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The History Of Dry Cleaning

Updated: Jun 24

While dry cleaning services may seem like a modern solution for dealing with our delicate garments, the practice itself can be seen as dating back thousands of years.


The earliest known recording of “dry cleaning” can be attributed to the Mycean period (1600-1200BC). This however was not the cleaning process as we know it today. The more modern iteration of the process appeared first in the 1800’s.


Below we will explore the actual dry cleaning process, highlighting what separates it from other forms of cleaning, and the dry cleaning history that we now use today.


Dry cleaning services

How Does Dry Cleaning Work?


The invention of dry cleaning had a number of iterations before what we now know it to be today. What seems to be constant among the many versions of the process is the cleaning of soiled garments without the use of water.


This is still true today. Dry cleaning services utilize solvents that aren’t water-based for the cleaning process. The reason for this is to avoid shrinking or negatively affecting the material clothes are made of.


Water can cause fabric fibers to swell when soaked and shrink when dried. The solvent-based cleaning method uses chemicals that clean the surface of fibers without further penetrating the fibers.


Dry cleaning uses no water which protects all kinds of materials from unnecessary stress or deterioration. The solvents have properties that can remove stains and contamination that would otherwise need excessive heat and water to remove.


The cleaning cycle consists of a washing using the solvent to remove any soiling of the garments. After this first wash the solvent is filtered out and sent to a machine for “cleaning” where the solution can be distilled to remove the contaminants and reused for future cleanings.


Next the tank is filled with a clean solvent to “rinse” the garments and is spun to remove as much of the solvent as possible. Even the drying process collects the condensed steam of evaporated solvent for cleaning and reuse.


What was once a process of cleaning using harmful solvents such as gasoline, is now a highly regulated process to ensure the safest cleaning both for customers and the environment. Over the course of the cleaning process, as much as 99.99% of the solvent used is recovered for reuse.


Modern dry cleaning services also tend to offer a number of extra services such as alterations and stain treatment. What makes the service so appealing and useful for those with busy lives is that their delicate garments are carefully cleaned and pressed at a low cost.



The Invention of Dry Cleaning


As mentioned above, the idea or reference to dry cleaning can date back thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the 1800’s that the method we know today came to fruition.


What is now known as dry cleaning was first conceived in the modern era as “dry scouring” in 1821 by Thomas Jennings of New York. He patented the process that was a precursor to the process used today, and was actually the first black person to receive a patent. Today little is known of what this process involved, as this was among thousands of patents that were lost to a fire at a temporary holding location for patents at the time.


Around a quarter-century later in France, a man by the name of Jean Baptiste Jolly developed a method for cleaning clothes using fuels like kerosene and gasoline. In 1845 he opened the first dry cleaners in Paris. Many credit him as the inventor of the cleaning process.


As the process became popular and grew into a booming industry, work and regulation went into the research and development of safer solvents for cleaning. At the time the solvents were flammable and dangerous to people and was rudimentary in relation to the process today. Now after decades of evolution, the process is done in a eco-friendly way by many cleaners.


suits hanging on rack after dry cleaning service

Why Is Dry Cleaning The Best Cleaning Option?


For thousands of years people have seen the need for specialized cleaning processes for delicate clothing. Whether the clothing is expensive or you want to prolong the life of it, dry cleaning is considered the safest way to preserve and clean your clothes.


Clothing can come in all types of materials and require special care. Most delicate items suggest either hand washing or using the delicate cycle on your washing machine. Unfortunately these aren’t the best way to get the job done.


Waterless cleaning solutions provided by dry cleaners remove the factor most likely to damage or age your clothing. Solvent-based methods can clean garments without ever damaging the material. So for delicate and formal items, it is the best clean available.



Grand Cleaners Care Will For Your Clothes


Here at Grand Cleaners we expertly clean and press your clothes with our eco-friendly and trusted cleaning solutions. With 30 years of experience and three generations of cleaners, we have the knowledge for handling your valued articles of clothing. To learn more about how we can care for your delicate and formal pieces call us at (317) 253-1525 or contact us here!

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