A majority of us think that dry cleaning is a modern day convenience, which is not the case. Perhaps you do not know that dry cleaning is almost 1937 years old? In the world we are living in, which is dominated by time constraints and technology, you will be surprised to note that, for hundreds of years, dirt, and stains in our clothes have been removed courtesy of the same processes, although by using different chemicals. So anytime you drive to Winter Park dry cleaning service, to drop off your dirty clothes, and you are issued with a service ticket, and then you drive few hours or days later to pick your clean clothes, remember the process and service have been there for over 19 centuries.

Before diving into dry cleaning history and evolution, do you know why it is called dry cleaning? Dry cleaning uses solvents to remove stains and soils from dirty fabric. It has the name dry because there is little or no use of water. Unlike when using water, when water penetrates the fabric, dry cleaning does not allow any water penetration.

Dry cleaning has an edge in that it can clean many fabrics safely. When using water, silk and wools (natural fibers) shrink and lose their colors, but when they are dry cleaned, the experience is better.

The origins of dry cleaning

Signs of dry cleaning evidence dates back to the ancient Roman times. There was a discovery of dry cleaning shops buried under Mount Vesuvius’s ashes, which occurred in AD76 leading to the destruction of Pompeii. During those times, the dry cleaners were called Fullers, which used Potassium hydroxide that is a precursor of the modern day soaps, ammonia, and clay. It is documented that during those days, dry cleaning services were in a very high demand to the extent that Fullers used to collect urine from Roman bathrooms, paying taxes for this business.It is, therefore, no surprise that the Romans who have worldwide recognition for their bathing habits and hygiene produced the earliest dry cleaning skills. This is during their 320 years empire. While the initial dry cleaning idea has its origin documented from the Romans, to get the modern day dry cleaning you have to forward 1746 years later, in Paris. Jean Baptiste Jolly is credited and documented by many historians as the father of modern dry cleaning. However, there has arisen conflicting information from New York.

It is claimed that in 1825, solvent based cleaning was accidentally discovered by Jolly. This is after an oil lamp was accidentally knocked down in his home. Jolly noticed that the turpentine in the lamp instead of destroying the tablecloth removed stains and dirt from the fabric. Turpentine is gotten from distilling pine trees resin. The chemical had varied uses including as an additive even in the 20th century. Jolly went ahead and soaked his dirty and stained clothes in turpentine. From this experience, Jolly proved that turpentine could be used safely as a dirt and stains remover in the fabric. Jolly later opened a modern dry cleaning center in Paris, in the 19th century. There has also been an emergence of other rival theories explaining the modern day dry cleaning concept. The rival dry cleaning origin theory from New York had its paperwork lost in a destructive fire. However, there is a record of a patent document of a dry scouring machine dating back to 1821. The person behind this contradicting theory is a famous tailor Thomas Jennings. The only remaining evidence is that Jennings got so rich and was able to buy his way out from slavery. 

By the time London was getting its first dry cleaner service provider, both local and national government understood dry cleaning hazards prompting them to impose restrictions on dry cleaning businesses. Dry cleaning business weren’t allowed to be situated in the city center. By the 20th century, dry cleaning started using chlorinated solvents during cleaning. In London, the use of chlorinated solvents made the government remove all location restrictions that prevented these businesses from operating from the city center. 

Later tetrachloroethylene was discovered giving dry cleaning a new face. The cleaning solvent has been in use for many years becoming the preferred solvent for many dry cleaners service providers including Winter Park dry cleaning. However, with the current wave of safety, health, and environmental regulations, tetrachloroethylene will soon disappear from the shelves, paving the way to other new cleaning methods. Recently tetrachloroethylene was outlawed in the US and Germany and very soon Britain will follow. It is predicted that the recent legislations will affect both the methods and machinery used in dry cleaning, including Winter Park dry cleaning. These legislations will also impact the laundry and dry cleaning industries in the current environment conscious society.