There are lots of terms tossed around these days that can be confusing if you are not familiar with the textile care industry. Three that you may see regularly are dry cleaning, wet cleaning and even green cleaning.
Dry Cleaning is very similar to regular home laundering, but a liquid solvent is used to clean your clothes instead of water and detergent. The solvent contains little or no water, hence the term "dry cleaning." Cleaners use very large computer-controlled dry cleaning machines. Your clothes do get wet, but the liquid solvent used evaporates much more quickly than water. Since solvent is used instead of water, it is not drained and disposed of as a washing machine does with soiled water. The solvent is re-circulated through filters throughout the entire cleaning cycle to remove impurities loosened during the cleaning process. Then solvent is distilled to further purify it before it is used again.
Dry cleaning has two distinct advantages over cleaning with water or "wet" cleaning:
Water swells the fibers. It is this swelling action which causes shrinkage and dye fading in many garments.
Dry cleaning solvents are superior to water in the removal of oily or greasy residues which are the base component of many stains.
After your clothes have been properly cleaned, your cleaner "finishes" (presses) your garments using specialized finishing equipment. Finishing processes used vary, depending on the garments being processed, but generally involve steaming and pressing. Steaming is effective for relaxing wrinkles, enhancing pressing, and also serves to enhance cleaning by removing any remaining water-soluble materials and killing bacteria. Pressing is the final step and produces crisp, smooth results difficult to duplicate at home with a hand iron. This requires considerable skill and training and allows for a final inspection of the garment.
After your garments have been pressed, they are inspected one last time and bagged to await your arrival.
Wet Cleaning is a method in garment cleaning utilizing a gentle computer-controlled washing machine, biodegradable soaps and conditioners, and various types of pressing and re-shaping equipment that may be specialized for many different fabric and fiber types. The most important aspect of successful wet cleaning is experience and knowledge of different types of fabrics and proper ways to finish garments by operators.
The specialized detergents and conditioner used in the wet clean process are milder than home laundry products. All of the products are disposed of down the drain and easily handled by the local waste water treatment facility.
Some clothing manufacturers may mislabel their clothing "Dry Clean Only," even though there is no reasonable basis for making the claim that the garment will be harmed if it is not dry cleaned. A fabricare professional is qualified to determine which method will give the best results for your garments and any stains or problems they many have.
Green Cleaning emphasizes using products that are safe and healthy for you and the environment and employing eco-friendly cleaning practices, like reducing water usage. As long as the dry cleaner or wet cleaner is following all environmental safety rules, has installed all protection against possible spills or leakage to the atmosphere, and has partipated and completed an Environmetal Safety Program by the Province of Ontario, he or she may be considered "green."
This term is sometimes applied by companies that might have switched to a different cleaning solvent, or initiated a recycling program for packaging materials, etc. When in doubt, ask your cleaner why their processes are "green" so you have a good idea of the capabilities and professionalism of the shop where you entrust your garments.
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