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When you drop off your child at school, you know they will spend the day learning and interacting with peers. When you drop off your vehicle for service, you know a technician will diagnose any issues and repair them. But what happens to your clothes when you drop them off to be dry cleaned? What does the process involve? What separates one dry cleaner from another? Before taking your $300 evening gown or sport coat to the unknown, let’s find some answers to these great mysteries. 

The name “dry cleaning” itself is a bit of a misnomer. Your clothes do in fact get wet! But unlike standard laundering using water, dry cleaning is considered “dry” because it uses chemical solvents instead of water to clean delicate fabrics and remove stains. The types of solvent used has changed considerably over the years and today there is still a wide variety of chemicals in use (more on that later). 

Garments are placed inside a dry cleaning machine which looks similar to a standard washing machine. The drum is filled with a chemical that cleans the fabric in lieu of water or detergent. The solvent is then drained, filtered, and recycled and the clothes are “rinsed” in a fresh solvent solution to flush away any last soil remains. From there, any additional spot treatments are made, repairs to buttons are completed, and the garment is pressed and ready for pick-up. 

The main difference from one dry clean to another is in the chemicals used. Since the 1930s, the dominant chemical in the dry cleaning industry has been perchlorethylene or “perc”. Perc is a highly effective cleaning agent, however it is extremely hazardous to both humans and the environment. In fact it is classified as carcinogen, meaning it has the potential to cause cancer. 

Since the 1970s there has been a push in the dry cleaning industry to move towards safer and more eco-friendly methods of cleaning. Green dry cleaning is based on a carbon dioxide detergent system and cleaning machines that apply pressure to draw liquid carbon dioxide through fabrics to remove soil. There is no heat involved which also makes the process more gentle to fabrics.

Despite these advances in green cleaning techniques, MANY dry cleaners still use perchlorethylene machines. However at The Best Dry Cleaners of Savannah, our facilities use environmentally friendly hydrocarbon cleaners. This process is better for you, your clothes, and our planet. Stop in today and experience the difference!