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What to know about dry cleaning

May 1, 2013

dry cleaningWe all drive past the dry cleaners on the way to other places. Some use these cleaners a lot, while others not at all. It is important to understand how it can help you maintain the life of your good clothes. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask many questions of a 30+ year veteran of the dry cleaning industry. He opened my eyes to the world behind the window and lines of hanging shirts. I will attempt to convey the must know elements here today:

1. What is dry cleaning? Dry means no water (H20). However, the cleaners do fully submerse the clothes in a solvent in a large washing machine. The solvent is very expensive; therefore, they reuse it many times. To do this, the special washing machines fill up, agitate, and then drain saving 99% for later use. It also evaporates quickly making the clothes come out of the machine dry.

2. What do I look for in a dry cleaner? In order to reuse the solvent, it should be cleaned and purified regularly. If not, it leaves clothes with a slight dingy look. If you can catch a glimpse of the machine filling up, look at the color of the solvent. If brown, find another cleaner. Also, look for a bottle of bleach lying around as clothes can be ruined easily with a single drop. It may not be possible to spy out their quality if they drive the clothes to another facility for washing. You may need to ask around, research on the internet, and/or closely examine your clothes after a few washings.

Shirt tag3. When should I use a dry cleaner? Short answer – when the label says dry clean only. You may bring non-dry clean clothes to them for dry cleaning, but most likely they will closely follow the instructions on the tag. So if it says “machine wash warm,” then they will wash it with water and detergent the same way you would at home. On the other hand, if your garment absorbs a stain, they can help as long as you did not set it in place with heat. So, if you spill blood or oil or mustard or coffee or spaghetti on it, do not wash and throw it in your hot dryer. Get it to them to treat. They will know how to remove the various types of stains. Definitely use them to clean suits, sweaters, and wool pants. Wool in particular will not react well to a home washing.

4. What things present a restoration challenge? Furs, leathers, suedes, fancy dry cleanable clothing, rayon, molded items and shoes. Leather, for example, is a skin with a life before its transformation. So, scars, burns or nicks may show up after cleaning. Rayon can hold odors and loses half its strength when wet making it tough to clean.

5. Anything else to know? Yes. A select few “specialists” will have an Ozone Machine. It kills mold, mildew, and bacteria in clothes. It eliminates smells such as from smoke and mildew. It can break down the hydrocarbons into CO2 and moisture. With any of these special cases, get it to them quickly. Smoke can continue to burn. Mold can weave throughout the fibers making it very difficult to remove. The mold can be killed and smell removed, but still visible. Last thing to know: dry cleaning is not rough on clothes; it is the hot pressing that leaves wear and tear on collars and cuffs.

Overall, know that a shirt holds a life of about 52 washings. Most importantly, Take the time to find a dry cleaner of excellent quality and treat them as an ally in your battle against sloppy looking clothes.

I also recommend reading Yellow pits or bulls eye for a sloppy look.

© Copyright 2013 Fashion for the average man.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 1, 2013 5:31 am

    Great advice again …. dry cleaning is so expensive over here – it’s scary … 1 pair of trousers $22.00 – we Swedes are not big users of dry cleaning more than our bigger items.
    Dry Cleaned my 2-piece silk dress and int cost me $42.50 a year ago.

  2. May 1, 2013 9:08 pm

    Very interesting.

  3. May 3, 2013 7:13 pm

    Lots of good information. My family was in the dry cleaning business for 60 years. Reputable company. Two generations. One additional note…..those chemicals are bad. Dare I say deadly. Really enjoyed this blog

  4. May 11, 2013 9:13 pm

    Wow I didn’t know this very informative

  5. May 19, 2013 1:39 am

    I didn’t know most of this and found it super informative. Love the brevity and thoroughness of your post style. Thanks for sharing!

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