Common Facts and Questions about Dry Cleaning and Laundry

What is dry cleaning?  Dry cleaning is a method of removing stains and dirt from garments and fabric by using little or no water. Dry cleaning is not dry; it’s wet. Instead of water, the liquid is a blend of chemical solvents. The solvents work better than water for removing stains without ruining fabric. Still, it’s important to read care labels and clean all pieces of an outfit at once in case of fading.

Dry cleaning machines are similar to washing machines in that a large tumbling basket is used to facilitate the cleaning process. Garments are placed in this basket which is partially filled with solvent and tumbled in a manner in which they drop through the solvent. This agitation and flushing action of the solvent are responsible for the majority of the cleaning.

Some of the more difficult stains are removed with the use of chemical agents, water, steam, air, and vacuum on what is called a “spotting board”. This technique is performed both before and after cleaning, and the stains are removed individually.

Are dry cleaning chemicals safe?  Many of the problems associated with dry cleaning chemicals had to do with the technology of the machinery. Dry cleaning machines used to leak, but the latest technology is designed to recapture all the solvent. The newer machine designs (dry-to-dry, closed looped) greatly reduce the amount of chemical vapor released into the air, inside the shop as well as outdoors, resulting in cost savings since more chemical is recovered for reuse, as well as safer working conditions and a cleaner environment.

Is it ok to leave my clothes in the plastic bag they come back in?  The plastic that covers your dry cleaning and laundry when you pick it up is good for transporting the clothes only.  Do not leave the plastic on the clothes once you get them home. Use the bag to line your trash cans or take them in for recycling. It’s best to store clothing uncovered or in fabric garment bags.

Is there anything I can do to help ensure the stains are removed from my clothing?​  There are ways to help your dry cleaner get out tough stains. Right away, you want to blot the stain. The best thing to do is pull the stain up and out of the fabric. Do not rub the stain as this could cause fabric damage and color loss.  After blotting, dab the stain with a tiny bit of water — but only if the fabric is water-safe. Otherwise, the dry cleaner might have trouble getting out the water stain. Next, get the garment to your dry cleaner as quickly as possible — no more than a week. Stains and soil left too long can be impossible to remove and will shorten the life of your garment. Discuss any stains with your dry cleaner. It is important to let them know what caused the stain, how long it has been there and what if anything you tried at home to remove the stain. Different chemicals are used to treat different stains.

*Keep perfumes, lotions, deodorants, antiperspirants, and other toiletries from coming into contact with your clothes. These products likely contain alcohol, which can affect some dyes. Allow them to dry before you dress.

Why don’t you guarantee to your customers that stains will be removed?​  One of the main reasons garments are brought to the drycleaner is for the removal of stains. Stain removal is a complex procedure that may require the use of a number of chemicals, many of which are water based. Water is a necessary aid for the removal of water-soluble stains such as fruit juices, mixed drinks, and other beverages. But if the dye used on the fabric is water soluble as well, dye loss and dye transfer may occur. Read labels on over the counter stain treatments. Many are not safe to use on dry clean only fabrics. The more information consumers give us and the sooner a garment is brought in, the greater the chances of satisfactory stain removal.

Are there any limitations of dry cleaning?​
* Removing certain stains: The nature and age of the stain, plus the color and construction of the fabric, sometimes make stains impossible to remove without damaging the fabric. * Preventing some colors from bleeding or fading: If the manufacturer does not thoroughly test the dyes to make sure they are colorfast to both solvent and water, some color may be lost during the cleaning process. This is considered to be the manufacturer’s responsibility.
* Reversing worn or torn areas caused by wear, perspiration, damage caused by insects, or liquid spills: Such holes or rips may not appear before cleaning, but they result from a previous weakening of the fibers.

What should I do if my laundered shirt has shrunk?​  There is little that can be done to a shirt that has shrunk.  Unless the shirt’s care label indicates that it should not be laundered in hot water, there may be a problem with either the manufacturing process or the care label.  Talk to the retailer or the manufacturer about the problem.  US law requires garments to be pre-shrunk.  If a shirt shrinks after one or more washings, it is likely the manufacturer’s problem.  If the care label says to wash it in cold water only and the dry cleaner used hot water, it is clearly a dry cleaner mistake.

