Dry Cleaning vs Wet Cleaning for Clothes

Dry cleaning vs Wet cleaning:
There is a fundamental difference between the wet cleaning and dry cleaning operations, which the consumers should thoroughly understand. The garment should be treated by a professional organization (wet/ dry cleaning if they are labelled so). For several years the dry cleaners have wet cleaned a small percentage of their wash load either by hand or small washers. However, dry cleaning and wet cleaning differ in the use of solvents and other washing aids. In addition, they also differ in the degree of cleaning and effectiveness in removing special stains. Each process has its own benefits and limitations as described below. Firstly we should denote dry cleaning and wet cleaning. Then discussion will be clear about dry cleaning vs wet cleaning.

wet cleaning vs dry cleaning

Wet Cleaning:
Wet cleaning or washing is the method of cleaning clothes that is usually done with water, often in the presence of a soap or detergent. Soaps and detergents are used for the emulsification of oils and dirt particles so that they can be easily washed away. The washing will often be done at a temperature above room temperature to increase the activities of any chemicals used and the solubility of stains. In addition, high temperature kills microbes that may be present on the fabric. Wet cleaning the cold-weather clothing in a commercial laundry is more appropriate than using the organic solvents. The wet cleaning can be done on very dirty clothing, rain wear and items with microporous structures. After wet cleaning, the garments should be thoroughly rinsed for detergent residues, which are not desired.

cloths wet cleaning
Fig: Wet cleaning (Photo: Shutterstock)

Benefits of wet cleaning:

  1. No hazardous chemicals are used, hence no air pollution and lower water pollution.
  2. Wet cleaning consumes about 50% less energy than dry cleaning, hence, is energy efficient.
  3. Easy removal of water-based stains; whites look whiter and better soil removal from some garments.
  4. Wet cleaning much cheaper compared to dry cleaning as solvents are used in the latter process, which are more expensive than water.
  5. A wide range of fiber types such as wool, silk, linen, cotton, leather/ suede, wedding gowns and garments decorated with beads can be wet cleaned.
  6. Wet cleaned clothes are free from chemical odor unlike dry cleaned clothes, which can retain strong odor after dry cleaning. Softening agents used give a pleasant smell to the clothes.

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Limitations of wet cleaning:
In spite of these advantages, the wet cleaning suffers from certain disadvantages such as:

  • Shrinkage, wrinkling, surface changes, felting, loss of luster and dye-bleeding problems can occur, which need special care to avoid the problems.
  • The clothes may undergo change in the dimensions leading to shrinkage or stretching and improper fit.
  • Although there are no organic solvents used, a large amount of water is used in wet cleaning leading to large quantities of contaminated wastewater.
  • Unable to remove some hard grease, oils and wax-based stains.
  • Can cause additional ergonomic risks to workers as it is labor intensive.

Effects of wet cleaning:
Garments may sometimes fail during use because of the loss of strength of the yarns and fabrics due to use and maintenance. A garment is subjected to various tensions during wear and various chemicals, heat and agitation during washing and drying. The combined effect of tension, chemicals, heat and agitation can alter the properties of the clothing, which can be realized by the change in the shape (shrinkage or stretch) and color. Various damages caused to clothing are discussed here.

  1. The exposure of some clothing to direct or indirect sunlight may cause deterioration in the fibers.
  2. Laundering effects include the loss of tensile strength, discoloration, overall change in appearance, breakdown of molecular structure and a change in the oxidation state or degree of polymerization.

Besides, below problems occur for wet cleaning:

  • Seam slippage
  • Snagging
  • Pilling
  • Abrasion
  • Color fading
  • Shrinkage
  • Stretch
  • Change of sensory and comfort properties etc.

