Dry cleaning is dry.
Don’t believe that!
Clothing care labels didn’t exist until mandated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the early 1970s. Since the manufacturer of the item is held responsible for damage if you follow the recommended washing instructions, they of course tend to be very conservative with their recommendations. In fact, experts say that 90% of “dry clean only” items can actually be hand washed or machine washed (just hang or lay out flat to dry).
But what is dry cleaning exactly? It’s only “dry” in the sense that no water is used in the process, but liquid is still used to clean the fabric.
The dry cleaning concept was discovered by accident by a French businessman in the 19th century. He noticed that his tablecloth became cleaner when kerosene was spilled on it. Early usage of kerosene and gasoline gave way to the less-flammable alternative tetrachlorethylene (also called perchlorethylene or “perc”) in the 1930s. Perc itself is now being replaced by other cleaners or methods due to environmental concerns and the fact that it is labeled as a possible carcinogen.
The standard dry cleaning process is similar to water-based cleaning – after a wash and rinse cycle, the solvent used is then extracted by the machine for reuse and the clothing is dried with a stream of temperature-controlled air. Finally, a deodorizing cycle removes any last traces of solvent and the clean, dry clothes are ready for pressing and finishing.