The Evolution of Dry Cleaning

The Beginning

Dry cleaning started out in Ancient Rome with the Romans looking for an alternative way of washing their togas rather than soaking them in water, which would inevitably shrink them.  The solution was to mix a certain clay known as “fullers earth” with lye and ammonia to clean the clothes without having to soak them.  The result was ancient dry cleaning process that was so efficient that it was the predominant method of dry cleaning until the 19th century.


The Accident

The next major elevation in dry cleaning technology came in the 1800’s when Jean Baptiste Jolly had some kerosene accidentally spilled on a soiled tablecloth.  He noticed immediately that the kerosene left a spot where it was spilled that was much cleaner than the rest of the tablecloth.  Afterwards he soaked the entire tablecloth in kerosene and found when it dried it came out much cleaner.  This led Jolly to open the first dry cleaning business and changed the way sensitive clothes were cleaned forever.


Modern Dry Cleaning

Soon after Jolly’s kerosene dry cleaning method began to become popular worldwide, people started experimenting with similar chemicals to find the perfect mix of solvents to clean their garments without water.  Some of these chemicals included benzene, turpentine, gasoline, & petrol which led to some very volatile dry cleaning businesses.  The risk of fire was so great in many cases that dry cleaners held their facilities outside city limits to minimize the danger.  This led to many people in the industry searching for alternative, less dangerous chemicals for the dry cleaning process.  The result was the rise of Chlorine-based solvents, of which perchloroethylene (otherwise known as “perc”) rose to become the industry leader, and remains the leader to this day.


The Future of Dry Cleaning

In today’s dry cleaning landscape “perc” has become the #1 solvent used for dry cleaning because it is generally regarded as safe, non-flammable, fast-acting, & recyclable.  However many recent studies done by the EPA suggest that “perc” is not as safe as originally thought and could be potentially dangerous to the environment.  For this reason many people in the industry are looking to find alternatives to “perc” which are more environmentally safe and could lead to a more sustainable industry.  Some alternatives include the use of CO2 instead of perc, low-level alcohol treatments, & steaming clothes.  These are considered more “green” methods of dry cleaning and are taking a stronger hold in some more alternative and progressive cultures.

Dry cleaning has come a long way since the ancient Romans and LaundroXpress continues to be at the forefront of both customer service and technology!

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