Drycleaning actually uses solvent instead of water for the cleaning process. The solvent contains little or no water, hence the term “dry cleaning.”
Drycleaning (by one story) was discovered in 1825 when a Frenchman named Jean-Babptist Jolly knocked over a lamp, spilling a petroleum-type fluid onto his tablecloth. Jolly noted that the fluid removed a stain on the fabric. Dating back to mid-1800’s, past drycleaning solvents have included naptha, kerosene, benzene and other flammable, dangerous chemicals. Advanced petroleum-based solvent was developed as an alteternative in the early 1900s, and in the 1930’s perchloroethylene (“perc”) was introduced as a nonflammable solvent. Today, perc is one of the most common solvents in drycleaning.
I refer to “perc” as traditional drycleaning. Because of spills and environmental and health concerns, perc has recently come under EPA scrutiny. Alternative solvent are now becoming more common, such as Green Earth (a silicone solvent) or new versions of petroleum solvents.