Despite the suggestive name, dry cleaning does not clean clothing items while they remain dry. In this process, a water-free solvent is used to clean the type of clothes which should not be washed with water and detergent otherwise. It can be quite effective against dirt and pollution, but does it remove stains? That query remains to consider carefully.
So, today’s question is: Can dry cleaning be the fairy godmother we have always prayed for?
In a normal wash, we use detergent or soapy substance, whether mild or strong, depending upon the requirement; water – cold, at room temperature, or warm, again, as per the requirement. Sometimes, there is washing with hands and, sometimes machine-wash is just the right thing. However, some materials of clothes do not withstand this treatment and require a separate type of cleaning solution to remove the dirt while ensuring the longevity of the said materials. Hence, enter dry cleaning. Now, all we have to do is to analyze whether it can hold out against the ugly stains we have always feared for.
Which type of clothing requires dry cleaning?
Normally, garments made of cotton, spandex, and polyester can be hand-washed or machine-washed as per the direction given in the laundry tags before we haphazardly tear those off. Winter coats, and suits, both formal and evening wear, are needed to be dry cleaned.
There are five fabrics given below exclusively allotted for dry cleaning
As this type of fabric is made of the delicate fibers of the silk moth’s cocoon, the setting of fibers in this type of material becomes very intricate and somewhat, fragile. Using detergent will only distort the fabric and the dyes, which are natural and often handmade, used in the cloth, can fade and get damaged with a single wash. That is why dry cleaning is essential to silk, no matter the type.
Wool, especially, the world-famous Pashmina wool of the Gadwal region of the Kumayoon Himalayas, is made of the soft, wispy fur of the bovids, found exclusively there. Due to coming from such an authentic source, the cleaning instruction is very specific for the garments made of such material. The precious Pashminas of our wardrobes, have to be dry cleaned every season to keep the odor away and to remove any kind of dirt or stain left there without unraveling the fibers. Some types of synthetic wool (mixed with polyester or fibers of the same origin) can be hand-washed or even machine-washed, but natural woolens of authentic origins have to be taken care of very carefully.
This velvety material comes from lambskin, cow, or goat hide. It is very expensive and extremely difficult to maintain. Suede cannot tolerate water or chemical-based cleaners and is sensitive to light and moisture. Because of that, it has to be cleaned with specific cleaning solutions other than water and detergent (not even the mild ones).
Made with fibers derived from the flax plant, even though, linen doesn’t normally require any special attention and can survive well in a normal wash, just like cotton fabric; overwashing the linen can cause it to lose its crispness and smoothness. This is why dry cleaning it a couple of times before subjecting it to normal wash helps this fabric to settle well.
Just like linen, rayon doesn’t require dry cleaning as well. That is because, compared to others, this one is semi-synthetic and can very well withstand water and detergent. It is just that rayon, being a bit flexible, shrinks every time it gets washed, which can be a bit uncomfortable to wear. Ironing can only further damage the dye or any kind of motif done in the cloth, therefore dry cleaning the material might be good for it. It is a rather controversial subject, as all rayons are not the same due to the variety of percentages of fibers mixed in there. In the end, it would be better to stick to those laundry tags.
Dry cleaning for cotton
Although cotton fabrics do not require dry-cleaning and can tolerate normal wash very well, some cotton garments, which are weaved by handlooms and are dyed with natural colors (such as Pochampally ikkat, Sambhalpuri, Kanchipuram south cotton, or even the Dhakai muslin of Bengal, Begumpuri, Tant Dhakai, etc.) essentially require dry cleaning to keep them well-maintained. The Ajrak printed cotton is also dry cleaned to keep that signature blue color alive.
Dry cleaning for leather
Leather garments are something akin to a two-edged sword. As it is absolutely necessary to possess a good piece of leather, it is also necessary to make it sparkly clean. However, leather does not work well with water or even detergent. Therefore, dry cleaning is a must for any stylish leather garment you might possess!
Dry cleaning denim
Denim, on the other hand, has no problem with normal washing, irrespective of hand-wash or machine-wash. The color may bleed, making it a bit faded after a couple of washes, but the fabric remains intact for many years, even to the point, that it looks cool enough to pair up with your favorite flannel or something like that. To prevent color bleeding, one can always switch to mild detergent or even one from a different brand, but denim most definitely doesn’t require dry cleaning unless there is something printed on the garment, with substances intolerant to water.
