Doing laundry has been a common household activity for years. Whether the technology was beating the garments on rocks by the river or pushing buttons on programmed washing machines, this process depends on water and a mechanical action usually assisted by soap or an alkali. The purpose of an alkali is to saponify the oils and dislodge ordinary soil and other matter. More often than not, the soapy agent holds soil in suspension as it becomes loose during the wash cycle, and is subsequently flushed away during the rinse cycle and centrifugal spin.
The drying process for doing laundry at home is either hanging clothes on a clothesline or tumbling them in a gas- or electric-heated dryer.
Dry cleaning, on the other hand, is different. It’s a process that cleans clothes without water. The cleaning fluid that is used is a liquid, and all garments are immersed and cleaned in a liquid solvent — the fact that there is no water is why the process is called “dry.” In this article, we will take a behind-the-scenes look at the dry-cleaning process so that you can understand what happens to your clothes after you drop them off at the Premier Laundry!
Dry Cleaning Evolution
Early dry cleaners used a variety of solvents — including gasoline and kerosene — to clean clothes and fabrics. In the United States, the dry-cleaning industry is fairly new and has developed only during the past 75 years. Since World War II ended, the volatile synthetic solvents carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethylene gave way to a product known as perchlorethylene (PERC), which became the overwhelming solvent choice for the industry. It was not only safer and faster, but did a much better job of cleaning, required less massive equipment, less floor space, and could be installed in retail locations offering excellent quality one-hour service.
As a result of this innovation, the majority of clothes today are cleaned by PERC. A proliferation of cleaning franchises and dry-cleaning businesses offering fast service from convenient, clean, and attractive locations evolved to change the industry into what we see today.
When you drop your clothes off at the Premier Laundry, our employees follow a pattern that holds true at just about any dry-cleaning operation running today. Your clothes go through the following steps:
- Tagging and inspection– Some method, whether it is small paper tags or little labels written on a shirt collar, is used to identify your clothes so they don’t get mixed up with everyone else’s. Clothes are also examined for missing buttons, tears, etc. that the dry cleaner might get blamed for otherwise.
- Pre-treatment– The cleaner looks for stains on your clothes and treats them to make removal easier and more complete.
- Dry cleaning– The clothes are put in a machine and cleaned with a solvent.
- Post-spotting– Any lingering stains are removed.
- Finishing– This includes pressing, folding, packaging and other finishing touches.
The following sections look at each of these steps in detail.
When you drop off your clothes, every order is identified. Although the exact identification process may vary from dry cleaner to dry cleaner, it basically includes counting the items and describing them (e.g., shirt, blouse, slacks). Also noted is the date they were dropped off and what date they’ll be ready for the customer to pick up. Then, a small, coloured tag is affixed to each piece of clothing with a safety pin or staple, and this tag remains attached to the clothing during the entire dry-cleaning cycle. We then also generate an invoice, and information about the order — including the customer’s name, address, and phone number –. This helps to keep track of the order.
If a garment needs special attention, such as removing a red wine stain from a shirt or putting a double-crease in pant legs, there’s a special coloured tag that gets affixed to that particular item of clothing. Once the clothing has been washed or dry cleaned, it goes through a quality check and the order gets re-assembled. This means the clothing is bundled together for the customer to pick up. Remember, every order is identified by a coloured tag with a number on it so the person who re-assembles the order knows which shirts and which slacks go together and to whom they belong.