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Why Is It Called Dry Cleaning?

Posted by David Whitehurst on May 17, 2011 10:24:00 PM

Depiction of Ancient Greeks who invented Dry Cleaning 

We've all heard of dry cleaning, but do we know how it got such a name?  Is dry cleaning even dry?

Actually, the name is a little misleading.  

The dry cleaning process is not dry at all.

The title actually originated around 400 years ago in ancient Greece.  At this time, the Mycenaean population began using dry products to get stains out of their clothing and garments.  Throughout the years the techniques involved in removing stains have advanced greatly, but the "dry cleaning" name has not been replaced.  Dry cleaning services now include much more than simple stain removal, and help maintain the high quality associated with most garments today.


One reason that current techniques could be considered dry is that there is no water used.  The only water that comes in contact with clothes during dry cleaning is the steam used when dry cleaners remove stains.  And the water from the steam is completely removed before the dry cleaning process begins.  Dry cleaning solvents are never mixed with water.


Dry Cleaning Vs. Home Washing

While the process of dry cleaning is not dry, it is appears very similar to typical home washing in a modern washing machine.  The difference is where the home washer uses detergents and water, dry cleaning uses special solvents, detergents and a few other magic ingredients, such as sizing.


The dry cleaning solvents are most often superior to home washing when it comes to removing tough stains, especially on certain fabrics like wool and silk.  Because dry cleaning solvents have a lower PH balance than water, they are safer on fabrics when cleaning.  

Dry cleaning is superior at preserving the color and texture of a fabric compared to home washing.  Dry cleaners also work hard to maintain the size of a garment, while traditional washing machines can shrink a piece of clothing, or even stretch it out.  Dry cleaning is also the best way to ensure safe and efficient stain removal.

Cleaning methods known as "wet cleaning" uses water immersion methods to clean some “dry clean only” garments.  Knowing which fabrics and finishes and the special handling of the garment to retain its shape after wet cleaning requires a high skill level.


What Does “Spot Clean Only” Mean?

When a garment care label says “Spot Clean Only” this means that there is no acceptable method to cleaning the garment.  The design of the garment will withstand neither dry cleaning nor wet cleaning methods. The label is saying all you can do is treat the spots (Spot Clean Only) but don’t immerse the garment in water or dry cleaning solvents. 


This really limits dry cleaners ability to completely clean the garment since most “pre-spotting” agents must be removed by immersion in either water or dry cleaning solvents.  If the spotting agents are not removed, they will often leave a very noticeable “ring” around the spot.  Spot Clean Only seems to me to be a way to make the uninformed consumer think there is an effective way to clean the garment when there really is no way to clean the entire garment.

Dry Cleaning Equipment  

On Site Cleaning = Access To Professional Dry Cleaning Management

At Champion Cleaners we do our dry cleaning and laundry on site.  This gives you access to professional dry cleaning management in Vestavia Hills, Hoover and Calera, all with Certified Garment Care Professional credentials.

Topics: dry cleaners, dry cleaner, dry cleaning

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