Dry Cleaning FAQs
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Dry cleaning is a method of removing stains and dirt from garments and fabric by using little to no water. Dry cleaning is not actually "dry", as liquid solvents are used to perform the cleaning, but given that it’s with little to no water the term "dry" is used.

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.

Certain elements must be present in a dry cleaning system. These include a rotating wash cylinder, a tank for storing solvents for both light and dark colored garments, a pump to circulate the solvent, a dryer, filters, a distillation system to keep the solutions clear, and of course the solvent itself. Other components which may or not be found include vapor absorbers or refrigerated condenser for capturing solvent vapors, moisture injection system, computer or card controllers, and others.

The solvents most widely used are percloroethylene and hydrocarbon. The cleaning solution is comprised of approximately 98% pure solvent, 1% water, and 1% sizings and detergents. If impurities comprise any more than an additional 1% of the cleaning solution, the cleaning quality can be detrimentally affected by odor and dinginess.

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.

Dry cleaning is becoming a bit of a misnomer, in that the “dry” in dry cleaning is not totally applicable these days. The proper term is actually "Fabricare." From its inception, dry cleaning — which was discovered in France in the late 1800’s (and originally used Kerosene) — involved the use of either a petroleum product or a synthetic solvent, neither of which contained water. Today, there are so many solvents, of which water is one, that the term dry cleaning is not totally applicable.

The short answer is "only if you will be wearing them this season." Plastic bags inhibit the fabric from breathing and can promote the formation of mildew and cause fume fading. Fume fading will yellow whites and discolor colored garments, so plastic bags are not advised for storing the garments for more than a season. We recommend storing garments in breathable cloth garment bags, which will provide some protection against insect and moth damage. We developed our own custom designed bags at Margaret's, which are breathable fabric with a plastic view window so you can see what’s in the bag without unzipping it. Our bags also fold for travel and have convenient carrying handles. These bags may be purchased online by clicking the link above, or can be bought in person at any one of our five Margaret’s retail locations throughout Southern California.

Your dry cleaner should be able to offer advice about the needs of a particular garment.

Consumers should expect superlative customer service, outstanding quality, and a Safe-Cleaning Guarantee™. Customers should be able to ask for advice about all fabrics, and ascertain accurate information about the proper care for clothing, household items, bridal, suede, leather, and heirloom items.

Today’s best dry cleaners are continually educating customer service staff and production employees. For instance, Margaret's is a member Leading Cleaners Internationale (LCI), the most elite group of drycleaners from around the world and the only cleaners to provide LCI’s Safe-Cleaning Guarantee™. As part of their membership in LCI, Margaret's met 58 different criteria, including being “Secret Shopped,” by a third party, to maintain cleanliness and outstanding customer service and quality.

Margaret's Cleaners was the first LCI Certified Five Star Couture Cleaner in nation.

Most “better” fabrics should be dry cleaned. Designers are readily using 4-ply polyester, organza, chiffon, taffeta, acetate, linen and linen blends and, of course, silk and satin. All of these fabrics require professional care.

Do you mean, what is the extent of the cleaning ability of the dry cleaning process?

Since we now know that the dry cleaning process is a euphemism for many steps, I’ll address the “cleaning” process first. Dry cleaning removes body and food oils, wax, and most things that contain oil. Water-based stains such as soda, coffee, alcohol and perspiration require extra spotting prior to dry cleaning, which is why it’s so important to select a cleaner with great technical skills. Margaret's specializes in designer & couture clothing, so they know how to best remove water-based stains. Stains such as paint, ink, curry and superglue, as well as stains that have aged may not be completely removed.

The second part of the “process” is the finishing. A quality cleaner can “finish” a garment without incurring shine, fabric and button impressions, crooked pleats and such. A garment can be expertly cleaned but, if the finishing is below par, the garment can look cheap and the longevity can be compromised.

Dry cleaning is a broad term for a number of processes, especially when referring to designer and couture clothing and what a cleaner like Margaret's does. It is the dry cleaner’s responsibility to clean and restore the garment to its original condition, embracing the vision of the designer.

