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What, actually, IS dry cleaning?

by aline on February 10, 2014

What, actually, IS dry cleaning?Your average layperson probably has some idea of what “dry cleaning” is, but a clear-cut definition is hard to come by. The name itself is misleading, so perhaps it’s no surprise.

Let’s break down the basics of dry cleaning—and then talk about what sets Gadue’s services apart.

A Brief Introduction and History

The short answer to “What is dry cleaning?”: the cleaning of fabrics with a solvent other than water. In other words, the process isn’t technically “dry.”

Some version of dry cleaning has been around at least since Ancient Rome, but the modern form, the story goes, was born in 19th-century France with an accident. In 1855, a man named Jean Baptise Jolly discovered that his dirty tablecloth looked much spiffier after kerosene from a lamp was spilled on it. A dye worker, Jolly was quick to turn his observation into the world’s first formal dry cleaning business.

Kerosene can indeed be an effective cleaning agent—one obvious problem is it’s highly flammable. By the 1930s, a non-flammable halogen solvent called perchloroethylene—“perc” for short—had become the leading dry cleaning solvent.

What’s Dry About Dry Cleaning?

The solvents employed in dry cleaning are liquid, but the absence of water in the process explains the “dry” in the name.

Before they reach the machines, all garments are inspected, tagged, invoiced, and sorted. Clothes are then placed in a special “dry to dry” machine—they go in dry and are cleaned and dried in the same machine. A typical cleaning cycle lasts an hour. Solvent and detergent act as the cleaning agents, and the clothes are tumbled and agitated throughout the process. Garments are removed for pressing and finishing, and the used solvent is filtered, distilled, and purified so that it is ready for the next load.

What’s Green About Dry Cleaning?

Perc marked an improvement over kerosene and other early flammable solvents, but it comes with a heavy carbon footprint. Gadue’s has always been committed to environmental responsibility, and once a greener option came on the market, we swiftly incorporated it into our system.

Our “SystemK4″ dry cleaning process is halogen-free and environmentally nontoxic, helping to reduce greenhouse gas and smog emissions as well as water contamination.

Now you know a little of what makes dry cleaning dry cleaning—and what made Gadue’s choose to be greener than the rest!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue Lackey March 1, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Bravo Gadue’s for leading the way to non-toxic dry cleaning! It is a big investment in Vermont.

aline March 3, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Thanks Sue! We appreciate your friendship and support!

James December 10, 2014 at 6:05 am

Nice post Aline! You explained very well about the dry cleaning and its features.

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