The dry cleaning process
Your garments will require some form of cleaning in their lifetime, maybe to refresh the item or because it is stained or has a smell.
When taking your items to a drycleaner, be it garments, curtains and soft furnishings, it is always helpful to tell the receptionist of any problems or stains, so you can discuss the outcome of the Drycleaning process. Your items should be inspected for its general condition (stains, missing buttons, wear and tear) and to look for foreign objects such as pens, cuff links, coins, etc.
A receipt/ticket will be given to you which will state the garment, price of cleaning, date of services and more. This is the first part of the process.
When it comes to cleaning, garments will be sorted, by colour, types of fabrics and type of process, the drycleaner will re-inspect the item to highlight the stains and treat them specifically as they require further treatment. The garments are then loaded into the cleaning machine.
The drycleaning machine is basically a large version of a combination domestic washing machine. It washes, rinses, spins and dries but, crucially, it has different cleaning systems. The drycleaner has a choice of different industrial chemical solvents (all perfectly safe when handled correctly) to process your garments, with the knowledge and skills of fabric combinations, and manufacturers aftercare advice label, they can make an informed decision to get the best possible outcome for your item.
Last part of processing your garment is the “finishing”, here the drycleaner will choose the best method, either steam, iron or press, using industrial equipment to make your item as good as new. Your garment is then hung, inspected and covered, too, for wait your collection.
Wet Cleaning is the process also known as aqueous processing. It cleans in Water rather than Solvent and still requires all the stages of finishing. It is becoming increasingly popular as a method of aftercare within the UK market.
It came of age in 2005 with the adoption of specific care symbols based on W in a circle.
The plain W in a circle indicated the ability to withstand a "normal" wet cleaning cycle, one bar beneath the symbol indicated a "mild" process and two bars beneath the symbol meant that a "very mild" process was required. British and International Standards BS EN ISO 3175-4 for testing suitability for wet cleaning defines normal, mild and very mild precisely. It is important to understand that all three symbols refer to processes that are milder than can be achieved in a domestic washer and that they need drying processes that are gentler than those achievable in a domestic or standard commercial tumble dryer.
A "normal" wet cleaning cycle calls for 40C max water temperature, reduced mechanical action and an increased water to textiles ratio. Work can be tumble dried to 3% moisture retention. A "mild" cycle also requires reduced mechanical action and increased water ratio but additionally specifies water at 30C maximum, specialised additives and a specially designed cage, and a specialised drying program at 60C down to 15% residual moisture. Wash restrictions for a "very mild" cycle are similar but tumble drying is restricted to 2 minutes at 40C followed by natural air drying.
The key to protecting textiles in wet cleaning lies in the use of a large cage, the ability to pause for variable periods during reversals. The increased liquor ratio cushions the textiles and specialised chemicals are used to protect the fabric so that the cleaning relies on the water.
The drying restrictions are particularly important to avoid natural and artificial silks cracking and shrinking and also to avoid hair fibres felting and shrinking. Both wet cleaning and drying call for flexible computer controls to adjust times, temperatures, dosages, and dwell times. Some wet cleaners use static dummies in a drying cabinet to overcome tumbling problems.
Some more top tips and useful information:
- Aftercare labels: When buying clothes, we encourage you to leave the care labels in the garment. They are there for a reason and the drycleaner or wetcleaner needs them to know the best treatment for your item. These instructions are extremely helpful to the drycleaner that has to process the item to a successful end.
- Stains can be difficult to remove, especially if there has been a DIY attempt to remove it, our grandmothers remedies are more harmful than helpful, extra treatment will have to be applied. One of the most common myths is treating a spill of red wine, with white wine or salt soda which is never successful ... instead of treating one stain the cleaner will have at least two and delicate fabrics can only take so much of chemical stain removal treatment.
- If you have a soiled food spill, we recommend lifting the food off with the back of a knife then leaving the fabric for the cleaner to remove the residual stain.
- Never use a tissue-type napkin to mop up any fluid, just dab the area with a dry cotton fabric.
- Never use water to treat a stain as this will likely leave water ring markings.
- Always hang your garments one a hanger to air before putting them back in the wardrobe.
- Dirt and stains will attract moths, it's always advisable when the garment is stained to have it cleaned before returning it to the wardrobe
- Always remove the plastic cover from the dry cleaners this is intended just for transport not for storage
- Mould on curtains is a tiny growth that will need to be treated to stop so there is no further damage to the fabrics, if you spot mould, get it treated right away.