How are chemicals used for dry cleaning

  • For chemical cleaning or dry cleaning, solvents are used instead of water. In this way, stains can also be removed from sensitive materials such as silk or wool.
  • You can see from the care label whether your garment is suitable for dry cleaning. The symbol for dry cleaning is a circle. The letter inside specifies which solvents may be used.
  • Although modern cleaning machines are self-contained, solvent residues can get on the skin and into the environment. In order to avoid this, you can use the new type of wet cleaning for some textiles.

Almost everyone has given an evening dress, a blouse or a suit to be cleaned. Because there the textiles are not washed like in the washing machine, but treated with organic solvents. This type of cleaning is particularly suitable for delicate fabrics such as silk, wool or silk taffeta. But what exactly is dry cleaning and how does it work?

In our guide we will inform you about everything to do with dry cleaning. We explain to you which processes there are and which solvents are used. We can also tell you how much dry cleaning costs and how long it takes. In the last part, we advise you on what to do if your garment has been damaged by dry cleaning.

Table of Contents

1. Chemical cleaning is mostly done with solvents

Dry cleaning is dry cleaning in most cases

When a garment is dry cleaned it usually means that it is treated in a non-aqueous solution. This type of cleaning offers the The advantage is that the fibers do not swell when they come into contact with water. As a rule, this would mean that textiles such as silk blouses lose their shine or woolen coats lose their shape.

However, the term dry cleaning is a bit out of date. Nowadays the terms are more like Dry cleaning, textile cleaning or textile care used.

You can find out whether a garment is suitable for dry cleaning or not on the care label. The circle indicates whether professional cleaning is necessary.
The following letters can be found in this circle:

  • P means that for cleaning the solvent Perchlorethylene (PER) must be used. This is the most common of the solvents used. It is especially suitable for wool, linen and silk.
  • F. stands for the fact that the garment only comes with Hydrocarbon solvents (KWL) may be treated. Often these are evening dresses or textiles with sequins or pearls.
  • A. indicates that all solvents can be used.

In professional textile cleaning, not only can stains be removed from sensitive materials. Another service that men especially like to use is that Washing and ironing of shirts. This service can save you a lot of time and effort.

It is also possible to bring a mattress or rug for cleaning. Also look here at the corresponding information on the label.

2. The chemical cleaning process depends on the process used

The most common method is dry cleaning.

Not every cleaning works with the same procedures. In this country, however, dry cleaning is very common. Instead of water, solvents are used to remove the stain or dirt.

First, the textiles are inspected to find out what kind of solvent can be used. Of course, the easiest thing to do is to look at the care instructions. However, sometimes there is no label or it has already been removed. In this case, the professional is required. In this step, the garments are also checked for damage, which is recorded in writing.

Stubborn dirt that contains water is first cleaned before the actual cleaning treated in a solvent bathThis step is not carried out in the cleaning drum, but often by hand.

History of dry cleaning

From the 1950s onwards, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were used for cleaning. However, the use of CFCs was largely banned in December 1992, as these substances destroy the ozone layer.

After the pretreatment, the textiles are placed in the cleaning machine. For stubborn stains In addition to solvents, surfactants are also added.

A something a more novel method is wet cleaning. However, it is still very rarely used at the moment. In contrast to dry cleaning, water is used as the solvent. Despite the use of water, there are some differences to cleaning in a normal household washing machine. Because the Cleaning machines are a self-contained system, which does the cleaning as well as the centrifuging and drying. If the garment is suitable for this type of cleaning, so will the Letter W. marked within the circle.

Finally, the clothes are checked, ironed and brought into shape. In this way, the customer can wear the garment directly or hang it in the wardrobe.

3. The effect of solvents on humans and the environment

Chemical cleaning agents can be harmful to nature and health.

The solvent perchlorethylene (Per) is used in around 70% of all cleaning operations. This substance irritates the respiratory tract and eyes and is even suspected of being carcinogenic. However, it is also much better than a hydrocarbon solvent (KWL), as it removes grease or wax stains particularly well.

Since 1991, perchlorethylene may only be used in closed systems. The solvents evaporate almost completely and can even be reused afterwards. These modern cleaning machines ensure that the solvents have less of an impact on the environment.

Danger: Despite the closed system, solvent residues escape when the machine is opened. This still poses a health risk!

If you want to do something good for the environment, it is best to only use wet cleaningthat do not use solvents. On the website of the German Textile Cleaning Association, you can easily search for a company near you that offers wet cleaning.

Of course, residues of the solvents always stick to the clothing. If they come into close contact with the skin, they are absorbed by the body and can cause liver and kidney damage and, in the worst case, cancer. Hence, you should Always think carefully about whether it is really necessary to bring the clothes to the dry cleaner. With some textiles, you can also treat the stains yourself with a little warm water. On the other hand, it becomes difficult when the stains have already dried up.

Tip: Dab instead of rubbing! This will prevent you from working the dirt even further into the fibers.

4. The cost and duration of dry cleaning

The costs are not regulated uniformly.

How much the cleaning of your garment costs exactly cannot be answered here. Because in the amount of the costs depends mainly on the item of clothing to be cleaned and the company. The price ranges of the individual companies can be very different.

Here is a brief overview of how much it costs to clean different textiles on average:

clothingaverage cost
Suit (jacket + pants)about 11 euros
Coat made of woolabout 15 euros
Dress made of silkabout 14 euros
simple blazerabout 8 euros
wedding dressabout 90 euros

This table is only intended to provide a rough overview and to help you a little with orientation. Since the prices differ greatly from one another, it can happen that cleaning in the company of your choice is cheaper or more expensive. It is therefore essential to ask beforehand in order to avoid misunderstandings.

It usually takes about one to two working days to clean textiles. In some cleanings there is also a Express service offered. This means that you can pick up your clothes again after a few hours. In most cases, however, the service comes at an additional cost.

5. Warranty in the event of damage to textiles

The cleanings have to pay for any damage caused!

It is very annoying when the stains are still there after dry cleaning or the item of clothing has even been damaged. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) therefore passed a judgment a few years ago. This has enormously strengthened consumer rights.

When a customer surrenders his item of clothing and receives a pick-up slip in return, a contract for work and services is automatically concluded. This obliges the company to remedy the defects that have arisen and to pay compensation. This liability cannot be excluded in the terms and conditions.

Indeed the customer must be able to prove that the defect arose during cleaning. However, this is usually very difficult. In return, the company is therefore obliged to document existing defects before cleaning.

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Dry cleaning: There are a few things to keep in mind when you send your clothes to the dry cleaner

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