Dry Cleaning Alberton
Dry cleaning is any cleaning process for clothing and textiles using a chemical solvent other than water. It is used to clean fabrics that degrade in water, and delicate fabrics that cannot withstand the rough and tumble of a washing machine and clothes dryer. It can eliminate labor-intensive hand washing.
Unlike what its name implies, dry cleaning is not a ‘dry’ process. Clothes are soaked in a solvent other than water. Tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), which the industry calls “perc,” is the most widely used solvent. Alternative solvents are trichloroethane and petroleum spirits. Dry cleaning can be controversial because it uses chlorocarbons, which are of concern for their potential toxicity and environmental impact.
Modern dry cleaning’s use of non-water-based solvents to remove soil and stains from clothes was reported as early as 1855. The potential for petroleum-based solvents was recognized by French dye-works operator Jean Baptiste Jolly, who offered a new service that became known as nettoyage à sec—i.e., dry cleaning. Flammability concerns led William Joseph Stoddard, a dry cleaner from Atlanta, to develop Stoddard solvent (white spirit) as a slightly less flammable alternative to gasoline-based solvents. The use of highly flammable petroleum solvents caused many fires and explosions, resulting in government regulation of dry cleaners. After World War I, dry cleaners began using chlorinated solvents. These solvents were much less flammable than petroleum solvents and had improved cleaning power.
On March 3, 1821, Thomas L. Jennings became the first African-American to be granted a United States patent. The patent was for his invention of a cleaning process called “dry scouring,” which was the precursor to dry cleaning.
Shift to tetrachloroethylene
By the mid-1930s, the dry cleaning industry had adopted tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), or PCE for short, as the solvent. It has excellent cleaning power and is nonflammable and compatible with most garments. Because it is stable, tetrachloroethylene is readily recycled.