Dry Cleaning is a very specialised business. It requires expensive machinery and skilled staff. It takes years to learn all aspects of being a competent drycleaner. With these things in mind, it is our objective to provide you with the best dry-cleaning and the best service available anywhere. We are very proud of our work, and nothing pleases us better than to see your garments leaving our premises looking perfect.
Just a reminder that we are specialists in all aspects of dry-cleaning.
As you would guess, drycleaning is called drycleaning because it doesn't use water. However, drycleaning is done with a liquid solvent, so in effect the cleaning does get wet, but not with water. It's an important distinction. Water penetrates the fibres of the fabric making them swell, causing felting and shrinkage with some fabrics. The solvent cleans each fibre without the swelling and so felting and shrinkage do not occur.
Also, the cleaning is not normally immersed in the solvent as it is in the water of a washing machine. Instead the solvent circulates through the cleaning, and a series of giant filters remove any insoluble soil. Clean solvent is used in every load. The dry-cleaning process is so gentle almost every fabric can be safely cleaned, from suits to the most delicate of silks and linens.
The average Christchurch drycleaner's machines are probably about two metres high, two and a half metres long and from the front look somewhat like giant front-loading washing machines. Everything to be drycleaned has to fit in the machine.
You can find out a lot more about drycleaning in our archived newsletters. You can use the search function to find the topics you want.
Unlike water, which requires a detergent in order to clean, drycleaning solvent is the actual cleaning agent. It is quick and efficient and excels at removing grease, soil and general grime. With a little pre-treatment even stains like lipstick are easily removed. Where a stain comprises different ingredients, drycleaning takes out all the grease or fat but can leave the residue behind as a white powdery deposit. Each garment is inspected after it comes out of the machine and such deposits are easily removed at this stage.
So if you get your clothing back from the cleaner and you see a white powdery mark that you are sure wasn't there when you sent it in, you can be assured that it was there, it's just that it wasn't white so you hadn't noticed it. However, your drycleaner obviously missed it when he was checking the garment. Send it back to him, as it is easily fixed, often just a second or two, with maybe a re-press to tidy up the finish.
In most countries including New Zealand, most drycleaners use a solvent called perchloroethylene, or "perc". It looks just like water, but is nearly twice as heavy. Interestingly, its made from coke, although exactly how my book doesn't say. This means that it's a mineral based product somehow derived originally from coal. It is a very effective cleaner.
We are occasionally asked about how much solvent we use, and what happens to all the used solvent? After all, it's OK for dirty water to go down the drain but solvent is another matter.
Strangely, the basic answer is that although drycleaning is done with solvent, a modern machine uses up almost none. This is because after each load the used solvent returns to a distilling tank where it is turned into clean solvent for re-use. We have estimated we re-use the same solvent 1700-1800 times. Imagine how long your water would last if your washing machine did that! Usually once a week the drycleaner scrapes the accumulated soil out of the bottom of the distilling tank for disposal.
Modern machines are so effective in recovering the solvent, that at Eastern we calculate that we use about 2ml of solvent per kilogram of clothes cleaned. That's not much, and is less than one ml for a pair of trousers. So interestingly, although the solvent costs around $700 per drum, we spend little more on solvent than we do on staff morning tea supplies.
In the past there's been some very strange products used as drycleaning solvents, so we'll talk about some of the interesting ones in future newsletters.
Almost every week we get visits from one or two people who have had problems with work done at other dry cleaners. Fortunately, in many instances we are able to help out and can often rectify the situation for them. We get very few complaints about our own work, as it is our objective to provide you with the best dry-cleaning available anywhere.
In the unlikely event that you do have a problem, please ring and ask to talk to Grant or Ray. At the very least we will take your concerns seriously and do everything possible to put them right. We want you to be delighted with the work we do for you.
-WE PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO THESE
Shoulder pads have always been a problem with dry cleaning: they can easily become twisted or screwed up. Frequently they reach us in this state and we have to try and fix them up before we can even dry-clean the garment.
In the past we have put a safety pin into each pad, but this frequently proved in effective. Some time ago we began fastening the pads into place with two plastic tacks in each pad. We have found this to be vastly more effective and the number of problems has been dramatically reduced.
Many people leave the tacks in place permanently and we would recommend this practice, except where you are wearing very delicate or sheer garments underneath.
Some shoulder pads are attached with Velcro. It is a good idea to remove these ones before sending your garment in for cleaning.