Angie's LIST Guide to
Dry cleaning

Dry cleaning is a service that treats clothing and other items with a chemical solvent instead of soap and water. A dry cleaner also provides such services as repairing and ironing clothing.
 

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Check Angie's List for ratings and reviews on local dry cleaning companies to see who your neighbors recommend. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Larry H.)
Check Angie's List for ratings and reviews on local dry cleaning companies to see who your neighbors recommend. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Larry H.)
 
 

What is dry cleaning?

The dry cleaning process is similar to how people typically wash clothes at home, except items are not cleaned with water but with a chemical solvent. A dry cleaner will inspect items for stains and pretreat them with the correct type of solution.

After items have been pretreated, they're put into a machine similar to a home washing machine. The machine is a large steel basin with holes that allow the cleaning solution to mix throughout the load. The basin spins to remove dirt and cleaning solution. Many dry-cleaning machines combine a washing section and drying section. After the clothes are cleaned, they're placed in the drying section so warm air can circulate and dry them, removing any solvent left in the fabric.

The chemical solvent often used by a dry cleaner is known as tetachloroethylene or perchloroethylene, also referred to perc. The chemicals tend to leave an odor, are flammable and considered to be environmentally detrimental.

Many cleaners have changed their type of solvent and are using environmentally safer alternatives. The "green" dry cleaning technique uses carbon dioxide. When carbon dioxide is in liquid form, there must be a high amount of pressure for it to work correctly. Dry cleaners that use this method have a machine with a pressure chamber that cannot be accessed while the machine is operating.

What should be dry cleaned?

Check a garmet tag to determine if dry cleaning is suggested. If there's no tag, be aware that dry cleaning is often recommended for such delicate fabrics as suede, silk or wool. If you're unsure what the material is, take the item to a dry cleaner for advice.

Other services

A dry cleaner can provide other services beyond simple cleaning, including:

Ironing

Depending on the item, a dry cleaner will either hang the item to be steam pressed or iron it by hand.

  • Dress shirts are typically starched and ironed to keep them looking new.
  • Pleats are one of the most common types of ironing done by a dry cleaner.
  • Other items that can be professionally ironed include curtains and drapes, dress clothes, silk and linen items, sheets and blankets.

Others

  • Drapery cleaning
  • Mending zippers and torn items and repairing leather
  • Cleaning and preservation of wedding gowns

Hiring tips

Considerations for choosing a dry cleaner include location, hours, price, service level and reputation. The most important factor is whether you like how the service handles your clothing. Is it good at removing difficult stains? Do your clothes come back to you crisply pressed?

Angie's List is a great source of local reviews on dry cleaners.

DIY tips

Follow these tips for extending the time between trips to the dry cleaner:

  • Hang items in an open area for about six hours to help remove odors and let wrinkles fall out naturally.
  • If you decide to use "home dry cleaning kits" that are available at local stores, be sure to carefully follow the instructions on the package. These products typically come with a stain remover, a pad for absorbing the stains and the cleaning solution. Use the stain remover to treat stains and use the pads to prevent the stain remover from spreading throughout the fabric. The item is then placed in the dryer with the solution. The process usually works best when the item is placed in a mesh type bag before going to the dryer.

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