The process encompasses all of the following:

      • the acceptance and inspection of clothing, with special attention to fabric, design and construction;
      • application of tags for identification and emptying of pockets;
      • protection of buttons, zippers and accouterments;
      • pre-spotting for stains that do not come out in dry cleaning;
      • the actual cleaning and classification (which can involve the use of dry cleaning solutions and, at times, water);
      • post inspection;
      • hand finishing, ironing and steaming (for excellent cleaners like Margaret's);
      • “nuance” control and final inspection to catch missing or broken buttons, minor repairs and such; and, finally,
      • luxurious packaging.

FYI: Dry cleaning is becoming a bit of a misnomer, in that the “dry” in dry cleaning is not totally applicable these days. The proper term is "Fabricare." From the inception, dry cleaning — which was discovered in France in the late 1800’s and originally used Kerosene — involved the use of either a petroleum product or a synthetic solvent, neither of which contained water. Today, there are so many solvents, of which water is one, that the term dry cleaning is not totally applicable.

Poor dry cleaning can. If a dry cleaner does not maintain his solvent in good condition by filtration and distilling, the solvent will accumulate impurities. These impurities will then be re-deposited back onto other items being cleaned causing the effect you have noticed, dulling the brightness or yellowing. It is sometimes possible to restore to the original condition, depending on the makeup of the affected item. Washing can help if the item is washable, re-cleaning in clean solvent sometimes results in an improvement and it may be necessary to use dye strippers as a last resort. Not all garments can be washed nor can dye strippers be used in every case.

Good luck, and feel free to send your item in via our CleanByMail service if you would like us to evaluate and/or restore it for you.

Be very careful when cleaning something that has loose dye. Don't clean it along with anything else until you are confident the dye has been set or the excess removed.

To set the dye you can use a vinegar for acid dyes but it doesn't work well with cotton fabric. A product called "Retayne", sold by local quilter's supply shops can be used to set the dye in cotton fabric.

Often you can clean the item a few times to remove the excess dye. If it is multi-colored, be sure to not let the item set damp or soak in water as the dye may bleed and discolor the garment.

For a good reference take a look at this site: http://www.pburch.net/dyeing/FAQ/settingdye.shtml

Spot cleaning a garment is basically what the title implies. A garment is hand cleaned only in the areas where spots are noticeable. Spot cleaning is performed if portions of the garment are not capable of withstanding an overall cleaning method or if the garment is basically clean and a small area has a stain.

Spot cleaning is accomplished on a stain removal board with steam, vacuum, and the appropriate stain removal agents as necessary.

Yes, we perform spot cleaning.

In addition to spot cleaning we do what we call "Freshen Up" a garment. In freshening up a garment the garment is cleaned entirely by hand and then pressed. Cleaning includes servicing the under arms, wiping down the lining with a solvent, spot cleaning and pressing.

One method to find a reputable cleaner in your area is to contact your local fine garment retailers. Ask a manager or two from the upscale clothing departments, try a couple of stores. If there is a general consensus, you have probably found one of the best cleaners in town. The stores are in the business and it is to their advantage to see that the clothing they sell is properly cared for.

A fine dry cleaner these days should do a lot of hand washing and wet cleaning, be sure and ask. On your first visit ask to see some of their work. If the place is dirty wirh soda cans all over the place say thanks and keep looking.

If your clothes are returned to you from the dry cleaner and smell of solvent, it's time to change cleaners. This smell is a sign of impure solvent and bacteria growth in the system, and is not caused by too strong a solution as commonly thought. This bacteria holds on to the garments and the solvent molecules and slowly releases the solvent, thus the smell.

It is often thought that the cleaners start with new solvent on a particular day of the week. Only a small amount of solvent is received and added to replace that lost to evaporation. Distilled solvent should be used on every load to properly care for your clothes. A properly maintained dry cleaning system should produce odor free clothes with every cleaning.

 


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