The History of dry cleaning
Dry cleaning somewhat accidentally came about when in 1855, Jean-Baptiste Jolly, a French dye-works operator's maid accidentally spilled turpentine on his tablecloth. To his amazement this resulted in his tablecloth appearing much cleaner. Now this is the prevailing story in history... however another tale told of how a French sailor in uniform fell into a vat of turpentine and was surprised to find his uniform looked better than before!
Jolly started offering what he called 'nettoyage a sec', a dry-cleaning service.
Due to Jolly's discovery, many other local cleaners started offering this service which meant clothes were being cleaned in gasoline and kerosene based solvents. Garments were being cleaned in centralized factories and then delivered back to the shops before being given to the customer. This was necessary at the time due to the high risk of fire and inhalation of dangerous fumes associated with these flammable petroleum solvents.
The original process also involved two machines. One which would place the garments in the solvent and another which would remove the solvent from the garment.
Due to flammability concerns, individuals started using chlorinated solvents. This occurred after World War I. So much so, that by the mid 1930's, cleaners started using the volatile synthetic solvents; carbon tetrachloride and trichlorethylene. In other words perchloroethylene or better known as PERC within the industry. This solution is still widely used across the world. Benefits included using the solvent on the premises, equipment smaller in size, and the ability to recycle and reuse the solvent again and again.
The machine's they used were called 'vented' machines. Fumes produced were expelled into the atmosphere. Today however modern machines ensure almost all PERC is contained within the machine with the use of computer-controlled drying sensors. These machines now detect PCE and allow limited amounts of the chemical to be released into the air.
The next step in professional garment cleaning has been 'wet cleaning', which was developed in Germany in the early 1990s. Soon after the process was brought to the United States. Ireland may be a little behind but nevertheless wet cleaning was officially brought to Ireland in 2010 by Rita & Stephen Langan who opened their first BeeGreen branch in Westport, County Mayo.
In complete contrast to dry cleaning, wet cleaning does not use any chemical based solvents.
Dry cleaning's primary function is to clean garment's that may otherwise be ruined if cleaned in a standard washing machine. Thankfully due to ever improving industry standards, wet cleaning was invented with the same objective in mind but without the negative effects associated with hazardous chemicals. Both environmental groups and the Environmental Protection Agency have indicated that wet cleaning is the most environmentally friendly form of professional garment cleaning.
So there we have it..professional garment cleaning has come along way!!!