided by following the care label and using only nonchlorine bleach when this is specified.

Some white fabrics lose their whiteness just from normal wear, oxidation, and exposure to atmospheric soils. This process can be reversed in some fabrics by careful wetcleaning and bleaching, but often yellowing is not reversible. dry cleaners sometimes add a fluorescent brightener to their dry cleaning procedure, and many laundry detergents include brighteners, but severe cases of yellowing cannot be corrected in this manner.

Silk and Rayon Care

Posted by: Administrator

Tagged in: FAQ's , Fabric Care , Dry Cleaning

Silk and Rayon Care

silk-and-rayonSilk – the very word implies softness, elegance, and luxury. This shiny fiber, produced by silkworms to form their cocoons, was discovered in China more than 4,000 years ago. It has been prized ever since for its many unique qualities.

Soft and fluid, rayon is a favorite of fashion designers. It gives the look of silk at a fraction of the cost. Rayon is regenerated cellulose material produced from a solution of a cellulose source (wood pulp, cotton waste, etc.) The solution is forced through a spinneret and subsequently regenerated to form the fiber. It was the first man-made fiber produced.

Wash or Dry Clean?

Both silk and rayon fibers dry clean very well. If the manufacturer has not tested for appropriate care instructions, however, certain dyes or finishes applied to the fibers may react adversely to dry cleaning. Washing may damage garments containing sizing and/or dyes that are sensitive to water. Also, some rayon water-spot or stain readily upon contact with any moisture. It is important that you follow the care label on the garment.

“Washable” Silk and Rayon

Washable silk and rayon have become increasingly popular. It is assumed that if a garment is labeled as “washable,” the manufacturer has tested the fabric accordingly. However, this is not always the case. Some dyes on “washable” silk and rayon have actually dissolved in water, causing considerable dye bleeding and transfer. This is especially true on many darker colors; most pastels have a greater degree of colorfastness. It is not advisable to wash dark-colored garments with other items due to the possibilities of dye bleeding and migration. Multicolored articles should be tested for colorfastness before washing them.

It is important to keep the washing cycle very short, followed by rapid rinsing and drying. Never soak these garments for extended periods of time as prolonged soaking will often cause dyes to bleed and migrate even more.

If you follow the procedure suggested on the label and the appearance of the item is permanently altered, return it to the retailer for an adjustment.

Dry cleaning is not advised for articles of this type. Tests have shown that many of these dyes may be extremely sensitive to dry cleaning solvents. When consumers bring these washable garments to be dry cleaned, the dry cleaner should clean them according to the instructions on the care label. If those care instructions are not followed and problem occurs, the retailer cannot be held responsible.

Sizing and Moisture Do Not Mix

One of the most frequent problems with silk and rayon is the tendency of the sizing or finish applied by the manufacturer to discolor upon contact with moisture. In some cases, just wearing the garment in the rain can cause considerable shading. The moisture effects of water-soluble food and beverage spillage, as well as perspiration, may also discolor sizing. If the article is badly stained by moisture, and labeled as “dry cleanable,” it may be very difficult for a dry cleaner to correct this shading. A bad discoloration may necessitate a short wet cleaning process. This should only be done with the consumer’s consent.

Color Fading

Occasionally, dyes on silk and rayon are not colorfast to the procedures listed in the care instructions. Articles labeled as “dry cleanable” will sometimes contain dyes that bleed extensively when dry cleaned. Deep colors may transfer onto lighter areas. The same is true for some articles that are labeled a ”washable”.

Most stains are water-soluble and required special spotting techniques using moisture that are not part of normal dry cleaning. The degree of stain removal will often be determined by the colorfastness of the dye. Sometimes, a dye is initially disturbed by the moisture of the staining substance and will not withstand the additional moisture needed to remove the stain. The stain cannot be removed without serious color failure.

Beverage Stains

Beverages such as soft drinks, wine, and mixed drinks contain sugars. A spill may be colorless and disappear when it dries, but later the sugar may cause yellow or brown stains, especially when exposed to heat. Be sure to point out such stains so that the dry cleaner can use special pre-treatments on the stain prior to dry cleaning. Sugar-based beverage stains cannot always be completely removed, especially on silk.

