7 Ins and Outs of Dry Cleaning You Should Know ...

There are some dry cleaning facts every girl should know. These little tidbits of information about dry cleaning services will have you better armed to make decisions about how you use them and when. Check out these facts of dry cleaning and you’ll save some money too.

1. What is Dry Cleaning?

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The first of my dry cleaning facts has to be to explain what it is. Dry cleaning is the method of “cleaning” fabrics using solvents to remove soil and stains. It is called “dry” because the chemicals used contain very little or no water. The solvents do not penetrate fabric fibers in the same way as water. Water can shrink certain fabrics such as silk and wool, as well as cotton and linen that hasn’t been pre-shrunk. Water may also remove dyes which, although fixed during manufacture, fail to hold on to the fabric when wet. Dry cleaning is the removal of soil and stains and also includes the pressing and packing of the finished item.

2. Check before Choosing Dry Cleaning

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Many modern fabrics are incredibly hard-wearing and one of the first things to know about dry cleaning is that the presence of a “dry clean only” label is in many cases a recommendation, not a dictate. You might not realize that many manufacturers don’t test the cleaning required before attaching the care label. Some things you can wash by hand and others can be washed in the machine on a cool, delicate wash. Obviously some things like leather and suede and specialist fabrics are exempt from this. There’s a simple test you can do. Wet a Q-tip and dab an area on your item that can’t be seen – an inner hem or a dart fold for example. If there is color bleed onto your Q-tip – send it to the dry cleaners. If you are unsure, look up on the Internet how best to care for a fabric. Some retailers and manufacturing also have care instructions on their websites.

3. Women’s Clothes Cost More to Dry Clean than Men’s

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I found it really interesting that one of the facts of dry cleaning is that the automated machinery that most dry cleaning companies use is actually made to fit men’s clothing. But, that is one of the minor reasons women’s clothes cost more to dry clean. Women’s clothes are more complicated and fiddly than men’s, so require greater intervention during the cleaning process. Some quality dry cleaners even go so far as to remove buttons and sew them back on again to prevent damage. You should be charged the same for a plain suit as a man is for his suit, but expect to pay extra for your high fashion pieces or garments with embellishments or details like pleats.

4. Dry Cleaning is Not Organic

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There is no such thing as organic dry cleaning. The simple fact is dry cleaning uses chemicals. If your dry cleaner advertises themselves as organic, it is because they use hydrocarbons – which gain the organic label because they come from the earth. Hydrocarbons are still toxins and only slightly less toxic than the chemical perchloroethylene, which is used by most US dry cleaners. The upside is, however, the dry cleaning industry is highly regulated. There are air and water regulations to comply with and chemical disposal is strictly monitored and enforced.

5. You Create Your Own Dry Cleaning Needs

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Soil and sweat are normal wear and tear on your clothes, but as well as deodorant-stained underarms (remember - you can switch to a stain-free deodorant), there are other things that can result in you needing dry cleaning services. Perfume is one of them. Most perfumes are alcohol based and this alcohol can interfere with some dyes on delicate fabrics such as silk and satin. It’s best to avoid skin areas that will be touched by such fabrics when you spray your perfume. Another big factor is your cosmetics. If you wear a leather or suede jacket regularly, the natural oils from your neck will gradually discolor the inner collar of the jacket, so wearing a scarf as a buffer is a good idea. Also, your cosmetics can be a major source of stains and marks on clothes that will not come clean with regular washing. Foundation is not good for the collars of blouses/shirts made from delicate fabrics.

6. Dry Cleaning is Seasonal

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I have no idea why but one of the facts about dry cleaning I found out is that the business has a busy season, which is April through June. If you want to get your spring and summer wardrobe ready ahead of time, January through March is a good time. You may even be able to negotiate a discount for a bulk batch. There’s also nothing wrong in asking for an on-going discount if you have regular dry cleaner needs and you give all your business to one shop.

7. Not All Stains Can Be Removed

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Dry cleaners are not miracle workers and the chemicals they use will not shift every stain. The solvents used will tackle most things, but sometimes the reaction of the stain content, the type of fabric and the color-fastness of the dye in the fabric create something the solvents just can’t shift. The removal of something like dried paint or ink would result in more permanent damage to fabric, which is already ruined once the stain occurs.

I think the most valuable of all the things to know about dry cleaning is that how we treat our clothes goes a long way in their longevity. Dry cleaning is a way of keeping our clothes looking good, and keeping us looking and feeling good when we wear them. I’ll be looking at my fabric care labels more in the future – what about you?

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