The Science Behind Dry Cleaning: How Does It Work?

dry cleaning

Have you ever wondered how that favourite silk dress or tailored suit comes back from the dry cleaners looking fresh and clean without water? The answer lies in the fascinating science of dry cleaning. In this article, you’ll delve into the process and technology behind the Dry Cleaners/Dry Cleaning method, shedding light on how it effectively removes stains and revitalises your cherished garments.

1. The Dry Cleaning Solvent

Contrary to its name, dry cleaning involves a liquid solvent, not water. The primary solvent used in dry cleaning is a chemical called perchloroethylene, often referred to as "perc." Perc has excellent cleaning properties, dissolving grease, oils, and stains without affecting most fabrics. It’s a crucial component in dry cleaning, providing an alternative to water-based washing.

2. Pre-Treatment for Stains

Before your garment goes into the dry cleaning machine, experienced dry cleaners carefully inspect it for stains. Different stains require different treatments; this pre-treatment step is where the magic begins. Whether it’s wine, ink, or grease, dry cleaners use specialised spotting agents to break down and dissolve the stains, preparing the fabric for cleaning.

3. The Cleaning Machine

Once the pre-treatment is complete, your garment goes into the dry clean machine. This machine looks like a large front-loading washer but uses the perc solvent instead of water for cleaning. The machine gently agitates the solvent, penetrating the fabric and lifting away dirt, oils, and stains.

4. The Rinse Cycle, Flushing Out Contaminants

After the cleaning cycle, the solvent is drained from the machine, taking the dirt and contaminants. The garment is then subjected to a rinse cycle with fresh solvent, ensuring that any remaining traces of soil or detergent are thoroughly flushed out.

5. Drying and Deodorising

The final step in the dry cleaning process involves drying your garment. Dry cleaners use warm air to evaporate the solvent, leaving your clothing clean and dry. Additionally, many dry clean machines have deodorising features that help eliminate any odours from the solvent or stains.

6. Inspection and Finishing Touches

Before returning your garment to you, dry cleaners meticulously inspect it for any lingering stains or imperfections. They may perform additional spot treatments if necessary. Once satisfied with the result, they press and finish your clothing, ensuring it looks as good as new.

7. Environmentally Friendly Practices

While perchloroethylene has long been the standard dry clean solvent, many dry cleaners are transitioning to more environmentally friendly alternatives, such as hydrocarbon-based solvents or liquid carbon dioxide. These options offer effective cleaning with reduced environmental impact, making them a choice for eco-conscious consumers.

8. Specialised Equipment

Dry cleaners use specialised machines designed for the delicate process of dry clean. These machines are equipped to control temperature, agitation, and solvent levels precisely. The use of state-of-the-art equipment ensures the effectiveness of the cleaning process while minimising wear and tear on your clothing.

9. Fabric Safety

One of the advantages of dry cleaning is its gentle treatment of delicate and sensitive fabrics. Water-based laundering can cause certain fabrics to shrink, lose colour, or become misshapen. On the other hand, dry clean preserves the integrity of your garments, ensuring they look and feel as they did when you first bought them.


Dry cleaning is not just about cleaning clothes without water; it’s a science that combines chemistry, technology, and the skills of experienced dry clean professionals. The process effectively removes stains, oils, and dirt from delicate fabrics, giving your clothing a fresh lease on life. So, the next time you drop off your garments at the dry clean service, you’ll better understand the remarkable science behind this Dry Cleaners/ Dry Cleaning method. Dry clean is about maintaining your wardrobe and preserving the longevity and quality of your cherished clothing pieces.

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