Most people think that dry cleaning simply gets rid of odors, as well as removing dirt and oils from your clothing. Many are unaware that dry cleaning will actually help your fine clothes to last longer, and prevent the aging process that causes them to need to be replaced. This is due to the common misunderstanding of what dry cleaning is and how it works. Because there is almost no basis for comparison that common people have between the processes, they assume that dry cleaning is done the way that home washing is done, only without the use of liquids. The words’ dry cleaning” themselves probably have a lot to do with the misunderstandings of the process, as they imply that it is somehow accomplished without liquids at all, and this is not true. The process simply does not use water and agitation the way your home washer does, relying on chemicals to remove the dirt and oils instead. Even though chemicals are used instead of soap, the process is far more gentle on your clothes than home washing.
Dry cleaning is the bathing of a garment in a specialized chemical that removes the dirt and oils through a reaction, after which the chemical liquids are extruded from the garment using a specialized machine. After this point the garments are pressed using an industrial iron and bagged and hanged for pickup. The chemicals in the bath are Tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), which the industry calls “perc”, or the alternative solvents trichloroethane and petroleum spirits. All these solvents are found occurring in nature in many places, and are generally used in combinations that are derived by the equipment manufacturers and the operators of the dry cleaning stores, based upon the results they receive through experience. These chemical solvents are also used in other capacities to perform cleaning duties that involve dirt and grease, and have been found to be safe for human exposure through many tests performed by regulating bodies. The dry cleaning process needs no agitation the way that a soap and water washing machine does, as it performs the cleaning by breaking down the dirt instead of agitating the fibers to loosen it. For this reason, clothes that are designed to have a shape and specific colors will maintain that shape and colors more readily, while still remaining clean and fresh.
Overall, the dry cleaning process will not have a negative effect on the shape that the fabrics have been sewn into, and the general shape of the garment themselves. Typical washing using agitation breaks down the shape slowly, and is responsible for the fading and aging look that clothes get over time. Because there is no agitation in the dry cleaning process, this is not a concern. It is suggested that clothing that comes into contact with skin be dry cleaned after each use, and clothing that does not come into contact with skin is dry cleaned after two or three uses. This will keep the buildup of oils to a minimum, and extend the life span of the clothes for a longer period.