History of Drycleaning

Spirits of turpentine were used to remove stains of an oily nature as far back as the beginning of the 18th century. The garment cleaning industry existed in both Europe and the United States prior to the mid-1800's. The trade was known as "dyer-scourer." The cleaners job was based on wet cleaning processes with solvents used for localized spot removal.

The process reversed itself in the late 18th century and relied primarily on the use of solvents for cleaning as opposed to water. Cleaners found that less shrinkage, dye loss, and wrinkling occurred making the finishing operations easier.

The first dry cleaning operation was Mr. J. B. Jolly's cleaning and dyeing firm in Paris, France. Primarily camphene solvent was used. This solvent was less than ideal as it left a lingering odor of turpentine. Other early solvents included benzole, kerosene and gasoline.

In 1928 W. J. Stoddard developed an acceptable petroleum based solvent which became known as Stoddard solvent. Because of its low flash point of 100 degrees, another similar solvent called 140degree solvent was developed because it was safer. This solvent remains in use today.

In the 1930's trichloloroethylene and carbon tetrachloride were being used starting a trend toward synthetic solvents. These solvents were advantageous because they were non-flammable and fast drying. Also in the 1930's perchloroethylene came into use and is still the primary solvent used today. One other solvent developed in the 1960's known as flourocarbon solvent has the advantage of its gentleness to fabrics and dyes. Because of the discovery of the detrimental effect on the ozone layer, this solvent was phased out of use in the US.

Today, petroleum solvents (often called organic, true, but there is no healthful advantage to a petroleum solvent), and perchloroethylene are the major solvents utilized for the drycleaning industry. Many alternatives are being developed, Silicone (Green Earth), CO2, Drysolve, etc. in an effort to clean and be more environmentally conscious.

Source Note: Drycleaning Laundry Institute, MD

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