From time in memorial, people have been washing their clothes. Whether it is by the riverside, or in a basin there has always been a method of washing and drying the laundry. Nowadays or in the recent past, there has been technological advancement as machines are used to wash the clothes. Washing machines use water and a solvent to clean laundry.
However, there is a process called dry-cleaning whereby water is not used thus the name ‘dry’. In the article, we shall highlight the process of dry-cleaning so that you gain a better understanding of what happens when you take your laundry to the dryer.
History of Dry Cleaning
Dry cleaning was invented in 1855 by Jean Baptiste Jolly who was a French dye worker.
His maid poured paraffin on a table cloth and he released that it got cleaner than when it was washed with soap and water.
Kerosene and gasoline were the solvents that were initially used to clean fabrics.
However, over time, many other solvents including trichloroethylene and carbon tetrachloride were used to dry clean laundry.
Nowadays though, the solvent that is overwhelmingly used to clean clothes in a dry cleaning machine is called perchlorethylene (perc).
Perc is not only safer, but it cleans better and it does not require very big machinery thus saving on space. This has made it possible to have dry cleaning services offered in a small rental spaces.
The solvent is also responsible for the evolution of the dry cleaning business because many people could afford to rent small building spaces and operate the business.
The Dry Cleaning Process
The process of dry cleaning is hugely similar no matter the cleaner you take your laundry to.
First, your laundry is marked to avoid any confusion and also for easier identification. Some dry cleaner operators will use paper clips or some other form of labeling which they stick on the collar of your garment.
They will also examine the state of the laundry and see if they have all the buttons and whether they are torn- they do this to avoid any complaints from the customer.
If the laundry has any stains- soup or ink stains- they will treat them first to make the cleaning easier.
Then, they put the clothes in a machine and the dry cleaning process begins where the laundry is cleaned using a solvent.
For thorough cleaning, if any stains are still visible, they are manually removed after the dry cleaning.
The last step involves pressing the laundry, folding them and packaging them in a presentable manner awaiting collection by the owner.
The Dry Cleaning Process in Detail
First your laundry is counted and the different types of laundry identified (blouses, trousers, shirts etc.). The date that you deliver the laundry is also noted in a ledger at the dry cleaner.
The laundry is then tagged and the tag will remain affixed to the cloth the entire process.
The customer is handed an invoice which identifies their laundry, the date delivered, the customer’s name, phone number and address. The same information is fed into the system to help in record keeping.
Laundries that require special attention are also tagged; the attention might be a stain on the pants. The tags are of a different color.
Once the batch of laundry has been watched, it is inspected to verify if the work has been properly done. If stains are spotted, then post– stain removal is done.
The tags are affixed to the same bundle of laundry in such a way that the person who will be packaging them will be able to identify laundry which belongs to the same customer.
Pre-Treating the Stains on the Laundry
The idea of stain pre-treatment is to make it easier to come out during the washing process. In fact, the stain might come out during this stage if it is not too stubborn.
You can pre-treat a stain yourself. If the stain is wet-that which contains water like wine for example- apply water on it. For dry stains-those that contain oils – apply a solvent.
Rub the stain with a dry cloth, as you do this, the stain will spreads into the rest of the cloth.
Rice your cloth and dry it, when you take it to the cleaner, it will be very easy to wash clean the stained garment.
Alternatively, take it to the cleaner as it is and they will deal with the stain.
The Dry Cleaning
There are many brands of dry cleaning machines in the market but their operating principle is similar.
The cleaning machine is made up of a dryer, a washer and extractor and it can fit from 9 to 45 kgs of laundry.
Inside the machine, there is a perforated basket that spins as the laundry is sprayed with the solvent through the holes in the basket.
During the spinning process, the laundry is also gently ponded against baffles which are inside the cylinder.
This ponding and constant spray of the solvent ensures that the laundry is well cleansed.
The machine has a mechanism of recovering the used perc, filters it and reuses it to clean the laundry more or clean a new set of laundry.
The filtration process is very important, since less perc is disposed to the environment and also saves the drycleaner operator money.
After the clothes have been thoroughly doused in the solvent and are clean, next comes the drying stage.
In order for the clothes to dry, they are rotated at a very high speed while at the same time warm air is let into the chamber. The warm air dispels any solvent off the laundry and any moisture that might be present.
Dry cleaning machines that use petroleum based solvent- though few- have very many fire guard systems in place since petroleum is highly flammable.
Post Cleaning Stain Removal
This process of stain removal uses vacuum, air, steam and water to remove a stain if it did not get cleaned during the dry cleaning process.
For water based stains, water is used to remove the stain, for dry stains, a solvent is used for the process.
The drycleaner will examine the stain to determine the best approach to use.
Once the laundry has been dry-cleaned, the last step is the finishing.
In this step, the clothes are steamed, pressed and ironed to make them presentable to the customer.
After this, they are packaged well awaiting collection by the customer.
Dry cleaning might be a mysterious process because all you see is a large machine and you have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. Well, with the tutorial, we hope you have gotten an idea of what goes on. You will also be on the knowhow on what is happening when you take your laundry to the dry cleaner next time.