If you are like most people, you drop your clothes off to the dry cleaner and pick it up a few days later with little knowledge of what happens in between. While you don't necessarily need to understand the finer point of dry cleaning and how it works, it's nice to know the basics! Here are some important facts about dry cleaning.
1. It does use a liquid cleaner
The term "dry cleaning" is actually a bit of a misnomer. Dry cleaning does not use water. However, it does use another liquid cleaning agent. Most dry cleaners use the chemical tetrachloroethylene. This is a type of alcohol, so after it dissolves the stains and dirt on your clothing, it evaporates quickly. This quick evaporation is what allows it not to cause the same damage that water would cause to certain clothes.
2. Not all stains can be removed
Because tetrachloroethylene is such a good solvent, dry cleaning can remove a lot of stains that water and standard water detergent would not remove. However, dry cleaning is not magic, and there may be some stains that remain on your clothing afterward. Red wine, for instance, does not come out well even with dry cleaning. If your clothing has stains on it, you should point them out to the dry cleaner when you take the clothing in. This way, they can pre-treat the stains and increase the chances of removal.
3. You can dry clean clothing that is not "dry clean only"
Most people wash all of their laundry in water and soap unless the label specifically says "dry clean only." However, you may want to consider taking some of your nicer clothing to the dry cleaner even if it can technically be washed in water. Dry cleaning is simply kinder to your clothing and causes less wear and tear, largely because the clothing does not have to be agitated to clean it via dry cleaning. It's a good idea to have all of your winter coats, suit pants, suit jackets, and nice dresses dry cleaned even if the label technically allows for standard washing.
Dry cleaning has been around for decades, and it still holds a really important place in society. Now that you know a little more about how the service works, you can take full advantage of it. The chemicals used are pretty amazing at getting dirt out without damaging clothing.