Uncover the History of Dry Cleaning: A Journey Through Time

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The history of dry cleaning is anything but dry. The practice of laundering clothing goes back centuries, to the time when ancient civilizations were first discovering how to use natural solvents to remove stains and refresh their garments. If you’ve ever wondered how modern laundry companies can treat clothing so effectively, join us for a deep dive into the history of dry cleaning and how key milestones were originally developed.

The Ancient Beginnings

The earliest records of professional dry cleaning go back to the Ancient Romans, with archeologists discovering dry cleaning shops in the destroyed city of Pompeii, which was buried by a volcano in 79 AD. Dry cleaners of the time used cleaning agents known as “fullers,” a type of clay, along with ingredients like lye and ammonia to remove stains, sweat, and dirt from clothing. It wasn’t until the 1700s that the French first started using turpentine-based solvents for dry cleaning services.

The Middle Ages to the Renaissance

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, laundry cleaning services would soak clothes in lye in a process known as “bucking.” Bucking wasn’t a weekly process since it took days. Soap was also not commonly used during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, since it was too expensive for many poor people. Doing laundry was often a communal activity, with many towns establishing a “bleaching ground,” where linens and clothes could be set out to dry, and if necessary, get treated with more lye to remove tough stains.

The Birth of Modern Dry Cleaning

In the early 1800s, a French dye-works operator named Jean Baptiste Jolly invented a new dry cleaning method involving the use of kerosene and gasoline to clean fabrics. In 1845, he opened the first modern dry cleaning shop named “Teinturerie Jolly Belin” in Paris. Around the same time, a man named Thomas Jennings developed his own method of dry cleaning called “dry scouring.” Dry scouring also used kerosene and gasoline, with Jennings going on to become the first African American man to be granted a patent in the United States.

Technological Advancements in the 20th Century

By the 1900s, dry cleaning had evolved to include chlorinated solvents, which were less flammable than petroleum options and more effective. Early solvents included carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethylene (TCE), but by the 1930s, perchloroethylene, also called PCE, became widely adopted as the most effective dry cleaning solvent. Nonflammable and compatible with most fabric types, PCE eventually became the most popular option for dry cleaning. To this day, it is used by many dry cleaning companies.

Dry Cleaning in the 21st Century

With the advent of the 21st century, there came an emphasis on adopting environmentally friendly practices. Dry cleaning companies quickly hopped on board, adopting alternative, green solvents as a push toward sustainability. Through eco-friendly cleaners and mild cleaning practices, dry cleaners can keep clothes looking and smelling fresh all while ensuring the earth is cared for.

The Role of Dry Cleaning Today

While dry cleaning services were a luxury for those living during the Middle Ages, these days, it’s an accessible option that millions of people enjoy. Professional laundry services are the best way to care for delicate fabrics and specialized garments. When you find a local trusted dry cleaner to take care of your fine clothing pieces, you can rest easy knowing the items you love will be cared for with expertise.

OXXO Cleaners is Your Local Trusted Dry Cleaner

Dry cleaning has an enduring legacy that is still being developed today. While dry cleaning has come a long way, the years ahead will bring more innovations and excitement to the industry. If you want help keeping your wardrobe in tip-top shape, OXXO Cleaners That Care is here. We proudly provide professional laundry services. Visit our website today to learn more about our dry cleaning services or to find a location near you!

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