Have you ever wondered, "What is dry cleaning and how does it work?"

Although Americans routinely rely on the nearly 40,000 professional dry cleaning companies across the country to care for their garments (Tide Cleaners alone cleans about 20 million pieces annually), many of those customers do not know the process their garments go through. Some people assume their clothing is dry cleaned without water or other liquids, but that's only partial true.

The Dry Cleaning Process is Not Actually Dry

While dry cleaning differs from "wet cleaning" with a machine full of water, the term "dry cleaning" is a bit misleading in that the process does involve the use of liquid solvents and sometimes a small amount of water. Through the ages a number of different chemicals, including many highly flammable ones such as kerosene and turpentine, were used to clean precious fabrics. In the 1930s, the dry cleaning industry started using perchloroethylene, or "perc," as a safer alternative to eliminate the fire hazard.

Phasing Out the Toxic Perc

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 28,000 dry cleaners in America still use perc as their dry cleaning solvent, but it is a toxic chemical. The health and environmental risks of this predominantly used solvent once considered to be the safer alternative has prompted the EPA in the last couple of decades to work with the dry cleaning industry in phasing out the use of perc - at least in some settings. Use of non-toxic, non-VOC alternatives such as the GreenEarth Cleaning, a safer liquid silicone (sand), is slowly growing.

The Tide Cleaners Dry Cleaning Process:

Dry Cleaning Machine
The dry cleaning process at Tide Cleaners is relatively simple. The dry cleaner and production staff first inspect each garment arriving for dry cleaning service. If during inspection the staff identifies a stain, or a customer service representative flagged the garment because a customer pointed out a stain, the garment is pre-treated for stain removal as needed.

After stain removal treatment, the staff separates clothing by darks and lights and then places the garments in what looks like a large washing machine. A cleaning solution called GreenEarth is added. (Read about the GreenEarth dry cleaning solution here.)

There is little to no agitation to the clothes, but the machine does move with the solvent to effectively remove dirt and pre-treated stains from the garments.

Clothes removed from the dry cleaning machine are freshly clean and dry. They are then hung and sent down the line to be pressed.

Now you know what dry cleaning is and how it works. To find an Tide Cleaners location near you, click here, or read about our convenient dry cleaning service with free pickup and delivery and sign up online. We look forward to serving you!