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We all know where to find the local dry cleaner. At least those of us who have to dress up for a living do.

 But do we really know just what it is that goes on behind those doors? Do we really want to know? And if we did know…could we even handle The Truth?

If your answer to all of the above questions is “YES!” (or even a dryer “sure, why not?”), then you’ve come to the right place.


 The practice of dry cleaning actually dates back to ancient times, likely beginning with the advent of textile clothing itself.  The famous first-century ruins of Pompeii provide a record of a sophisticated trade of “fullers”, who used a type of clay called “fuller’s earth” along with lye and ammonia. The Parisian firm of Jolly-Belin, launched much later in the 1840s, is considered the first official dry cleaning business. We’re pretty certain they didn’t have a website, however.


 Contrary to its name, dry cleaning is not a completely dry operation. In fact, certain fluids called “solvents” are always used in the process.

 In the early days, camphene, benzene, kerosene and gasoline were all used as solvents. As you can imagine, this made for some “heated situations”, and in the 1930s, a nonflammable, synthetic solvent called percholoroethylene, or “perc” for short, came into play. Perc is still used in many dry cleaning plants, though other solvents have also been developed and implemented.


 Today’s dry cleaners are efficient, machine-run operations – although the careful attention to detail at the end is always done the old-fashioned way. While there are a wide variety of dry cleaning machines out there, they all work on the same principle, and consist of four basic parts ­– a holding tank, a pump, a filter and a cylinder.

 The cylinder, or wheel, holds the garments. The holding tank holds the solvent, and the pump circulates the solvent through the machine during the cleaning and disinfecting process. The filter is used to trap solid impurities.  After the cleaning cycle, the solvent is drained and an “extract” cycle is run to remove the excess solvent from the clothes. Once the clothes have finished extracting, the cylinder stops.

 The drying process is a personalized affair, and uses warm air circulated through the cylinder to vaporize the solvent left on the clothes.  Stain removal, finishing and packaging are all done by hand, although specialized finishing tools and machinery may also be utilized.

 There’s a little more to the process, but you get the drift. After all, we don’t want to be too “dry” here.

 Of course, more and more dry cleaners like Sudsies are environmentally conscious and employ increasingly eco-friendly dry cleaning processes. So let it never be said that this is a dirty business – at least as far as we’re concerned.