Chemical Damage

Some silk dyes bleed or change color when exposed to solutions containing alcohol. Allow perfume, deodorant, and hair spray to dry before you dress, and remove spills from alcoholic beverages as soon as possible.

Some dyes, especially blues, purples and greens on silk, are sensitive to alkalies. Many facial soaps, shampoos, detergents, and even toothpastes are alkaline enough to cause color loss or change. If this happens, talk to your dry cleaner promptly about possible restoration.

Many bright colors used on these fabrics can fade from exposure to sunlight or artificial light. Some blue, purple and green dyes fade exceptionally fast, especially on silk. Store garments in closets away from any light, such as windows or electric lights that are left on.

Never use chlorine bleach – it permanently damages silk.

Perspiration Problems

Perspiration contains salts that can damage fabrics, especially silk. Perspiration is acidic and turns alkaline on exposure to the atmosphere. This can cause the fabric to change color and may disintegrate and weaken silk. Have perspiration stains removed as soon as possible to avoid permanent staining. If you perspire heavily, consider wearing underarm shields.

Stubborn Stains and Spots

Posted by: Administrator

Tagged in: Stains , spots , FAQ's , Dry Cleaning

Removing Stubborn Stains and Spots

removing_stains_from_clothesYour clothes will last longer and look better when they’re cleaned regularly.

Dry cleaners have special equipment and stain removers to remove many of the toughest stains.

Don’t delay, bring in your clothes as soon as possible so that we will have the best chance of removing stains.

Often, in an emergency you can remove small, fresh stains from your washable items by home methods. We offer this guide to help you do so.


  • Always check first for colorfastness. Apply the recommended stain remover to a hidden part of the fabric. Rinse out and let dry. If there is no damage, then proceed.
  • Read and follow all manufacturer's instructions.
  • If you’re unsure, check with your dry cleaner before proceeding.
  1. Ball-point ink: Using cleaning fluid, place stain face down on clean white paper towels. Apply cleaning fluid to back of stain. Replace paper towels under the stain frequently. Dry thoroughly. Heavy concentrations of this stain should be brought to your dry cleaner.
  2. Blood: Blot with cold water. Apply an enzyme detergent. Rinse with water. If the stain is still present, apply household ammonia. Rinse thoroughly with water.
  3. Gum: Harden with an ice cube. Gently lift off any large pieces. Do not scrape with sharp objects that may damage the fabric. Wet with cleaning fluid over a clean white towel to remove final traces.
  4. Mildew: Fabrics, which are badly mildewed, may be damaged beyond repair. If it is safe for the fabric, use chlorine bleach. Rinse thoroughly. Rinse with a small amount of white cider vinegar and another rinse and launder.
  5. Nail Polish: Use colorless nail polish remover. Place face down on clean white paper towels. Apply nail polish remover. Replace power towels under stain frequently. Repeat until stain in removed. Never use on acetate or triacetate fibers.
  6. Coffee: Blot with cold water. If the stains not removed, apply liquid synthetic detergent (from your kitchen sink). Rinse with water. If stain persist, apply white vinegar. Rinse with water.
  7. Rust: Use a fabric safe rust remover following manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Rinse rust remover completely out. Best to take to a professional dry cleaner for removal.
  8. Lipstick: Using cleaning fluid, place stain face down on clean white paper towels. Apply cleaning fluid to back of stain. Replace paper towels frequently. Dry thoroughly. If stain is still visible, use a synthetic detergent and water.
  9. Chocolate: Blot with cold water. Apply an enzyme detergent. Rinse with water. If the stain persists, apply a household ammonia. Rinse thoroughly.
  10. Perspiration Stain: Use method shown for chocolate.
  11. Scorch: Rinse out light scorch with cold water. For heavier scorch, treat with 3% hydrogen peroxide after testing first for color loss.
  12. Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverages: When fresh, blot these stains with cold water, even white wine and colorless drinks. Heat can cause colorless stains to yellow even weeks later. Spot with synthetic detergent and water. Rinse with water. If the stain persists, spot with white vinegar. Rinse with water. Finally, try a chlorine bleach or an organic bleach, if safe for fabric (test first for color fastness).

