For those that are curious about how we dry clean your favorite garments, I will give you a brief description of how the dry cleaning process works and how we at Chardonnay Cleaners work to protect the environment.
Dry Cleaning Is Not really Dry
Dry cleaning is a bit of a mystery for many people. In the past often people would take their clothes to a cleaners and the clothes would disappear behind a wall until it was time to pick them up again. No one knew what went on behind that wall just that the clothes came back clean and pressed and it was called dry cleaning. Calling what we do “dry cleaning” is a bit of a misnomer. The dry cleaning fluid we use does make your items wet. Dry cleaning is called dry cleaning because unlike laundry which is done in water and is wet, dry cleaning fluid is not water and is considered dry.
The Dry Cleaning Cycle
When you drop your garments off we first examine each garment and then tag them in under your name so you will get them back later. Next we sort the clothes into dark and light loads, similar to what you do in your home laundry. We then place your clothes into the dry cleaning machine. This machine resembles a very large front load washing machine. We fill the machine drum about 1/3 full with dry cleaning fluid, then the drum slowly rotates back and forth to agitate the clothing. This first cycle removes much of the soil from the garments. The dry cleaning fluid along with the majority of the dirt is then drained into a distillation unit (a still ). The drum is then refilled with fresh dry cleaning fluid, detergent and conditioners are added and the cleaning cycle continues. The entire cleaning cycle takes just a few minutes to remove both surface and ground-in soils. During part of the dry cleaning cycle the dry cleaning fluid goes thru filters to remove dirt, color, and odor. At the completion of the “wash” cycle the dry cleaning fluid is drained back into one of the machines storage tanks. Next, just like a home washing machine spins to remove the water, a dry cleaning machine spins to remove the liquid dry cleaning fluid. The temperature of the dry cleaning fluid is automatically monitored by computer and maintained at a preset temperature.
The next cycle is the drying cycle which is done at a preset controlled temperature so as to prevent heat damage. We can control the temperature depending on the type of fabric on different garments. Actually, modern dry cleaning equipment today is largely computer controlled with pre-determined settings depending on the items being dry cleaned. The same machine both washes and dries the clothes. This is referred to as dry-to-dry as the garments are put into the machine dry and removed at the end of the dry cleaning cycle dry and ready for finishing.
How Modern Dry Cleaners Work To Protect The Environment
This might sound a bit confusing, what with all of the cleaning fluids and hot air used. However, the neat thing about dry cleaning (and why we are environmentally safe) is that we can reuse pretty much everything. When the dry cleaning fluid is used in the dry cleaning machine it is constantly being filtered and distilled. This removes all of the impurities such as soil and body oil and the dry cleaning fluid is clean and ready for reuse. We even remove dry cleaning fluid from the lint that is generated! We capture and reuse all of the dry cleaning fluid used in the cleaning process.
During the drying process air is heated and blown across the clothes to evaporate the dry cleaning fluid. The hot air with evaporated dry cleaning fluid then goes thru a refrigerated “cold” coil. The dry cleaning fluid is condensed and removed from the air and returned to a tank in the dry cleaning machine for reuse. The air which has cooled off during this process is then reheated and blown back into the drum and across the clothes again repeating the cycle until the clothes have been fully dried and the dry cleaning fluid returned to the tank.
During the distillation process all the impurities are removed from the dry cleaning fluid. This fluid is then returned to a tank in the machine and is ready for reuse in the next cleaning cycle. The small amount of waste that is generated in the distillation process has the look and consistency of mud. These wastes are placed in a special container and are removed from our store by a certified waste disposal and transport service. They have processes to reclaim the dry cleaning fluids from the “mud” and then incinerate what is left so it will not cause any contamination to the environment.
Unlike older dry cleaning machines which used to evaporate the cleaning fluids into the air we now recover virtually all of the dry cleaning fluid. This helps keep costs down for you and helps us to protect the environment!
Dry Cleaning Fluids and Solvents
Believe it or not dry cleaning has been around for quite some time. The ancient Romans used ammonia as a dry cleaning solvent. More recently, a Frenchman from the 19th century, named Jean Baptiste Jolly, noticed that his tablecloth was cleaned when the maid spilled kerosene on it. This began the use of petroleum-based products to clean clothing, a term that eventually became known as “dry cleaning”.
