What is Dry Cleaning? + 10 Central London Dry Cleaners

What is Dry Cleaning? + 10 Central London Dry Cleaners

What is Dry Cleaning?

In the bustling world of today, where every minute counts, dry cleaning has emerged as a lifesaver for many.

This washing method of  textiles ensures that your attire remains impeccable, but without the hassle of traditional washing.

But what exactly makes dry cleaning a preferred choice for maintaining the pristine condition of your garments?

As part of our Textile Care Blog, this comprehensive guide dives deep into the heart of dry cleaning.

Furthermore, we will unravel its secrets and benefits.

You will also find out why it's a widely-used service for professionals, fashion aficionados, and anyone looking to preserve the quality and longevity of their vintage wardrobe.

From understanding the sophisticated process to choosing the right service provider, read further below.

Hereby, we cover all the essentials you need to know about dry cleaning, ensuring your clothing always makes the best impression.



History of Dry Cleaning

The history of dry cleaning stretches back centuries.

Washing laundry and its variety of methods weaves through ancient civilizations to modern advancements.

Specifically, we are able to showcase the evolution of garment care.

Initially, it is believed that early cultures like the Babylonians and Romans utilized natural solvents such as ammonia from urine to clean clothing (History Stack Exchange, 2012).


Picture Credits found in Article: Social & Environmental History of Dry Cleaning


In addition, R.James reviews evidence that such societies also used clay mineral.

Clay seemed to offer benefits in the laundry cleaning process due to its ability to absorb minerals from textiles (HRP Industries, 2024).

This rudimentary form of cleaning laid the groundwork for the concept of removing dirt and stains without water.

Dry Cleaning in the Renaissance

As we move into the Renaissance, the dry cleaning technique evolved with the use of spirits and petroleum-based solvents.

In particular, these solvents are ideal for stain removal on delicate fabrics.

Another recipe also mentions using the yolk of an egg to conduct this process, mentioned in the research article 'Textile Cleaning Techniques in Renaissance Europe' by Drea Leed.

Despite these advancements, the processes remained fairly primitive.

Furthermore, in most cases this laundry cleaning method was rather hazardous due to the use of flammable and toxic solvents.

Cleaning Clothes Dry in the 19th Century

Some sources believe dry cleaning came originally from France (National Institutes of Health Gov, accessed 2024).

The turning point in dry cleaning history came in the 19th century with a serendipitous discovery by French dye-works owner Jean Baptiste Jolly. After an accidental spill of kerosene on a tablecloth, Jolly noticed the cleaned area where the spill occurred (NCBI, 2024).

However, this 'accident' turned into later into a business opportuntiy. 

Jolly then opened an establishment known as the first dry cleaning shop of its kind (Garfield, 1985).

This, at times, innovative business went by the name 'Jolly Belin' and utilised petroleum-based solvents.

This era marked the birth of modern dry cleaning, coining the term 'dry cleaning' for its waterless process.

Shifting Towards Synthetic Solvers in the 20th Centry

The 20th century brought significant technological advancements and a shift towards synthetic solvents.

Notably, a common base known as perchloroethylene gains acceptance in the 1930s (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2024).

In short, 'Perc', became the preferred solvent for its effective stain removal and lower flammability. 

However, growing environmental and health concerns over the years prompted the industry to seek safer, more sustainable alternatives.

Read also: 'A Chronology of Historical Developments in Drycleaning'

Non-toxic & Eco-friendly Solutions

On the other hand, innovations and modern techniques emerged offering sustainable alternatives to synthetic-based absoverts such as:

  • Hydrocarbon solvents,
  • Liquid carbon dioxide cleaning,
  • Wet cleaning




The Process of Washing Your Clothes Dry

The process of dry cleaning clothes is an intriguing and complex method.

This technique differs significantly from traditional water-based laundering.

It involves the use of chemical solvents to remove dirt, stains, and odors from fabrics.

Meanwhile, this offers a deeper clean for delicate and special-care items that could be damaged by water.

Here’s a step-by-step look at how your clothes are washed dry:

1. Inspection & Reading Your Clothings Inside Tags

The process begins when you drop off your garments at a dry cleaner.

Each item is inspected for any specific stains or damage.

The cleaner then tags each garment, usually with a small, discreet tag, to ensure that your clothes are easily identifiable and returned to you after cleaning.

2. Pre-Treatment & Tagging 

Before the main cleaning process, stubborn stains are pre-treated with special cleaning agents.

This step is crucial for removing difficult spots such as oils, grease, or wine.

However, such substances may not be eliminated by the dry cleaning solvent alone.

3. Dry Cleaning Machine

The heart of the dry cleaning process is the dry cleaning machine, which resembles a large, sophisticated washing machine.

Your garments are placed in the machine’s drum, and then the solvent is introduced.

The most commonly used solvent has been perchloroethylene (perc).

Although more eco-friendly alternatives are now in use due to environmental concerns.

The drum rotates, allowing the solvent to circulate through the clothes, dissolving and removing dirt and stains without shrinking or otherwise damaging the fabric.

4. Solvent Recovery 

After the clothes have been cleaned, the machine drains the solvent for reuse.

Modern dry cleaning machines are designed to recover and recycle as much solvent as possible, minimizing environmental impact.

This step is followed by a drying cycle within the same machine, where warm air circulates to evaporate any remaining solvent from the garments.

5. Post-Cleaning Inspection

Once the dry cleaning cycle is complete, garments undergo another inspection to ensure that all stains have been removed.

If any stains persist, the garment may go through a spot cleaning by hand with targeted treatments.

6. Finishing Touches

The final steps involve pressing, steaming, or ironing to remove any wrinkles, restoring the garment to its original shape and appearance.

Additional finishing touches might include minor repairs or attaching missing buttons, ensuring the item looks its best.

Finally, the clothes are hung or folded, packaged, and prepared for pickup.


The Future of Dry Textile Cleaning

Reviewing the market of laundry and dry-cleaning services, the CAGR is estimated at 3.2% and account for 86.59 billion USD (by 2030) in total value (Beyond Market Insights, 2023).

Today, the dry cleaning industry continues to evolve, embracing sustainable practices and new technologies like silicone-based solvents (Federal Trade Commission Gov, 2012).



This journey from ancient cleaning methods to environmentally conscious has been a ride.

Techniques of today are highlighting the industry's adaptability and commitment to innovation.

Regarding the future of dry cleaning, it lies in its ability to continue evolving while focusing on reducing the overall environmental impact.

Furthermore, washing clothes at scale while improving safety and cleaning quality.

Finally, this reflects a broader societal changes and technological advancements although the process and need seems as just a small part of our daily life.


Dry Clean Your Clothes or Washing Machine?

Cleaning your clothing this way is a sophisticated alternative to traditional laundering.

Particularly, this is true for delicate fabrics, suits, dresses, and specialty items.

Through a careful combination of chemistry and technology, dry cleaners can refresh and rejuvenate your garments.

Additionally, all that without the wear and tear of water-based washing, extending the life and appearance of your clothes.

However, the use of chemicals during the process, pose a health hazard to consumers, as toxins may be linked to cancer (Guardian, 2016).

As the industry continues to evolve, the focus on sustainability and the use of environmentally friendly solvents is likely to increase.

Finally, this method offers, at least in some ways, a greener approach to garment care.


10 Central London Dry Cleaners Near Me

Visit this page to find 10 Central London-based dry cleaning specialists.


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