Close this search box.

Here Are 7 Things Your Dry Cleaner Won’t Tell You

Get ready to learn some dry cleaning secrets!

Dry cleaning is one of the more mysterious aspects of day-to-day life. Even the name “dry cleaning” defies everything we know about how clothes get washed. What adds to the mystery is that dry cleaning processes are little-known and sometimes even secret, hidden behind a curtain of plastic garment bags, where magical machines clean out clothes in a magical way that doesn’t involve getting them wet.

If you’ve ever wondered what “dry” cleaning actually means or what actually happens in the back of a dry cleaner, here are 10 dry cleaning secrets that no business in the field would like you to know.

Let’s get started!

dry cleaning secrets
Photo by Dmitry Kalinovsky from Shutterstock

1. Your clothes are actually getting wet

Probably the most common misconception about dry cleaning is that water doesn’t actually play a part in the whole process. Surprise surprise! One of the most interesting dry cleaning secrets we’re about to reveal is that your clothes DO get wet.

Dry cleaning doesn’t mean no liquid. What it actually means is that the process doesn’t involve using water. Well, while sometimes dry cleaners will use it for water-based stains like coffee and tomato soup, the most common practice is to drop clothes into a solution called perchloroethylene, or “perc”.

This is a colorless solvent that is meant to dissolve the stains that water can’t, like tar and gravy. So, you may wonder, “Why is it called dry cleaning if there are liquids involved?” It’s just a marketing strategy, as “toxic chemical soup cleaning” isn’t as catchy.

This is definitely one of the most surprising dry cleaning secrets! Let’s find out more!

2. You’re paying to maintain the equipment too

Sometimes, dry cleaning can be expensive, but where else can you get those mayonnaise stains off your pants?

Dry cleaning is a massively pricey business involving expensive industrial chemicals and complex machinery. And while ready-to-wear socks and shirts may be easy to clean, once you move into the range of fabrics like silk and suede, it’s not as simple as throwing the clothes into a machine and letting the detergent do its job.

So, are you paying too much? Between $8 and $10 is a reasonable price for most jobs, but if you love your dry cleaner—they get the stains out, care for your clothes, and take the time to sew on that extra button for you—they’re already priceless.

3. “Dry clean only” doesn’t mean “dry clean only”

Going forward to reveal more dry cleaning secrets, the warning written on clothes tags that reads “dry clean only” isn’t an unbreakable rule. What that tag really indicates is “don’t put me in the washer”.

Clothing manufacturers are required by law to inform consumers of just one method of cleaning garments, and dry cleaning is always a safe bet. Let’s take fabrics like wool and sink as an example; they don’t shrink because of the water. It’s the rough agitations of the wash cycle that do the damage. You can add this to the dry cleaning secrets you’ll share with your friends!

This being said, gently hand-washing delicate fabrics (as long as you know the dye won’t bleed) is almost always an option. But be careful, though. Velvet and suede should never, ever be washed at home. Leave those to the pros.

dry cleaning secrets
Photo by Shotmedia from Shutterstock

4. At-home dry cleaning is a real option

This is one of the best examples of dry cleaning secrets experts don’t want you to know! When it comes to the at-home option, you pre-treat stains and then throw the clothes into a bag (here’s a set of six with different sizes) with a sheet that releases powerful chemicals while being tumbled in your dryer.

When you pull the clothes out, the chemicals have absorbed the stains, leaving a subtle scent behind to cover any lingering odors.

The real question is, “Does at-home dry cleaning work as well as when done by experts?” While pro services can save you money, they are only first-aid kits for clothes. This being said, when it comes to day-to-day issues like the smell of cigarette smoke and little droplets of soup and wine, dry cleaning your clothes on your own works great.

However, for more serious emergencies, it’s better to take them to your local dry cleaner’s.

Read on to discover other dry cleaning secrets!

5. Your lost clothes are probably gone forever

Next on our list of dry cleaning secrets is something that may be of interest to you. When a dry cleaner can’t find your clothes, there’s a chance they may be in the back somewhere.

While it’s possible they were mislaid, what really happens in most cases when clothes disappear is that they wind up tagging along in the wrong bag. This means that another customer got them home without realizing it.

And what does that customer do when she or he gets home? Most of the time, they put the clothes in the closet. Sure, the dry cleaner will tell you there’s a chance that your clothes will turn up, and there is—kind of.

But who is going to remember to return a mystery skirt or shirt to the dry cleaner? That’s right, you’ve got your answer. It’s best to give up hope and try to cheer yourself up with a shopping spree.

This is one of those dry cleaning secrets that most people think it’s better if they didn’t find out, but unfortunately, that’s the truth.

dry cleaning secrets
Photo by ivan_kislitsin from Shutterstock

6. Your complaint only has half a chance of being handled

Speaking of clothes that got lost, our list of dry cleaning secrets has two more entries, and one of them is related to what people do when there’s something wrong with their garments—make a complaint.

Dry cleaning is a fantastic process, but it’s not magic. This being said, if you spilled a glass of red wine on a white shirt, then left it in the closet for a few weeks before taking it to the dry cleaner’s, your options are the following: either you kiss it goodbye or you pour the whole bottle over it and name it your new burgundy shirt.

Natural fabrics like cotton and wool tend to absorb stains continuously over time. Thus, it’s best to get these clothes to the dry cleaner’s as soon as possible.

7. Perc is toxic

Last but not least on our list of dry cleaning secrets is something that may scare you: Perc is toxic. Yes, the standard dry cleaning agent is a nasty piece of work. It’s so harsh that it can do real damage when it leaches into the soil and enters groundwater supplies.

Also, you know that sweet smell that comes off your clothes when they are fresh from the dry cleaner’s? That’s right, it’s the perc you’re inhaling.

There’s good news, though. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, most people are at little risk of contamination. Also, the low level of exposure that dry cleaners’ customers get is close to harmless.

However, when it comes to workers who are frequently exposed to high levels of perc, the danger rises significantly. While perc hasn’t been shown to be a carcinogen, the International Agency of Research on Cancer has classified it as a cancer-causing agent.

If you liked our article on dry cleaning secrets, you may also want to read Warning! 7 Cleaning Products You Should Never Mix.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *