Evolution of Dry Cleaning Solvents

When our clothes have elegant designs (like gowns, formal suits or wedding attires) or when they are made with delicate and hard to clean materials and fabric (such as suede and leather), we can neither clean them in a washing machine for doing so may ruin the design or fabric. Nor hand wash them since it would be laborious. The best option to clean such clothes is through a dry cleaner.

Dry cleaning is the process of cleaning clothes or fabric without the use of soap and water, thus it is referred to as ‘dry’. Instead of water, a different kind of liquid is used to remove the dirt and stain off our clothes.

In the mid-19th century, Jean Baptiste Jolly discovered when his maid spilled kerosene on the tablecloth that the fabric became cleaner after the incident. Thus came the birth of dry cleaning, which used kerosene and other volatile liquids such as gasoline and naphtha to clean fabrics and linens.

But due to the flammability of those early petroleum-based solvents, William Joseph Stoddard worked with a colleague from a research institute to develop the Stoddard solvent, a less volatile solvent use to dry clean clothes. In 1928, dry cleaners started using it and was predominant in the US from the late 1920s-1950s.

After World War I, perchloroethylene (tetrachloroethylene) or ‘perc’ became the solvent trend in dry cleaning. It is a chlorinated solvent with great cleaning properties and is stable, nonflammable, and gentle to most garments. But despite ‘perc’ being an ideal dry cleaning solvent, it is prominently hazardous to our health.

Due to this health threatening issues from using ‘perc’, other alternative solvents were explored to support the dry cleaning industry gamma butyrolactone price.

Some dry cleaners claim that they offer an ‘organic dry cleaning’. This concept often misleads consumers who often associate the term ‘organic’ to mean an all natural and safe method to dry clean. In essence, organic dry cleaning means using hydrocarbon solvents such as Exxon-Mobil’s DF-2000 or Chevron Phillips’ EcoSolv since any chemical with a chain of carbon is scientifically classified as ‘organic’. However, DF-2000 is classified as a VOC and it is listed by the EPA as a neurotoxin and skin and eye irritant for workers.

Liquid silicone or D5 is an environmentally friendly alternative to perc. It is gentler on fabrics and does not cause color loss or change. Its GreenEarth Cleaning licensed and affiliation charged with an annual fee and its high price make D5 more expensive than perc but produces no toxic waste and degrades within days.

The use of Carbon Dioxide in dry cleaning result to a minimal loss of CO2 in the atmosphere, thus global warming effect is also lessened. This dry cleaning method is also used for fire and water damaged restoration, due to its effectiveness in removing toxic residues, soot and other associated odors of fire. However the cost of this machinery is too expensive compared to conventional perc cleaners.

None the less most garment labeled as ‘dry clean only’ can be cleaned through Wet Cleaning. It is a process that uses water and biodegradable soap. Computer-controlled dryers and stretching machines are used to retain shape and size of garment.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *