For as long as people have been wearing clothes, people have also been washing clothes. Whether you’re someone whose life depends on a washing machine to push through mountains of clothes, or if you’re someone who enjoys the simple method of a good old hand wash, this is always a weekly choir that we cannot escape from. In modern days we now have dry cleaning at our finger tips and there’s such a variety of services to choose from, but how did it all begin?
The history of dry cleaning stems back to 79 AD in Ancient Rome, where early cleaners were addressed as “Fullers”. They used a combination of ammonia, lye and a clay called “fuller’s earth” to absorb dirt from their garments.
In the 17th – 18th Centuries cleaning methods began to develop and cleaners would use non – water based solvents to remove unwanted stains like soil from a range of different garments. In 1985, Jean Baptiste Jolly was a French dye-works operator, who recognised the potential in using petroleum-based solvents like gasoline and kerosene, to remove stains instead. This service was the first manifesto of ‘dry cleaning’ that still offers the familiar service we use today. However as the petroleum solvents caused so many explosions and fires due to flammability, strict government regulation’s had to be set in place.
Due to this, a dry cleaner from Atlanta named William Joseph Stoddard, developed a white spirit solvent as an alternative to the gasoline based solvents that were highly flammable. From here on out cleaning methods continue to evolve. Although in 1939, World War II lead to petrol shortages which meant that Tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), commonly known as perc, became the most popular solvent. It was non – flammable and provided the highest standard of cleaning power, and thanks to this professional cleaners were allowed to move back into the cities.
Now days, at home you would typically wash your clothes in a washing machine and then tumble dry them, however a Dry Cleaning machine takes both of these processes and combines them into one.
Garments are placed in the core of the machine within a washing chamber known as the “basket” or “drum”, which is perforated and rotates within an outer shell that holds the solvent. The chamber is filled with one-third of solvent and starts to rotate, keeping the solvent temperature at 30 degrees Celsius. During the cycle the solvent in the chamber (also referred to as the “cage” or “tackle box”) is passed backwards and forwards through a filtration chamber and the cage itself. This is known as the wash cycle.
Before any garment is washed it must be thoroughly checked for any foreign objects that may be concealed in the pockets. Items like plastic pens will easily dissolve within the solvent which in turn may damage and ruin the garments to the point where they need to be disposed of. The rule of dark colours to be separated from light colours is still applied as the dye can shed when exposed to the solvent. Before any dry cleaning takes place, items must be checked against their compatibility as a lot of fastenings are not normally solvent proof, or just might not be able to withstand the wash cycle. If this is the case then they will be either be removed and attached back on after the cleaning has finished, or will be protected where possible.
After the wash cycle comes the rinse cycle, where the garment is rinsed with a fresh distilled solvent, which prevents discoloration from soiled particles. Then after the rinse cycle, the machine begins the extraction process, which gathers all the solvent for reuse. Once the solvent has been drained the drying cycle takes over and the garments are tumbled in warm air that flows through the basket. In modern dry cleaning machines use a closed-loop system which means the chilled air can be reheated and re-circulated, resulting in a reduction in air pollution and higher solvent recovery. Once the drying cycle is complete the aeration cycle cools the garments and continues to remove any further traces of solvent. The garments are then ready to be pressed and finished.
Although the powerful method of dry cleaning has been highly regarded to remove stains with one wash, not all stains can be removed simply by dry cleaning. Some stains will need particular treatments such as specific spotting with solvents, using a stream jet to blast the stain, or a good soak in a specialised stain remover, all of which will need to have been actioned before the item is put through the wash cycle. Garments that have been soiled for a long time are even more troublesome when it comes to stain removal, yet if successfully removed there is a likely hood that the colour or texture of the garment won’t be the same.
That said, dry cleaning is still one of the most popular sources of washing to this date, and is favourable for people with busy schedules. With modern technical advances some dry cleaning services can be accessed via mobile apps meaning you can have an efficient dry cleaning service at the click of a button. Click Clean Clothes is just one example of a fast dry cleaning service in Brighton. They offer dry cleaning with free pick-up and delivery, meaning they will work around you to provide you with the best service.
So next time you have some specific washing needs, whether you urgently need your shirt and suit pressed for a black tie event, or whether you just want to take your mind off a mountain of washing, why not try your local dry cleaning service? It might just be the most ideal solution for you moving forward.