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Timeline of Dry Cleaning Chemicals

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 1

Dry cleaning is a process that cleans your garments and fabrics without the use of water.. Chemical based cleaning and drying is used to clean dirt and grime from fabrics instead of water and soap.

Very little has changed in how clothing and dry clean only fabrics are cleaned. Dry cleaning is still the system of using chemical solvents to clean dirt and spots from fabric. The difference is in the technology and equipment used. The machines used in the dry cleaning business are self contained, self cleaning, mostly sealed systems that are computer controlled.

Textiles that need to be kept looking great may require special care. Of course, shirts, pants and almost any other article of textiles you can imagine can all be taken to the dry cleaner.

Dry cleaning has evolved from a simple mistake to the widespread industry that it is today.. It did not always use the same processes or chemicals as it does today, and the process what discovered by accident over 100 years ago by Jean Baptiste Jolly. His maid spilled kerosene on the tablecloth and Jean Baptiste noticed that the fabric became cleaner after the incident. A simple kerosene spill resulted in the dry cleaning processes in use today, even with the same or similar harsh and hazardous chemicals.

If you have ever used kerosene in a heater or other appliance, you know you need to handle it with care. By the 1930's, less flammable solvents were developed and used.

Perchloroethylene, or "perc" was the biggest development for the dry cleaning industry and revolutionized the business. This chlorinated solvent was easy to manufacture, was easy to distribute and was cost effective enough for small business owners to work with. The only down side to the product was the toxic nature of it, which was handled by strict guidelines. What more could you as for? The problem with perc was that it was toxic to humans, so handling of the chemical was just as much work as the petroleum based solvents. Perc is still used today, with far stricter handling guidelines I might add.

The normal dry cleaning business layout was organized around a central factory, or cleaning site. The smaller end-user stores were where the customers would drop off and pick up their garments, which were shipped back and forth to the cleaning factory to be processed in the dry cleaning machines. This was a standard practice because of the use of the flammable and hazardous materials and chemicals used. By the 1970's, smaller dry cleaning machines were developed and became very popular very quickly too. The smaller machines led to independent owners who could provide a far faster turn around for their customers.

As development and green initiatives became more prevalent, other chemicals were developed, one of them was D5. This alternative to perc was gentler on fabrics and caused little to no color bleeding. One of the key selling features of D5 was the green angle, the product was non-toxic, compared to its competition, was biodegradable and far safer and easier to handle and use. The only down side was the cost, it was considerably more expensive to use the traditional perc.

Perc alternatives in the dry cleaning industry are around, just not well known, such as a Carbon Dioxide cleaning system. This type of cleaning process is again more expensive then perc but offers greater cleaning ability in some cases, especially with water and fire damaged fabrics and fabrics. Carbon Dioxide dry cleaning is most effective in restoring clothing that has been in type of toxic spill or fire damage. One of the key issues that most business owners face today are the operating costs of running their businesses, using traditional perc chemical is probably the most cost effective cleaning solution and why it remains the most widely used product.

Todays dry cleaning machines still use petroleum based solvents such as glycol ether and others. Perc is still one of the highly used dry cleaning chemicals. All current chemical usage and handling is greatly regulated. The machines that are used today closed systems that filter, recycle and store all the fumes and chemicals within the dry cleaning process. This facilitates cleanup, storage and handling of all hazardous chemicals. One of the problems with the cleaning chemicals is that they are smog contributors and we want to reduce some or all affects they may have on the environment. Most, if not all dry cleaning machinery in use today use some sort or recycling process to re-use the products and clean the machine as it is used, also making it easy for chemical storage and handling.

None the less, most garment labeled as 'dry clean only' can be cleaned through Wet Cleaning. Wet Cleaning is simply traditional cleaning, but uses biodegradable soap and regular water. The specialized wet cleaning machines are computer controlled washing machines that use soap and water to clean the clothing, but also use stretchers and unique cleaning techniques to retain the size and shape of the garments. Wet Cleaning is not a well known service and there are very few retailers in the Unites States that offer it. Dry Cleaning is a more recognized service.


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Comments

Jan 4, 2011 12:21pm
aguy
Wow.
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