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How Dry Cleaning Works: A Video Shot On Site at Rick’s Facility!
Here is a behind the scenes look at what happens after you drop off your clothing at a cleaners! We take pride in work involved in caring for your clothes! Have questions? Send us your thoughts on our "Contact Us" page.
What is dry cleaning?
Contrary to popular belief, dry cleaning does not mean your clothing tumbles around in a dry basket of air. Clothes are deep cleaned in a safe liquid solution, the solution is extracted out, and then your clothes are steam pressed. During the cleaning process your clothes are wet from our cleaning solution. Dry Cleaning is a great way to safely clean garments and remove stains such as oil and grease. It is great method for cleaning your specialty items or everyday wardrobe.
Is commercial laundry the same thing as doing laundry at home?
Commercial laundry is very different from doing laundry at home. Your laundry is washed with soap and starch of your preference, and then placed wet on our state of the art equipment to give them the absolute best press. 100% cotton is the safest material to process in commercial laundry. Anything else we recommend dry cleaning.
My garment doesn’t have a care label. Do you know how to clean it?
Yes and no. Although we’re the experts and have a good idea on how each item should be cleaned, there is no certainty without the care label. The Federal Trade Commission laws require clothing care labels to state exactly how the garment needs to be cleaned. Dry cleaners must assume that the garment as well as any extra decorations or attachments such as beads or sequins on the garment can be cleaned according to care label.
This spot wasn’t here when I brought it in!
You’re probably right. However, there are many types of stains that are not visible prior to cleaning that can be activated during the dry clean process and can leave your garment with an easily noticeable stain. These are called “invisible stains.” Invisible stains are the most frequent problem we face at the dry cleaners. These stains are caused by a reaction between the heat of our drying/pressing process and a sugar-based or oil-based stain. Sugar based stains can caramelize from the heat (causing a difficult to remove brown stain) of the process and oil-based stains can oxidize; if either happens a “new” stain that wasn’t visible prior to cleaning appears. Remember to always let a Rick’s team member know if you spilled anything on your clothing so we may give it proper attention prior to cleaning.
Common sugar-based stains: Coffee, sodas, tea, beer, milk, fruits, etc.
Common oil-based stains: Hair Spray, cosmetics, lotions, etc.
Once stains either caramelize or oxidize, it is extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to reverse the effect. However, if you spot this on one of your items, we will try our best to remove it on a redo attempt.
What risks are there when dry cleaning items with beads or sequins?
Beads are typically held on by thread and over time those threads may come loose (just like they could in your washer at home). Sequins are typically fastened by an adhesive, or glue, which can weaken over time or even the first time sent through cleaning.
The Federal Trade Commission laws require clothing care labels to state how the garment needs to be cleaned. Any extra decorations or attachments such as beads or sequins must fall under the care label cleaning guidelines as well. However, there are often times when these add-ons are not able to withstand the dry cleaning process. There is also always a risk of the fastening adhesive or color of the sequins/beads transferring on surrounding areas of the garment. This is due to poor garment construction, and unfortunately, there is no way of being able to determine this outcome prior to cleaning. When dropping off garments with beads or sequins please inform a Rick’s team member at the counter. In order to process items with either we require consent from the customer due to the possibility of them coming off or not handling the heat of the process.
Remember: Requiring customer consent is not meant to scare you. We do thousands (literally) of items a day and most of the time there is never a problem. However, with any item there is always a risk of the unknown once an item is placed through cleaning.
What is Polyurethane and How Can It Be Cleaned?
What is Polyurethane:
Polyurethane, or "PU" is a synthetic leather ("pleather") material that is commonly found in women's fashion today. An entire garment can be made of PU, but the material is most commonly seen as a trim or decorative element around the neck, cuffs, lapels, and pocket trim.
Common Items That Contain Polyurethane:
Faux leather garments, raincoats / outwear, inner linings of jackets / vests, and especailly common on decorative trim. Many major brands sell products with it such as Bebe, Zara, H&M, Cache, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and many more.
How to clean it:
The safest way to clean it is washing it inside out in cold water either by hand or on a delicate cycle and letting the garment hang dry.
**PLEASE NOTE: THIS CAN ONLY BE DONE IF the rest of the material on the item can be safely cleaned in water. For example: you would not want to clean it in water if the rest of the garment is silk. Always check your care label first.
When bringing any garment that contains Polyurethane or any other synthetic leather to the cleaners please bring it to the attention of our staff while you are dropping it off so that we may take proper precautions to clean it.
The potential hazards of dry cleaning it:
Many PU items will say "Dry Clean Only" on the care label, but if the special coating on the material to make it soft isn't set properly by the manufacturer, the material can sometimes react poorly with standard dry cleaning solvent. A negative reaction will result in the material beginning to peel, flake, or crack. There is no way to test if there will be a possible reaction prior to cleaning the garment. Not all garments containing polyurethane become damaged from commercial dry cleaning, but if the damage occurs it is a manufacturer's defect. See the graphic below for an actual example.
What Does Insect Damage Look Like?
"Bugs in my house!? No way. I even have pest control!"
