The Basic Steps of Dry Cleaning

The Basic Steps of Dry Cleaning McMahan Dry Cleaning DenverHere at McMahan Cleaners in Denver, we know a lot about the basic steps of dry cleaning and want to share some of this information with you. In essence, dry cleaning cleans clothes without water. Garments are immersed in a liquid, but water is not used.

The Basic Process of Washing

In the basic process of washing clothes, water and some form of soap or alkali are used. The soap or alkali suspends the dirt allowing the water to pull it loose so it can be flushed away during rinsing. By the end, your clothes are clean, but dry cleaning may be better.

Dry Cleaning Origins

Dry cleaning was discovered by accident in 1855. A maid accidentally knocked a kerosene lamp over on a tablecloth and Jean Baptiste Jolly, who was a French dye-works owner, realized that that part of the cloth was cleaner than the rest. Jolly began offering a service called “dry cleaning” through his dye-works company.

A variety of solvents, such as kerosene and gasoline, were used in the original dry cleaning process. Eventually, newer solvents were developed such as carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethylene. These solvents were considered volatile but were still used as an improvement over previous solvents.

Later, percloroethylene was the primary solvent used. It was faster, safer, required less equipment space, and did a better job. It allowed the dry cleaning industry to evolve into using smaller retail spaces and even offering one-hour service. Even today, dry cleaners use percloroethylene, or perc, in the basic steps of dry cleaning.

Overview of the Process

There is a general process that almost every dry cleaning business uses. There might be some variation but these main steps are usually as follows.

  • Inspection: Your clothes are examined for things like missing buttons, stains, and tears. If clothing repairs are needed, we can take care of it for you.
  • Tagging: Your clothes are also tagged using some method to identify them as yours. The tags may be slips of colored paper attached via safety pins or some other form of identification.
  • Pre-treatment: Any stains are pre-treated to make removal more complete and easier.
  • Dry cleaning: The clothes are placed in a machine and cleaned using a solvent.
  • Post-spotting: Your clothes are checked again for stains. If there are stains that haven’t yet come out, they are treated again.
  • Finishing: Your clothes are pressed and packaged. Any other finishing touches are added to complete the process.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the basic steps of dry cleaning.


Every order that is brought to a dry cleaner is identified using some method. The exact identification method may vary from place to place, but basically, the items are counted, described, and tagged. The tags stay attached throughout the entire dry cleaning process.

During the tagging process, the cleaner notes the date that the clothes were brought to the cleaner and the date they will be ready. The customer’s information is recorded to help with tracking the order and the customer usually receives some form of invoice or receipt. The tags allow all of your clothes to be gathered together and your complete order to be re-assembled at the end of the cleaning process. The tag system also keeps your clothes from being mixed-up with someone else’s order.

If a garment needs special attention, it will likely get a second tag to alert people to the item’s additional need. Tags may be placed for stain treatment, minor repairs, extra pressing, or other processes.

Pre-treating Stains

Much like you may do at home, pre-treating a stain should make it easier to remove. Your dry cleaner may apply various solvents to remove specific stains. The sooner stains are treated, the higher the likelihood the stain will come out. For best results, you may want to treat your stains as soon as you notice them. If you are not sure how best to accomplish this, you can bring it to us here at McMahan Cleaners in Denver right away. We can help you pre-treat your stain to help stop it from becoming permanent.

Dry Cleaning

Next in the basic steps of dry cleaning, your garments will go into a machine that holds anywhere from 20 to 100 pounds of clothes. Usually, these large machines house your clothes in a stainless steel basket. The machine also uses motors, pumps, filters, recovery coils, fans, and control panels to make sure your clothes are cleaned properly. As your clothes rotate in a perforated basket, they are saturated with a steady spray of solvent and rotated continuously to allow fuller cleaning.

The clothes are gently rotated against baffles. The solvent is continuously filtered. The dirt is removed from the solvent and then the solvent is reused. This allows the process to be more environmentally friendly and requires the dry cleaner to use less solvent. The next cycle drains the solvent as the clothes are rapidly spun.

Finally, the clothes are sent through a dry cycle consisting of warm air. This helps dissipate remaining fumes and any remaining solvent is vaporized. The vaporized solvent is condensed over cooling coils and separated from water that is produced by the clothes or by the system. This creates distilled solvent which is returned to the tank.

Some cleaning plants still use petroleum-based solvents instead of percloroethylene. Such places must have additional steps in place because petroleum-based solvents are flammable. Additionally, a higher temperature is needed to evaporate these solvents. This makes shrinkage more likely and has a higher probability of depositing soil back into the clothes. These disadvantages are the main reasons so few cleaners still use petroleum-based solvents.

We are experts at the basic steps of dry cleaning. So, if you need some of your best outfits cleaned for upcoming holiday parties or want to get all of your household linens ready for the new year, bring your dry cleaning to any of our three, convenient McMahan Cleaners locations in Denver. We can help you get all your dry cleaning taken care of quickly and with high-quality results. We’ll even help you catch up on your laundry if you find your holiday season is keeping you extra busy.

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