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Why your garments smell of “dry cleaning solvent” after dry cleaning
By: Stu Bloom
Ever wondered why your garments smell of “dry cleaning solvent” when returned by your dry cleaner?
There could be 2 reasons:
- Your dry cleaner might be cleaning your garments in “dirty” dry cleaning fluid or solvent
- Your dry cleaner might be intentionally reducing the time necessary to properly dry your garments.
Let’s examine each of these reasons in turn…
Dirty dry cleaning solvent or fluid
Garments and household textiles should always be cleaned in dry cleaning fluid that’s both continuously purified and continuously filtered. Every single drop.
This way your garments and household textiles are cleaned in dry cleaning solvent or fluid that’s absolutely crystal clear. As clear as bottled mountain spring water.
Continuous purification is much like boiling your tap water at home to obtain pure water; continuous filtration is much like filtering your tap water to remove any additional impurities.
Fact is, crystal clear, freshly purified and filtered dry cleaning fluid is your only guarantee against grayish and dingy whites, creams and pastels; dull and faded colors; and that all-to-familiar “dry cleaning solvent smell”.
Unfortunately, very few ordinary cleaners both continuously purify every single drop of their dry cleaning solvent or fluid before and after each load, and continuously filter every single drop of their dry cleaning solvent or fluid during each load.
So soluble impurities, such as bacteria, food oils, food fats, body oils, creams and lotions accumulate in the dry cleaning solvent or fluid. And insoluble impurities, such as sand, dander and hair, float around in the dry cleaning solvent or fluid.
These soluble impurities are then absorbed by the fibers of your garments during the dry cleaning “wash” cycle. In particular, natural fibers, such as silk, wool, linen and cotton, absorb these soluble impurities like a sponge absorbs liquid.
Instead of your cleaner both continuously purifying and continuously filtering his dry cleaning solvent or fluid, your garments are functioning as your cleaner’s “dry cleaning machine filter.”
In effect, your garments are being cleaned in “dirty dry cleaning solvent.” It’s just like washing your clothes at home and reusing the same dirty water over and over again.
Truth is, you might think you’re smelling “dry cleaning solvent”, but, in actuality, you’re smelling the soluble impurities as a result of your garments being cleaned in “dirty” dry cleaning fluid or solvent.
Shortened dry cycle
There are over 26,000 dry cleaners in the USA. And the overwhelming majority believe that “cleaning” is a relatively simple operation …
Take 40 to 50 “dry clean” garments. Sort them into “lights” and “darks”. Load them into a 60 pound dry cleaning machine with little or no pre-spotting (stain removal prior to dry cleaning). Add detergent (the cheapest one, if you’re lucky), moisture (to “deal” with any water-based stains), fragrance (to disguise the smell of the “foreign substances” in the solvent) and sizing (to stiffen your garments and render them quicker to press).
Next, toss them about in a relatively aggressive, dye-stripping, toxic solvent (perchloroethylene, synthetic petroleum or formaldehyde dibutyl acetal) for 10 minutes or less. Extract at a high RPM and dry at a high temperature for about 30 minutes to further minimize the total wash/extract/dry cycle time.
And there’s the rub.
While the complete cycle – wash, extract, dry and cool down – might take 30 to 60 minutes (depending on the type of dry cleaning fluid or solvent used), the longest part of the complete cycle is the dry cycle.
When it comes to operations, the overwhelming majority of cleaners focus on two metrics: piece volume and speed.
That means pushing as many garments as possible through their facility in the shortest amount of time. In lay terms, that means getting your garments into a dry cleaning machine, onto a press and into a bag ASAP.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of an ordinary cleaner: if you operated an ordinary dry cleaner, if you wanted to speed up the “cleaning process”, and if you knew that the longest part of the “cleaning process” is the dry cycle, what would you do?
You’d cut the length of the dry cycle, of course. And, as a net result, you’d leave some residue of the dry cleaning fluid or solvent in the garments.
In this case, you might actually be smelling the residue of dry cleaning fluid or solvent – fluid or solvent that results from your dry cleaner intentionally reducing the time necessary to properly dry your garments.
Truth is, you might never know whether you’re smelling dirty dry cleaning solvent and/or actual dry cleaning solvent.
Irrespective of the cause of the smell, you might want to change outfits.
Dry cleaning outfits!
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