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What Is Dry Cleaning?

What Is Dry Cleaning?

You walk into your local dry cleaner with your favorite "Dry Clean Only" silk blouse. The man or woman at the counter asks you for your name or phone number and hands you a ticket for when your blouse will be done and off you go. What happens next? Have you ever wondered how your item is being cleaned in this strange process called DRY cleaning?

Let's Start With A Brief History

First, it is important to note that dry cleaning is not dry. It is a process to clean garments that does not involve water. Dry cleaning actually dates back to ancient times. There are records of professional clothes cleaners, called Fullers, in the ruins of Pompeii. They used a type of clay known as "fuller's earth" to absorb grease and soils from clothing that were too delicate to launder. Over the years, many solutions have been used to produce similar effects, from lye and ammonia to kerosene and gasoline. Most of these fluids were highly flammable. In the 1930s, percholoroethylene or perc (a nonflammable, synthetic solvent) came onto the market and is still used by many dry cleaners today. Due to the environmental and health concerns related to perc, several alternative cleaning solutions have come onto the market in the past several years. Today dry cleaners have a choice as to which solvent they are going to use.

Dry Cleaning At Nor'east

When David Mering came to Nor'east Cleaners, the solvent of choice was perc as it was with most cleaners at the time. About 20 years ago, a major equipment breakthrough reduced the use of dry-cleaning solvents by 90% nationwide. In 1993, David converted Nor'east to this technology, which eliminated any vapor released into the atmosphere while at the same time leaving no detectable levels of solvent in the clothes, thus eliminating any health risk. In 2000, Nor'east purchased the first Miele Wet Cleaning System in New England. Wet cleaning uses water to clean garments under precisely controlled conditions. Approximately 40% of our work is processed with this method.

In 2011, we were one of the first in the country to install the System K4 Dry Cleaning System. After researching many alternatives to perc, we decided to switch to Solvent K4 - a 100% non-toxic, non-hazardous, biodegradable dry cleaning solution that is completely safe for our employees, our customers and the environment. A lot of the concern from dry cleaners when it came to using "Green" solvents was that they do not clean as well as perc. We have found that Solvent K4 actually cleans as good if not better without any side effects or odor.

Back To The Counter

Let's go back to you, the customer, dropping off your favorite dry clean only silk blouse at one of our stores...what happens next? The customer service representative (CSR) will ask you for your phone number and/or name, when you would like to pick up your blouse and if you want to note any particular stains. You will receive a ticket and go on your way. This is when our job really begins. The CSR will inspect your blouse, looking it over for any stains and/or possible defects such as a missing button while unbuttoning the buttons and checking the pockets for any items that may have been forgotten. If anything is found in a pocket, it is returned to the customer in one of our safe and secure bags. Any minor repairs will also be taken care of by our skilled alterations department who does over 500 free repairs every month. A small barcode is applied to your blouse in a discrete location and it is assigned in our database to you, with a description that includes color, pattern and brand. Once an item is barcoded, the history of the garment is maintained in our system for the lifetime of the garment. The CSR will also delint and depill the item and attach any necessary tags (for example, a picture tag showing where the stain is located).

Your garment is then moved into the production department, located at our East Gloucester Store. The blouse will be inspected again - checking for any defects, stains, notes from the CSR as well as reading the cleaning instructions. Generally we follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer since they provide what they feel is the best cleaning method for the garment. Occasionally the dry cleaner may use an alternative method if she feels it will work better for a particular stain or if there are decorations or beading on the garment that require it be handled in a different way. Stains are pretreated by the dry cleaner. The garment is then dry cleaned. It goes into a large machine, similar to a giant washing machine in appearance. The garment is cleaned with the dry cleaning solution and then dried in the same machine. Items go in dry and come out dry. It is then taken over to the hanging station, where the item is inspected again for defects and stains. Some items may be treated and cleaned again if necessary or go into the seamstress for repair.

Once all of the stains have been removed or the dry cleaner determines that any further attempt to remove a particular stain would damage the garment, it is sent onto the pressing department. Pressing is an art and we are extremely lucky to have a talented group of pressers working at Nor'east Cleaners. Each presser focuses on a particular type of garment - one works on pants, another on sport coats, another on dresses, etc. All of our presses and irons have pads on them to prevent items from being damaged by the heat. The pressers are also inspecting while they press and if they notice something that was missed, the garment is sent back again. Once your blouse is cleaned and freshly pressed, it is put onto a hanger and sent to our assembly department for one final inspection. After receiving approval from the assembler, the barcode is scanned and the order is completed. It is packaged with a biodegradable plastic bag used to keep the garment fresh until you reach your destination.

We hope this has helped to demystify the dry cleaning process. If you have any specific questions that have not been answered here, then we do encourage you to leave a comment and let us know.

Thank you for your business. Have a Happy Spring!

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