Dry-Clean Only: How Dry Cleaning is Done from Start to Finish

woman working at a dry cleaners, looking through a rack of clothing

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Sometimes, when you buy a new garment, you’ll see a little notice on the tag telling you that it should be dry-cleaned only. Many people wonder what the difference between dry cleaning and traditional laundry is. Of course, one is dry and the other isn’t, but what exactly does the process entail? We’ll break down the entire dry cleaning procedure so you’ll have a better idea of what happens to your clothing when you take it to be cleaned. 

1. Inspection and Tagging

When you first drop off your clothing at the dry cleaner, the attendant will go over it carefully, looking for stains, damage, or any instructions about special care the garment may require. They’ll make a note of what they discover and tag the garment with that information along with your name so it can be returned to its rightful owner. 

2. Pre-spotting

If there are any stains on the clothing that need to be addressed, the dry cleaner will do so before the process moves forward. They’ll pre-treat the stains with a special spotting solution designed to weaken the stain. They’ll use special tools for this purpose, often along with cleaning agents that are uniquely designed for specific types of stains. 

3. The Dry Cleaning Cycle

This is the dry cleaning part of the dry cleaning process and probably the one you’re most interested in. You may be surprised to learn that the process isn’t entirely dry. Rather, it doesn’t use water to do the cleaning. Instead, chemical solvents are used. Most dry cleaners use a chemical named perchloroethylene or various hydrocarbon solvents. Eco-friendly dry cleaners, like OXXO Cleaners That Care,  use a more sustainable silicone-based solution.

These solvents have several advantages over water. For one, garments don’t absorb them the way they do water. This eliminates the shrinkage that can occur in the wash. Also, many dyes are water soluble, many that washing them in water dulls them over time. These special solvents eliminate that problem.

The solvents are used in a machine that looks much like a traditional washing machine. Because they are so good at removing stains, less agitation is required, which also helps to protect the garments. 

4. Post-spotting

Now it’s time for the dry cleaner to once again inspect the garment. Ideally, all of the stains from the pre-spotting step were removed successfully. If they weren’t, the spotting process will be repeated so they’re fully eliminated before returning the garment to you. 

5. Drying

Because fabric doesn’t absorb the solvents used in dry cleaning like it does water, they come out of the machine already much drier than they would from your home washing machine. Still, they are given time to dry fully so the solvent is fully evaporated. 

6. Pressing

The way that a garment is treated after drying is a critical step in the dry cleaning process. Some establishments use large, industrial presses that can lead to damaged and burnt fabric. 

At OXXO Cleaners That Care, we use mannequins to air dry clothing to ensure a form-fitting result. Then, we use a small press for collars and cuffs. All clothing is then hand-pressed with an iron. Our ‘hand-touched’ approach ensures that your favorite clothing pieces last longer and look good-as-new. 

7. Final Inspection and Packaging

The last phase of the dry-cleaning process is a final, thorough inspection. The garment is checked for cleanliness, proper finishing, and any possible damage. When the cleaner approves it, they’ll store it safely and await your return to pick it up.

The Importance of Dry Cleaning

There are several reasons why dry cleaning is important for your clothing. For clothing that requires it, dry cleaning prevents shrinkage, color loss, or other damage that might come from exposure to water or vigorous agitation. For all clothing, dry cleaning gives your garments a deeper clean and a thorough rejuvenation, which also helps prolong their life.

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