When dropping off your delicates at a local dry cleaner, do you ever stop to think what may be the difference between tossing it into your washing machine instead? It is obvious that fabrics such as satin, velvet, wool, and silk must be dealt with carefully, but the significance and contrast of the dry-cleaning process is still a mystery to many. The biggest misconception is that your clothes are not actually getting wet in the process (hence the term dry-cleaning), but that is all it really is; a misconception.
Dry cleaning dates back to Ancient Rome, just like most methods that exist today. The ruins of Pompeii provide carved stone records on civilians that were considered exceptional cloth cleaners, also known as “fullers.” Back then, these fullers would handle the fragile silk that the Roman folk clothed themselves in, and would treat it with the versatile and very popular ancient disinfectants known as ammonia, lye, and a special clay substance known as “fuller’s earth.” (What is Dry Cleaning?, 2016)
Ammonia was obtained the old-fashioned way –through urination—very gross, but it worked. Lye was often created by soaking alkaline metals –such as potassium—in an aqueous solution, to create potassium hydroxide. These two ancient “detergents” would treat the clothing in an attempt to erase the odours that grazed it, after a long and hard-working day living as a roman in ancient times. “Fuller’s earth” was a clay that would treat far more fragile fabrics (ibid), and would remove oil and grease stains through its attractive chemical properties.
Nowadays, modern society uses detergents that are chemically structured to do the absolutely impossible, such as removing the grass stains off of your soccer-playing son’s jersey, the spilled fruit punch on your daughter’s t-shirt, or a coffee drip that happened to catch your blouse just as you were heading out the door. These cleaning agents consist of alkalis, builders, and enzymes, just to name a few. All of these molecules are engineered in a way that allows them to attract both the fats and oils that are the toughest to get rid of, as well as the liquids and acidic substances making a home on your clothing.
The true difference between washing at home and dropping your garments at the cry cleaners only consist of two factors, and those are the convenience of having someone else do your chores for you, and the strength of the chemicals used. At the dry cleaners, the clothing undergoes the same routine of being tumbled in a washing machine, but is treated with different chemicals. Instead of Tide, or Bounty, the clothes are interacting with a chemical called Siloxane (Keyser, 2015), a silicone-based chemical that is more gentle on fabrics and biodegradable, a two for one! The option of having your clothing steam-cleaned is also available, as most people do not have these machines handy. This machine uses good old H_2 O, and a gentle detergent, which are vaporized, with an apparatus that glides over the clothing as the steam penetrates through it, leaving no creases behind either. This option is great for environmental geeks, since it creates no waste or pollution.
Besides all the good stuff that come with this modern creation, dry cleaning still gets a bad reputation for being environmentally harmful, with washing machines that create tons of waste, as well as use up energy in inefficient ways. On the other hand, these machines are quickly being switched out since companies are looking to decrease their electricity bills and increase their yield of clean clothing, which is something that will be maintained as it keeps the business moving forward.
Furthermore, a commonly used detergent known as “perc” hangs a really bright, hot spotlight over the dry-cleaning industry, as it which showcases the bad reputation of dry-cleaning, since it is a carcinogenic product that had been found to increase bladder and esophageal cancer in dry-cleaning workers by a factor of two, according to a Seattle-based study. (Keyser, 2015) Although this chemical still exists on the market, it is slowly decreasing in use as people are becoming more aware of the harmful effects.
Nowadays, you can simply see whether the cleaners are “green” or organic, usually with some sort of logo or indication on their window. Moreover, you can always ask the worker to use the detergent of your choice, as well the cleaning options, to insure the process if eco-friendly. It is becoming more popular and growing onto consumers, as the health effects of dry cleaning chemicals are becoming more known.
Most dry cleaners will treat clothing in the most tedious, yet proven-to-be-good method, which is heating up the water in the washing machine to a certain temperature, adding a gentle detergent, and delicately scrubbing out stains until they have all kissed the garment goodbye! It is funny to think that such a simple job could sometimes be pricey, ranging from a minimum of twenty dollars just to clean one piece of clothing. However, we all know that today’s fast-paced society has no time or energy left to do this job at the end of the day, and dropping it off at a dry cleaner would be much more efficient, time-consuming, and one less thing to stress about.
Although there are many great things that come with dry-cleaning, such as the convenience, the potential to be more eco-friendly, and the prolonged life of your garments, the consequences must be accounted for as well when making the decision to have your garment dry cleaned or washed by hand. Toxic substances such as perc raise big questions for consumers when they think about how their little silky button-up may impact the health of others. As consumers, it is our job to think a few steps ahead, even when it comes to something as simple as cleaning our clothing.
If you’re looking for good dry cleaning Kingston has many places to go but there is one place that will stand out in service and quality-Surfs-up! Laundry & Dry Cleaning. This place is highly reviewed for their laundromat and under-rated for their role as one of the many dry cleaners Kingston has to offer.
Keyser, Hannah. “How Does Dry Cleaning Work?” Mental Floss. N.p., 24 Apr. 2015. Web. 15 May 2016.
“What Is Drycleaning?” Dry Cleaning & Laundry Institute. N.p., 2016. Web. 15 May 2016. <http://www.dlionline.org/What-Is-Drycleaning>.