What is Dry cleaning of Clothes : 10 types of clothes/ fabric you should always Dry clean

Drycleaning – the ultimate laundry recourse of the lazy homemaker. It is also the life saver for many different types of clothes, which otherwise would have been destroyed by the regular washing at home.

what is dry cleaning

I would call drycleaning a savior of clothes. Some might call me out on this (dismal environmental outcomes being the main reason), but one cannot deny that many a garment would be in tatters if not handled by the expert dry cleaners. The Brand new look of a dry cleaned garment makes one forget many good intentions. 

What is Dry cleaning?

Dry cleaning is basically cleaning with a solvent, instead of immersing clothes in water and detergent. Most of the dry cleaning is done with the solvent Perchloroethylene ( Petroleum solvent). Lately eco-friendly solvents such as carbon dioxide are used in the dry cleaning process.

In dry cleaning, First the clothes are sorted. The garment is inspected for any stains – stains are then spot cleaned with the help of powerful solvents.  Then the final cleaning is done in a solvent containing detergent inside a special basket which spins as it cleans. The solvent is then completely removed from the clothes by draining, spinning and tumble drying with hot air. Steaming, pressing, ironing follows the cleaning and drying process.

All dry cleaners are not made equal. In fact Use of a reputed dry cleaner is a necessity rather than an option. Choose wisely to avoid costly disasters. If you are unsure of the quality of the dry cleaner you have found ( ask friends who give for drycleaning regularly) give an old dress you wouldn’t miss for dry cleaning first. Donot start a new dry cleaner with a costly dress. You should read reviews to know some real horror stories at the dry cleaners

Donot Dryclean a garment with this sign on its care label.

care label dry cleaning

Why do you dry clean clothes ?

Though cleaning clothes at home is the best, there are situations when you have to give your clothes to be dry cleaned.

Shrinkage of fabric is one of the main reason why clothes are given to be dry cleaned. In the manufacturing process, fabric fibers are stretched to save yardage. When you wash clothes the fabric fibers are immersed in water; they stretch and then when dry, shrink back to their original size.You will sometimes find that the garment has shrunk one size small. There are other reasons as well, like colour bleed, damage to texture of fabric surface etc.

Check out the post on “How not to shrink clothes” – for more tips for avoiding shrinkage while washing clothes.

Types of clothes which you may need to dry clean

1 Certain fabrics

Woolen clothes shrink if they are washed at home.

dry cleaning

Some delicate silk fibers, velvet, leather, suede etc can be damaged with improper washing at home. Knits and open weave fabrics may stretch out of shape with washing.Rayon also benefits from dry cleaning, though it is not necessary to do it.

2 Very discolored white clothes

White clothes which have faded to a dull yellow or grey come out pristine white from the dry cleaner. An expert dry cleaner will use fresh solvents/fluids to clean ( not recycled ones) so that white remains white and even whiter.Check out the post on more tips on washing whites

3 Sequinned / beaded clothes

Most of the highly expensive beaded sequined clothes are a disaster after a  wash or two. The sequins fall off;   most of the stitching of these beads sequins are very fragile; chains stitches used to fix these beads break in one place but come off totally in one go, because of their loop construction.

Sometimes they are fixed with gum. Sometimes the sequins break in the wash and look horrible; at times the beads loose colour.These clothes should be dry cleaned so that the beaded / sequinned garments retain their glorious look.

4 Garments with  embroidery

Some embroidery floss bleed discoloring the garment. So drycleaning heavily embroidered garments at least the first one or two washes atleast is a good idea. Metallic thread mostly loose their sheen in the wash.

5 Garments with ornamentations

Most clothes have embellishments like trims and gathers/ shirring which can come undone with washing. Shirring is usually damaged with washing especially machine washing. Extra fittings like shoulder pads, folded sashes, ruching, smocking, fabric flower decorations can be easily damaged by washing

6 Painted fabrics

Paint is added as an extra layer – this may fade with repeated washing. In some clothes  glitter paint / puffy paint is added with glue and this may peel off with normal washing .

7 Spotted / Stained fabrics

Stains are inevitable on clothes. But when you treat the stains at home, especially on dark clothes, fading of the area may be the result, which may look even worse than the original staining. This may be prevented by dry cleaning. The dry cleaners who know their job use highly effective solvents on fabric.

8 Home furnishing

Dry cleaning can retain the elegant look to upholstery/ home furnishings. Try to wash and press heavy curtains and you will know . If they are dry cleaned they look beautiful and elegant as the day you bought it.

9 Expensive / Formal clothes

Suits, sports jackets, uniforms etc retain their crispiness when dry cleaned, whatever be the fabric.

Garments with different types of fabric for the outer fabric and lining retain their shape better when dry cleaned.Bridal gowns, prom dresses etc are regularly dry cleaned. 

10 Vintage clothes

You may have some cherished clothes you want to preserve for years and maybe even transfer down to next generations. Washing at home may damage them. Experts at the dry cleaners would know how to clean these clothes. You will have to discuss the issue with them and tell them the relevance of using chemicals that will not damage and instruct them to use techniques which will preserve the fibers for years to come.

Precautions you should take to be safe from chemical exposure in dry cleaning

There is a health hazard inherent to dry cleaning – because chemicals are used in the cleaning process. The solvent used in dry cleaning can prove to be damaging to human health if exposed for a long time. You will have to be aware of this while enjoying the convenience of dry cleaning. Slow release of the chemical for a prolonged time are said to be even the cause of cancer and other problems like kidney failings.

  1. Use dry cleaning of clothes only when you know you absolutely cannot wash the same garment at home. For eg. most woolen clothes loose their shape in the wash but they can be stretched back to shape. Hand wash/ machine wash at home should be considered before giving any garment to be drycleaned. 
  2. Use a quality dry cleaner. They will know their job and use quality cleaning agents and will be thorough in removing all traces of cleaning agent from the clothes. If you find that your drycleaned clothes have a  chemical odor it means that the dry cleaner has not been as thorough as you need.
  3. Use dry cleaned clothes only after  a few days ; not straight from the cleaners- this is so that the chemicals will have dissipated from the clothes as much as possible
  4. Donot store dry cleaned clothes for a long time in rooms where you will be spending a lot of time like bedrooms. The clothes are especially not to be stored in rooms where kids sleep.

Reference :

1.webmd.com : Drycleaning chemical likely causes cancer

2 Green dry cleaners

3 Consumer Reports Book

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