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What’s the difference between regular and French dry cleaning?

July 14, 2011

Answer: absolutely nothing.

Dry Cleaning Demystified

A GH Research Institute guide to the process, the problems and what you should know to protect your clothes — and your pocketbook

By Carolyn Forte

carolyn forte

Photo by: David Turner/Studio D

Carolyn Forté, director of the Home Appliances and Cleaning Products Department of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute

Q: Sometimes my clothes come back smelling like chemicals. Is that okay?
A: No. Dry cleaning uses a chemical solvent (instead of water) that removes dirt and stains without shrinking or damaging fabrics. But the solvent should be filtered throughout the process to remove soil and odors. If there’s a chemical smell, that’s a sign that your dry cleaner isn’t doing a good job.

Q: Is French dry cleaning better?
A: The name is fancier, but the process is exactly the same. The French invented dry cleaning in the 18th century, and as other countries picked up the technology, they referred to it that way.

Q: Some cleaners charge a lot more than others. Does how much I pay make any real difference in how my clothes will be treated?
A: Hate to tell you, but the more money you spend, the better care and service you’ll get. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every cleaning job requires top-tier treatment. Say you have a basic pantsuit that isn’t new, stained or particularly special. Try a discount cleaner, where you’ll be charged about $3. He probably won’t press it perfectly or remove all spots, but you can count on him for a satisfactory basic job. For items that are messier or more valuable, a mid-level cleaner is good; he’ll charge about $10 for a suit but will do a better job of removing stains and pressing. And then there’s the top level, the specialty cleaners, whom you can rely on for intricate or very expensive items — say, that beaded pantsuit you splurged on for your anniversary. Service is pricey (starting at $25 for a plain suit and increasing based on the type of fabric and number of details), but some luxury cleaners will even remove beads, crystals and trims before cleaning, then sew them back on afterward, to assure that treasured pieces stay in tip-top shape.

Q: Do greener alternatives work?
A: Some think that using the dry cleaning chemical perchloroethylene (perc) is environmentally unsafe. As a result, more dry cleaners have started using other, more eco-friendly chemicals like hydrocarbon, silicone-based solvent and liquid carbon dioxide. Studies show that these alternatives clean at least as well as perc, at about the same cost to the consumer. If you’ve never seen a cleaner in your area who offers green service, it’s probably because these methods require new, expensive equipment (some of it costing more than twice as much as the standard machines), so not all businesses can make the investment. A green option that’s easier for most businesses to offer is wet cleaning, which uses water instead of a chemical solvent on clothes that won’t be damaged by the environmentally friendly process. To achieve the thoroughness of dry cleaning, cleaners also use special pretreatments, detergents and additives. Many cleaners now use wet cleaning in addition to the standard method, in part to reduce their use of perc. If you choose a green cleaner, make sure he’s certified by the International Fabricare Institute (IFI), the main industry association.

Q: Does same-day service really get the job done?
A: One-day service is fine for clothes without stains. They’ll be cleaned, dried and pressed. A good dry cleaner will let you know if the item needs more attention than it can receive in a quick turnaround, but use your own judgment too.

Read more: Dry Cleaning – Green Dry Cleaning – Dry Cleaning Services – Good Housekeeping

Source: Dry Cleaning Demystified

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