Dry cleaning: Cleaner than clean
Did you just toss your expensive silk dress into the washing machine thinking the gentle cycle would wash it delicately? Yes! and the result – a misshaped, shrunk and warped dress. The cleaning of some delicate items of clothing should be best left to a professional dry cleaner. But what exactly is dry cleaning? Dry cleaning is a cleaning process that uses liquids and not water to clean clothes, upholstery and various types of other fabrics. It is very much a wet process just without water, which cleans the clothes with a chemical solvent and some mechanical action. First, the clothes are sorted and inspected for any stains which are then spot cleaned using powerful chemicals. Then they are washed with a solvent and in the end, the garment is dried with hot air followed by steaming and pressing. Pressing is nothing more than steaming the garment and then either blowing some air through it or vacuuming the steam out of it. Steam, as opposed to electric irons never scorches, burns, or shrinks the fabric. At the dry cleaner, we have the steam presses as opposed to the electric irons or presses allowing a burst of steam which does a better job of finishing the garments. Clothes are taken straight from the washer and put on the presses and due to that, they do not shrink since it is the electrically generated heat that shrinks the fibers of the clothing.
Why do some clothes need dry cleaning?
The primary reason is the fibers that are used to make the clothing. Home washing can be hard on gentle fabrics. Delicate fabrics and materials have to be processed separately. There are some stains which cannot be removed at home and these are called the invisible stains. When white wine or any juice spills on your clothes you may not see a visible stain but the sugars in them start oxidizing the fibers of the garment. When we expose these fabrics to heat during the pressing process it turns those oxidized fibers into brown. The longer the stain goes untreated the darker the stain will be. So how do you beat the culprit before it ruins your favorite piece of clothing? Just treat it immediately at home by making a paste of baking soda and some water and rub it on the stain. You can also try putting the club soda and then quickly take it to the dry cleaner. Michael from the lawsuit funding company Verum has told me. “There are times when I have a meeting with a lunch in between and when I go to lunch I get something on my suit. At that time I use a paste of club soda and baking soda on it. It usually takes out the stain until I can get to the dry cleaner.”
Dry cleaning is a savior for delicate and fragile garments made with silk, unwashable leather, suede, acrylic, nylon, and wool. These fabrics don’t react well with water and should not be exposed to the heat of traditional dryers. These delicate fabrics need extra care. So always check the wash care instructions on the label. Dainty embroideries, trimmings, buttons, and sequins need delicate handling. The pressure of the normal electric press is too much for these fragile items. Also, clothes with pleating and blazers with shoulder pads, embellished and delicately woven sweaters and tops can get wrecked by washing at home with water. Heavily soiled and stained clothes should always be dry cleaned to ensure that they go away completely. By trying to remove the stains at home you run the risk of making them permanent. The oil stains are tough to get rid of and need professional attention. Dry cleaning also curtails discoloration and protects the texture of the fabrics and removes invisible stains like oil, grease more effectively.
Can some delicate clothes be washed at home?
There are some fabrics which can also be washed at home and also be dry cleaned. Washing at home is a cost-effective and sustainable option as it only uses water for washing and not any harmful chemicals. Dry cleaning uses an extremely hazardous chemical called Perc to remove dirt and stains. If you decide to wash some of the delicate fabrics at home, always do the spot test, to check the colorfastness. You can do this by rubbing water and a mild detergent on the inside of the garment. If it does not react you can think of washing it by hand with cold water and a mild soap or using a gentle wash cycle of your washing machine. Light-colored silk can be cleaned at home but bright ones should always be drycleaned so that the colors do not bleed. Cotton, linen, nylon, and polyester are all resilient to being washed multiple times in your washing machine. Delicate fabrics cannot withstand the pressure put on them by your conventional washing machines.
If a label says” dry clean only” does not mean the garment cannot be washed at home by hand or in a washing machine especially if it is made of natural fibers. When washing your delicate clothes in washing machine put them into a mesh bag and wash them with cold water to reduce the wear. Unlined items of clothing can be washed at home. Be careful when washing gentle fabrics at home or you can end up ruining them.
You can choose to wash clothes in your washing machine or can even hand wash them. You should always wash a delicate fabric inside out. To hand-wash fill a bucket with cold water and add a small amount of mild detergent and mix it in water. Let the garment soak for at least 30 minutes. If your garment has stains gently rub them. When you feel the garment is all clean empty the bucket and give your garment at least four rinses with cold water unless it is no longer soapy. Lay the garment flat and on a towel and never hang it dry on a clothesline and also not in a dryer. Put the towel inside the garment and squeeze it gently to remove water. Never wring it out. Do this a few times until the garment is no longer dripping and put it out in open for drying. Woolens should always be air-dried.
Unless there is an extremely delicate garment with stubborn stains then only send it for dry cleaning and save yourself some serious cash.