What should a consumer expect from their dry cleaning experience?​
A consumer should expect:
•To get their clothes back from the dry cleaner.  There is no excuse for a dry cleaner losing a customer’s clothes, although it does happen.  Expect to be fairly compensated if this happens to you.
•To get their clothes properly cleaned and pressed.  Some dry cleaners attempt to remove spots and stains and some don’t. All stains cannot be removed from a garment, but an experienced professional can get out many spots and stains.  Clothes can be clean and still have stains.  Stain removal can never be guaranteed.
• To be treated with courtesy and respect.
• To have seams and hems repaired for free if they come lose while cleaning.
• To have buttons replaced for free if they are lost or broken while at the dry cleaners.
• To be fairly compensated if the dry cleaner causes damage to the clothes.  Sometimes clothes are damaged and the dry cleaner is following care label instructions. If there is a problem when the clothes are manufactured or the care label is wrong and the problem manifests when the dry cleaner is cleaning them, the manufacturer or the retailer should replace the clothes or refund the purchase price.

Do I need to bring in all matching pieces of a suit at the same time?  ​Yes. This rule also applies to matching household items. These would include slipcovers, bedspreads and drapes. This is to insure if there is any variation in color after cleaning it will be uniform among all matching items.

Does frequent dry cleaning shorten the life of a garment?​  On the contrary, frequent cleaning prolongs the life of a garment.  Not only do stains set with age, making the garment unsuitable for wear, but ground-in dirt and soil act as an abrasive, like sandpaper, causing rapid wear of fibers.  Also, insects are attracted to soiled clothes and will cause further damage. Frequent dry cleaning removes certain stains that, if left untreated, could oxidize and cause yellowing. With the passage of time, stains from food, beverages, and oily substances can oxidize and turn yellow or brown. These are known as “tannin” stains, once they become yellow or brown, these stains often cannot be removed.

When a garment’s label says “washable”, does this mean it cannot be dry cleaned?​  Not necessarily. The Care Label Rule states that only one suitable method of care must be on the label.  We usually follow the care instructions, unless otherwise requested. The dyes and/or sizing may be solvent suitable and may require wet cleaning for best results. Yet again there may be other safe methods of processing a garment. The manufacturer is required to list only one safe method. Your dry cleaner should be able to tell you which method of cleaning will produce the best

Does dry cleaning shrink clothes?​  Any fabric can be expected to shrink about 1 to 3 percent, even dry clean only garments. Manufactured fibers will shrink the least, and natural fibers the most. The shrinkage of natural fibers is often controlled during the manufacturing process, by washing and preshrinking the fabric before it is made into a garment. Natural fibers which are not preshrunk, and some manufactured fibers such as rayon and acetate (both of which are made using natural plant matter as part of their ingredients) can shrink significantly…even several sizes. Excessive shrinkage is usually caused by improper preshrinking by the manufacturer. Dry cleaning machines are specifically designed to avoid causing fabric shrinkage. In fact, your clothes are much more likely to shrink if they are washed in water.

I’ve noticed some “dark spots”, almost like raindrops on the shoulder area of my favorite silk blouse. What can they be?​  Some silk dyes bleed or change color when exposed to solutions containing alcohol. Use deodorant, perfume and hair spray before you dress. If you need to pull your blouse over your head before using hair spray, protect your garment with a towel around your shoulders. Here’s another silk tip: Never leave a silk garment exposed to sunlight or high wattage artificial light. When transporting your silks to and from the cleaners, keep them in a bag or lay them in your trunk.

Why did the beads on my silk sweater lose color when I had it cleaned?​  The dyes used to color beads, buttons, and sequins, do not always perform the same way as the dyes used in the fabric of a garment. Some dyes are not resistant to dry cleaning fluid. General fading, dulling of the finish or even entire color loss can occur. Worse yet, in some cases, the color transfers from the trim and permanently stains the garment. The Care Label Rule clearly states that the care instructions must apply to all component parts of the garment, including any attached decorative trim. Do not hesitate to return this garment to the retailer for an adjustment. The retailer should likewise return it to the manufacturer.

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