Clean and Green

Posted by: Administrator

Tagged in: Green , FAQ's , Environment , Dry Cleaning

Clean and Grean - Dry Cleaning and the Environment

green-dry-cleaningDry Cleaners Recycle Almost Everything

Long before recycling was recognized as a critical step toward preserving our environment, it was practiced by the dry cleaning industry. We recycle almost everything – from used cleaning solvent to unclaimed garments! Here are some of the ways dry cleaners keep waste to an absolute minimum:

Dry cleaning Solvent

dry cleaning solvent is readily reused and recycled on-site through distillation, filtration and drying. Special stills and filters remove impurities from used solvent, leaving it crystal-clear and ready to be used again. As garments are dried, solvent vapors are recaptured and condensed back to liquid form to reuse.

Polyethylene Garment Bags and Hangers

Today most dry cleaners participate in programs through their supply distributors to recycle Polyethylene (“poly”) garment bags and hangers. Often special recycling bins are provided in the front counter area. It’s a good idea for customers to first remove all staples and tags or receipts before returning bags.

Clothing Recyling

Dry cleaners even recycle clothing – taking the thousands of garments that go unclaimed each year to charitable organizations and clothing banks to be distributed to the needy. We also help others to recycle through programs such as “Cold Days, Warm Hearts,” with Robert Horry as our chairman. This program encourages consumers to bring in unwanted clothing and coats to a participating dry cleaner for free cleaning and repair. The dry cleaner then turns them over to the SAMMinistries and to the Christian Assistance Ministry.

Demonstrating Concern for the Environment

The majority of the country’s 30,000 dry cleaners are small, neighborhood, family-run businesses, often with spouses and children involved in day-to-day operations. As an industry, we pay close attention to proper waste disposal, emission controls and other environmental and safety precautions. We take pride in our efforts to keep the environment clean and safe for future generations.

Because of our industry’s high professional and ethical standards, we have always taken the lead in voluntary environmental compliance and support of environmentally responsible legislation.

For example, most dry cleaners used hazardous waste disposal methods to dispose of solvent residue and used filters, although only one-half of the industry is actually required to do so. The solvent used by most dry cleaners for half a century does not contribute to smog formation, deplete the stratospheric ozone layer or contribute to global warming.

In 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commended the dry cleaning industry for taking an active role in developing a proposed amendment to the Clean Air Act of 1990. The new rule would require all but the smallest dry cleaners to install special equipment to reduce emissions of solvent.

Over the past 20 years, the majority of dry cleaners have voluntarily invested in sophisticated equipment that ensures that little or no solvent is released into groundwater or the atmosphere. Our goal is to completely eliminate waste in all aspects of the dry cleaning process- from solvent to polyethylene bags.

The History Of Dry Cleaning

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Tagged in: History , FAQ's , Dry Cleaning

dry_cleaning-historyProfessional garment care dates back to the days of Pompeii when early cleaners were called “fullers”. They used lye and ammonia in early laundering and a type of clay called “fuller’s earth” to absorb soils and greases from clothing too delicate for laundering.

While 1690 is the first published reference to the use of spirits of turpentine for removing tar and varnish from fabrics, it wasn’t until 1716 that turpentine began to be used regularly as a “dry cleaner” for grease and oil stains to supplement wet cleaning processes. Down through the ages, turpentine, a distillation of pine pitch, has had several names: oil of turpentine, spirits of turpentine, camphene, and “turps”.

Even before organic solvent was used to clean garments by immersion methods, the cleaner of clothes was known as a “degrasseur”, a degreaser of textiles able to remove grease and fat stains from cloth. The French name for cleaner was teinturier-degraisseur (a dyer-degreaser). “Degraisseur” was the common term applied to a master dyer who specialized in both dyeing and cleaning garments.