Dry cleaning satin
Depending upon the materials used, satin may or may not require dry cleaning. Satin is the type of fabric that can either be washed normally or, dry. For example, the cleaning treatment of silk satin is very different from that of polyester satin.
What kind of substance is used for dry cleaning?
Earlier methods of dry cleaning included a mixture of kerosine, gasoline, benzene, turpentine, and petroleum, which, however, was very flammable and dangerous, putting the user at risk, as well as, the establishment of dry cleaning services.
Nowadays, a mixture of non-flammable chemicals is used instead, such as perchloroethylene (commonly known as perc or PCE) and decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (commonly known as Green Earth).
Not only that, detergents, insoluble in water, are added to the mixture to remove dirt and stains. During this process, the type of stain and the type of fabric are put under consideration to select the proper detergent substance.
How many types of stains are found in fabrics? Are all of those entitled to dry cleaning services?
There are so many types of stains that are generally found in clothes, upholsteries, curtains, and bed sheets. Whether those deserving of dry cleaning or not are remained to be seen—
- Sweat stains
Nothing can be more annoying than to witness sweat stains on one’s cloth. Also considering different body types, metabolism, enzyme and hormone secretion rate, stress, and lifestyle maintenance, different types of sweat secretory glands are formed. Usually, your daily work shirts display three types of sweat stains—the wet rings or the wet patches, yellow stains, especially under arms areas and at the collars, and white deodorant stains.
While some types of fabrics allow only normal washes to remove those, some fabrics need dry cleaning to completely get rid of them. Sometimes, even ordinary daily clothes may need dry cleaning to remove sweat stains if normal wash fails to remove those. At that time we have to point out those stains to the cleaner, for he or she is to mix the proper detergent material with the cleaning solution to clean the fabrics completely.
- Oil stains
There are several ways one can get oil stains on dresses or shirts or a pair of nice, comfy pants. Based on that, there are several types of oil stains as well—cooking oil stains, which can come from frying something enthusiastically, or dressing your salad; stains from oils that are included in hair and beauty products; lastly, grease stains, which are the hardest to remove, even in a normal wash. Grease is a type of oil with a thickener added to it. It is used in pieces of machinery or any other heavy iron articles.
While it is painful to remove oil stains at home, a proper dry cleaning service could be a piece of cake! That is because, dry cleaners possess chemicals that may come to aid in removing persistent oily, greasy stains. Hence, dry cleaning can definitely remove oil stains. In some cases, it may be the only option left, because you would not risk removing oil stains from your precious silk garments now, would you?
- Blood stains
There are numerous ways one can get blood stains; starting from a small paper cut to an unfortunate accident, an insignificant mosquito bite to unwanted period spills, and even occupational hazards (like the ones the butchers have) that can cause these unwanted stains on one’s crisp shirt or dresses or anywhere.
If it is fresh blood, then removing it with a normal wash will not be a problem. You only have to use a bar of detergent soap to reinforce the washing. Sometimes, a good soak is just doing the trick.
However, if it is an old stain, or, if the fabric is not for machine-wash or hand-wash, then you only have to send it for laundry services, for they will factor in the chemicals after taking in the type of the material and the stain. Surely, they will treat the stain, quite scientifically, not even leaving a very faint outline of the stain, just like it is sometimes left in a normal wash.
But if the stain is way too much, overwhelmingly so, as seen in those cliché murder mystery movies, one can only hide the garment then, somewhere, even the top dog police officers will fail to take notice!
- Alcohol stains
Generally, there are several types of alcohol stains we are bothered about—rubbing alcohol (while using nail color remover or, thinner), beer, wine (mostly the red one), champagne occasionally, and whiskey. Amongst these, the rubbing alcohol itself is a stain remover, for it removes dye stain or paint stain from your favorite t-shirts. But it leaves a stain of its own, as we do not use 100% pure alcohol, and what we see later is the residue of it. It can be washed normally from cotton, spandex, and other such comfy materials, but it cannot be removed from the fabrics unsuitable for a normal wash.
If it is a washable fabric and if the stain is new, then removing beer stains is not that hard. One can even do a normal wash on it, using mild detergent and diluted white vinegar concoction as the stain remover.