We are right there with you on this one, and hate these little guys for the damage they can bring to our garments. Clothing moths can cause considerable damage to materials containing wool, fur, or other animal derived products. Their larvae like to feed in dark protected areas making closets a nice landing spot. Damage from moth larvae occurs from feeding on the fibers and weakening the material. Unfortunately, the real damage is typically seen after dry cleaning a garment because the agitation of the cleaning process is enough to cause the weakened area to give out and results in small single hole (or often in clusters).
Here are a few tips to reduce or avoid moth problems:
-Thoroughly clean storage areas
-Store clothing in tightly sealed containers
-Deterrents such as cedar, mothballs, or sprays can be helpful, but won't guarantee protection.
For more information on moths and protecting your clothing from the Texas AgriLife Extension click here.
How Can Dyes Transfer for Clothes Labeled “Dry Clean Only”?
Dye transfer typically happens when the lighter color fabric shows transfer from the darker dye. The most common occurrence is with black and white garments. If the darker dyes happen to be soluble in dry cleaning solvent, the dye will transfer onto the lighter fabric. There is no way for a dry cleaner to predict this happening because the dye transfer doesn’t occur until it is already in the dry clean machine. This problem is due to a manufacturer’s defect during production because the textile manufacturer is responsible for making sure the dyes used are colorfast (having color that is resistant to fading or running). If this happens to your garment, we will do our absolute best to reverse the effect, but there is no guarantee of restoring the original look.
What causes a garment to appear blistered or rippled?
This is usually a result of something called fusible separation. After cleaning and pressing a garment, separation between the shell fabric (outer layer of clothing) and the interfacing (adhesive) used to hold it in place can become separated due to improper fusing (construction) or small amounts of shrinkage. This is most commonly seen with suit jackets. Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that the shell fabric is properly fused. If you see this on your jacket or any other garment, bring it back along with the original invoice, and we’ll do our best to make it look great again!
Is that a burn mark on my shirt?
No. There are often times we come across marks on garments that look similar to burns, but are not actually burns. In commercial laundry a liquid called “sour” is deposited into the machine during the washing cycle. If the sour is not fully rinsed out during extraction, it can leave a brown ring that looks similar to a burn. Re-cleaning this item will remove the stain.
With dry cleaning, nothing in our cleaning facility is capable of burning or scorching a garment because only steam press units and steam irons are used. Our steam hand irons are completely different than an “at-home” iron and have a protective coating that enables them to glide smoothly over even the most delicate of fabrics. In fact, our steam presses even have padded covers that make them safe enough for the bare hand!
What happened to my seam/hem?
When you’re washing an item at home in the washer there is always a possibility that a thread may come loose over time and unravel. This can be a gradual process or can happen the first time an item is cleaned. The exact same logic should be applied when an item is sent to the dry cleaners. Once the cleaning process begins there is no way ensuring a loose hem/seam will hold its position. Common areas where the hem/seam may be affected are inner leg linings, underarms, or on the edges of items containing ruffles or layers.
Where did these small holes come from?
Small holes in fabric can come from many things. Over our years of experience, the two most common causes are insect damage and possible contact with small amounts of an acidic or alkaline substance (see examples listed under the question: How did my garment change color?). Regardless of your sanitation habits, all homes are exposed to insects. The three most common fabric eaters are moth larvae, carpet beetles, and silverfish. These pests love to snack on food stains and body oils in dark places such as your closet or attic. The most common target fabric is wool and synthetic fibers, but these bugs aren’t picky! Insect holes are not always evident prior to cleaning and as a result sometimes weakened fabric or small holes only appear after fibers are removed during the agitation of cleaning.
We also come across common problem areas on garments from every day consumer use. For example, over time the lower forearm area of a garment becomes weak from rubbing against a desk at work. Another common area of weakness is in the back pocket of pants from wallet use. Have you ever seen an older pair of pants with a permanent indentation line from a wallet (or a can of chewing tobacco)?
How did my garment change color?
Color changes will occur when an area of a garment comes in contact with a bleaching agent, alkaline, or acidic substance. The change is often not visible prior to cleaning, but the heat of the drying or steam finishing process accelerates the chemical reaction with the fabric dye. The reaction usually leaves a garment with a yellow or orange-like discoloration where the substance contacted the fabric, but the change can come in other colors as well. We do not have bleach or any products that could cause such a reaction in our dry clean facility. If you come in contact with any products that are acidic, alkaline, or contain bleaching agents, flush them immediately by rinsing with water (do not rub!) and get the item to a professional dry cleaner as soon as possible.
Every day things that can cause these reactions include: hair spray, body lotion, facial products, deodorant, perspiration, salt, hand sanitizers, perfume/cologne, toothpaste, medications, juices, and sunlight exposure.
How can buttons crack after laundering a shirt?
Over time buttons in commercial laundry may crack as a result of repeated pressing, old age, or threads coming loose. The combination of consumer wear and the heat of our press units can accelerate this change. Don’t worry though! Please notify our staff, and we’ll replace generic buttons through laundry free of charge!
Tip: Sending designer shirts with thicker than normal buttons or any shirt with pearl snap buttons is not recommended. There is an increased chance these will not withstand the commercial laundry press. Therefore, you should dry clean for best results.