Even though products like kerosene, gasoline, and Stoddard solvent did work to remove the dirt and grease from clothing, they were also flammable and this caused more than one fire over the years in early dry cleaning plants. In recent years, the machines used to clean garments, as well as the dry cleaning fluids and solvents went through an extensive evolution.
After many years of working with various petroleum based chemicals such as Stoddard solvent which contains Benzene which is a known carcinogen, a solvent known as tetrachloroethylene or more commonly known as perchloroethylene was discovered in the 1930’s. This dry cleaning solvent at first seemed perfect. It contained excellent cleaning power, was easy to remove contaminants, and was not flammable. The fact that it was not flammable made it very popular as it could be used in shopping malls. The fire department would not allow the flammable cleaning fluids to be used except in standalone buildings with special provisions for fire protections. It eventually became known by the name “perc”. This solvent unfortunately was eventually found to be a central nervous system depressant and a toxic ground, water and air contaminate. Exposure to it can occur in the workplace or in the environment when it is released into air, water, land, or groundwater. It can also occur when people use products containing perc, spend time in dry cleaning facilities that use perc, live above or adjacent to these dry cleaning facilities, or bring dry cleaned garments into their home before they are properly aired out. Short-term contact can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, and irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat, while long term exposure poses greater threats, including liver and kidney damage and cancer. It is now labeled by the State of California as a carcinogen, (it causes cancer) and California State and Local Air Quality Control have set a date in the future when all perc machines are to be removed from service in California. Chardonnay Cleaners was a leader in switching away from using perc back in 2004, years before the mandatory date to cease using perc.
There is a green frenzy sweeping the nation, and it is creeping into the dry cleaning business. Again, Chardonnay Cleaners has been a leader in doing its part to be green such as switching to an environmentally friendly dry cleaning fluid and promoting recycling ahead of other cleaners. Some dry cleaners will continue to try new dry cleaning solvents that are claimed to be greener to the environment and safe to use. The only problem is can we believe what the salesmen tell us about their product and it takes a while to really know if the cleaning ability is high enough to meet the consumer’s expectations. And it can take years or decades to learn if it really is better for the environment. In the meantime, the dry cleaners must still handle the waste generated in the dry cleaning process carefully and use licensed hazardous waste handling companies to remove the waste. Being a green dry cleaner today includes handling dry cleaning fluids responsibly.
There is a process called “wet cleaning” and it is very similar to laundry washing but uses specialized equipment and chemicals and is intended to “clean” dry cleanable garments in water. This process requires special equipment, special chemicals, and special knowledge and skills to accomplish. I have studied the process, taken courses in wet cleaning, and spoken to many persons who have used and or sold wet cleaning. The consistent answer that I get from these people is ” There are garments that can be wet cleaned and there are garments that still require dry cleaning only.” Some garments that can be wet cleaned often need to be dry cleaned afterward to bring back the feel and the look that the garment had when it was new. There are other garments that once they are wet cleaned they will never look or feel the same again. Wet cleaning often leaves garment a dull look and wrinkled or even shrunk. Included in the specialized equipment are equipments that can stretch the garments to try to get them back to their original size. Before wet cleaning can become a viable replacement for dry cleaning there will have to be more advancements in chemicals and or fabrics. Until such time, dry cleaning is still your best option to have your dry clean only garments come back looking and feeling the way that the manufacturer intended. Every day we dry clean and press many washable garments to make them last longer and look and feel great when you are wearing them. Our dry cleaning process is environmentally friendly, It is safe for our customers, the environment and is responsible.
Recyclable Garment Bags
Instead of using plastic poly bags to cover all your garments after they have been cleaned and pressed we now have reusable garment bags that most of your clothes can be put into. These reusable garment bags are available for a small deposit that is refundable if you no longer need the bags. These type of bags are also sold online for more. Although the plastic poly bags that we normally use to cover your garments are recyclable many people now prefer a bag that can be used over and over again. Chardonnay Cleaners has gotten on board with making available reusable garment bags for our customers. To get one or more either come into the store and just ask or if you are on delivery give us a call, 707-257-2236, and we can add it to your order and they will be delivered to you.
Thank you for using Chardonnay Cleaners