But if the fabric is not washable and the stain starts to settle, having been left for about five to six hours, the sugar in the spilled beverage can caramelize, making it harder to remove. In that case, dry wash or chemical wash remains the only option. Also, some of us may not be very confident about washing carpet stains, stains on upholsteries, or any such heavy fabrics. It would be best if we seek laundry services then.
White wine is easier to remove compared to red wine because of the obvious reason, the deep signature color, which as much as allures us, can cause disaster to our fancy evening dresses. Even if, some detergent companies in markets demand that their stain removers are quite capable of removing wine stains, it would probably be white wine. The faint remembrance of the red wine after a thorough wash can be quite irksome, therefore, it would be better to seek laundry services, for they can remove the stain even from the most delicate of fabrics using their magical potions, aka chemical solvents.
Treating champagne or whiskey stains is just as same as treating any other colorless or, faint-colored alcohol stains. Though it becomes harder if the stain becomes old, even after a few hours, it is nothing the laundry services cannot deal with. Truth, they cannot revert a cloth back to its originality, the fabric will shine just as same. After all, one must remember that, in the end, the cleaners are humans and not gods!
- Makeup stains
If it is an everyday makeup stain, that we come across while dressing up for work or getting undressed after finishing it, then it is nothing that a little amount of rubbing alcohol or makeup remover cannot do. But these things leave stains too, of their own, and to solve this problem one can always use detergent pens or detergent sticks.
Some household guidance blogs advise using shaving creams or hairspray even to make a last-minute adjustment! If the makeup stain is too pigmented, like that of lipstick or eye palette, then those options could be very handy instead of using just rubbing alcohol. Also, there is something to consider about the finishing of the makeup. If it is mostly gel-based and basic, sticking to the natural looks, then removing the stains of it will not be a problem.
One can even use soap and water or shampoo and water for a milder concoction. But if it is a long-lasting matt finished one, then one should remember that those substances absorb water before getting dried up again. This means they will settle on the fabric instead of getting removed, which will lose its purpose.
Oil-infused Micellar water, mild detergent, and stain remover mixture in water may be helpful in this regard, even diluted vinegar with mild detergent too, but in the case of delicate unwashable fabric, one must not take things to one’s own hands but entrusting professionals to do the needful.
- Color stains
If you got carried away with your creative ideas and spilled watercolor on your t-shirts, then rest assured, it will be removed with a normal wash. You may have to use a stain remover to eradicate any strong pigment, but that is unlikely in watercolors. Again, the type of fabric should be considered. Then again, one can hardly come near to colors wearing a silk garment or even a satin one.
Oil paints or wall paints rather need special care as turpentine solution is the best to hold up against the stain and that can best be found at the dry cleaners already, irrespective of the fabric type. Nail paints, however, can be removed by rubbing alcohol, or even by nail polish remover. But if the stain becomes old and dried up then without further ado call for the laundry services.
- Sauce or chutney stains
Enjoying a good meal and not having any stains to prove is hardly likely. All of us have suffered through this humiliation at least once in our life. Adding insult to the injury, bothersome stains stubbornly remain on our clothes with no amount of washing or soaking curing them.
Stain removers claim to remove them, but that isn’t always the case. Some suggest baking soda dissolved in water or diluted white vinegar, or even dishwasher be applied on those sauce stains but one cannot just blindly apply those on a fancy evening dress or a formal suit.
Therefore, dry cleaning those while specializing in the stained area might be the best option. Also, dark sauces like soy or dry fish sauce may be a bit harder to remove. So, dry cleaning of the garment might be the only option left during those vital times.
So, bottom line, can dry cleaning remove stains? Yes, yes it does, better sometimes than a proper rinse or machine wash. Not all fabrics respond well to the detergents and water we use in our home, and not all types of stains react well with those either. For those types of fabrics, dry cleaning is the only option.
Sometimes, it is even better than a normal wash, for the natural dyes used on those materials shine well after a trip from the dry cleaners. Also greasy, oily stains or stains from those oil paints or wall paints would only be worse getting mixed with soapy water. So, there can never be any comparison between a normal wash and a dry wash because each is fruitful of its own accord and is much-needed when the time comes.