Dry Cleaning Your Suits
July 19th, 2005
Dry Cleaning is by definition, cleaning with solvents and little or no water. The combination of solvents and heat is hard on fabrics and may cause as much wear as actual wearing of the garment. Perchlorethylene, the cleaning fluid used by most dry cleaners, is the most effective cleaner so far for most all types of fabrics. However, "perc" as it is called in the dry-cleaning industry is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the Clean Air Act. Perc is toxic. Dry cleaning customers should take their garments out of the plastic bags and air their garments after dry cleaning.
You, the consumer, can inform yourself when selecting a dry cleaner. Common sense will cover the basic questions such as the appearance of the dry cleaning store - - - Is it neat and clean or dirty and cluttered? Is the location convenient and are they open when you need to drop of or pick up your dry cleaning?
Technical considerations include solvent purity. Solvent must be distilled to remove greases, oils, waxes and dyes. Poor solvent purity or quality can result in an objectionable odor in the garment and a "graying" of white clothing.
Pressing after cleaning should also be considered. Most anyone can press wool pants but it takes a skilled professional presser to do a quality job on linen and silk items. If the dry cleaner cannot explain the difference in pressing linen and silk versus wool directly and authoritatively, it is doubtful that these garments will be handled with the care they require. Linen can withstand higher heat when ironed, and should be pressed when damp. Silk requires a lower temperature iron and should be steam ironed, preferably with a press cloth. Wool should be pressed with steam and a moderate temperature.
Packaging of the cleaned garment is also important. A garment can be cleaned and pressed well but if it is jammed into a small bag, it can become a wrinkled mess. Jamming too many finished and bagged garments into the dry cleaners rack can also wrinkle finished garments.
Finally, develop a dialogue with your dry cleaner. Note the type of stains that you have on your garment and list it for the dry cleaner. Their pre-spotting will help eliminate stains that could otherwise be heat set after the garment is cleaned.
Be an informed and fair consumer. Not all spots can be removed especially if you, the consumer, have pressed the stain into the fabric. Many stains can be heat set. Garment care is the responsibility of both you and your dry cleaner.