In the early 1900s, dry cleaners began using spirits of turpentine, called “camphene”, as a dry cleaning solvent. This discovery quickly spread to other countries on the continent and later to the British Isles, led by John Pullar and Sons in Perth, Scotland. The new process became known as “French Cleaning”, named for the earlier reputation and fame gained in France. This term continues to be used today to imply that the process is special and requires highly skilled handwork.

The first use of a dry cleaning soap was in Germany. In 1928, Stoddard solvent, which had a higher flash point than other solvents currently being used, was introduced. In 1932, chlorinated hydrocarbons-nonflammable synthetic solvents-were introduced in the United States.

History of Dry Cleaning (part 2)

Posted by: Administrator

Tagged in: History , Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning uses non-water-based solvents to remove soil and stains from clothes. The potential for using petroleum-based solvents in this manner was discovered in the mid-19th century by French dye-works owner Jean Baptiste Jolly, who noticed that his tablecloth became cleaner after his maid spilled kerosene (paraffin) on it. He subsequently developed a service cleaning people's clothes in this manner, which became known as "nettoyage à sec," or "dry cleaning" in English.


Early dry cleaners used petroleum-based solvents such as gasoline and kerosene. Flammability concerns led William Joseph Stoddard, a dry cleaner from Atlanta, to develop Stoddard solvent as a slightly less flammable alternative to gasoline-based solvents. The use of highly flammable petroleum solvents caused many fires and explosions, resulting in government regulation of dry cleaners.

After World War I, dry cleaners began using chlorinated solvents. These solvents were much less flammable than petroleum solvents and had improved cleaning power. By the mid-1930s, the dry cleaning industry had adopted tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), colloquially called "perc," as the ideal solvent. It has excellent cleaning power and is stable, nonflammable, and gentle to most garments. However, perc was also the first chemical to be classified as a carcinogen by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (a classification later withdrawn). In 1993, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted an airborne toxic control measure (ATCM) to reduce perc emissions from dry cleaning operations. The dry cleaning industry is now beginning to replace perc with other chemicals and/or methods. At this time, dry-cleaning was carried-out in two different machines — one for the cleaning process itself and the second to dry the garments.

Traditionally, the actual cleaning process was carried-out at centralized "factories"; high street cleaners shops received garments from customers, sent them to the factory, and then had them returned to the shop, where the customer could collect them. This was due mainly to the risk of fire or dangerous fumes created by the cleaning process.

This changed when the British dry-cleaning equipment company, Spencer, introduced the first in-shop machines (which, like modern dry cleaning machines, both clean and dry in one machine). Though the Spencer machines were large, they were suitably sized and vented to be fitted into shops. In general, three models, the Spencer Minor, Spencer Junior, and Spencer Major, were used (larger models, the Spencer Senior and Spencer Mammoth, were intended for factory use). The cleaning and drying process was controlled by a punch-card, which fed through the "Spencermatic" reader on the machine. Also, Spencer introduced much smaller machines, including the Spencer Solitaire and one simply called the Spencer Dry Cleaning Machine, for use in coin-operated launderettes. These machines resembled coin-operated tumble dryers; to be as small as they were, they simply filtered used perc, rather than distilling it like the commercial Spencer machines. Solvent had to be changed far more frequently as without distillation, it quickly became discoloured, and could cause yellowing of pale items being cleaned. A coin-operated version of the Spencer Minor, which automatically carried out all the distillation and solvent-cleaning operations of the standard version was available but rarely seen, presumably[citation needed] due to its greater cost and size than the other coin-operated machines.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Spencer machines were extremely popular, with virtually every branch of Bollom possessing either a Spencer Minor or a Spencer Junior. Spencer continued to produce machines (introducing new modular and computer controlled models, such as the Spencer Sprint series) until the late 1980s, when the company closed. Spencer machines may still occasionally be seen.

Click here to see our first post on  The History Of Dry Cleaning



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