Dry Cleaning:
Dry cleaning is normally used in the case of textiles that cannot be washed for any reason or that cannot be washed by aqueous means, for example, wool and silk garments. Dry cleaning does not refer to a dry method of cleaning clothes. It is the process of cleaning clothing items and other textiles using a chemical solvent other than water. Dry cleaning is used to remove soil and stains from delicate fabrics, which cannot withstand the conditions used in the washing machine and dryer. As the name indicates, dry cleaning is not completely dry, rather it is performed with the use of various solvents and/or other chemicals instead of water. Due to dry cleaning, dyed or printed textiles may change their color to some extent (fade), and another problem is that they discolor the solvent used in dry cleaning.

cloths dry cleaning
Fig: Dry cleaning (Photo: Shutterstock)

Benefits of dry cleaning:

  1. Better cleaning efficiency compared to wet cleaning to effectively remove some stains, oil marks and greases.
  2. Reduces shrinkage, wrinkling, color fading and distortion of the fabric.
  3. Dry cleaning facilities have started to use eco-friendly solvents and chemicals that disintegrate easily and are less harmful. These chemicals do not produces odor, or produce reduced odor, and clothes smell fresher and feel better.
  4. The original properties of the material are better retained.
  5. Protects texture and increases the durability of clothes.

Limitations of dry cleaning:
The dry cleaning process has the following limitations:

  • People with sensitive skin may have negative reactions to the chemicals used in the dry cleaning process.
  • The use of perc can enter the body through dermal and respiratory exposure leading to irritations of the eye, nose and throat; damage to the liver and kidneys; impaired memory; confusion; dizziness; headache; and drowsiness. Repeated dermal exposure can lead to dermatitis.
  • Only skilled people can perform this as a higher health risk is associated with dry cleaning.

Effects of dry cleaning:
The use of chemicals, heat and agitation during dry cleaning can also lead to the physical damage, dimensional instability, color loss and many other problems. However, the degree of damage may be of a different extent depending on the clothing type and dry cleaning parameters. It is essential to check the garment is dry cleanable from the care label, or else there will be irreparable damage to the cloth.

Perc is the strongest solvent generally used for the cleaning of most of the textiles. The use of perc can lead to color loss, especially at higher temperatures. Several times the combination of high temperature and a longer cycle can damage trims, special buttons and beads on some garments. Perc can also dissolve some adhesives and strip the plasticiser out of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Some dyes, nishes and resins are not color fast enough to the effect of perc as they can lose their color. Perc is better suited for oil- or grease-based stains (which only account for about 10% of all stains) than the common water-soluble stains (such as wine, tea, coffee, and blood). It is a well-known fact that the garment dry cleaned with perc leaves a mild chemical smell on garments.

Dry cleaning is not the answer to all soil and stain removal problems. Sometimes, stains become permanently embedded in the materials. Attimes, the bre or fabric cannot withstand normal cleaning and stain removal procedures. Decorative trim may not be compatible with a dry cleaning solvent.

Impact of Dry Cleaning on Environment:
Dry cleaning also has ecological concerns. The machinery is needed to be built and operated, while the solvents used for the dirt extraction are often carcinogenic or toxic. Even though active efforts are made to hold and recycle them for later use, there is still a certain loss because of entrapment into fibers or escape in the air via the path through garment transport. Jipp refers to the removal of nontoxic stain using solvents without chlorocarbons, so that the chemicals can be considered as being generous to both environment and the fiber. Yet, all of the reagents used in maintenance, even non harmful ones, have to be prepared, with expensive environment loading.

Differences between Wet Cleaning and Dry Cleaning:
The main difference between these two cleaning processes is that wet cleaning is done with water while dry cleaning without water. While dry cleaning has a more efficient rate of spot removal, wet cleaning preserves the color of fabrics longer.

With so many professional cleaning processes available today it’s easy to get confused. What are the difference between dry cleaning and wet cleaning? Below table will help to differentiate wet cleaning and dry cleaning.

Wet Cleaning Dry Cleaning
Uses water, detergents, soaps and bleaches, rather than chemical solvents. Uses environmentally-friendly, chemical solvents rather than water.
Water is gentler than solvents on fabrics and therefore, can extend a garment’s life. Preserves the brightness, color and original sheen of your garments unlike water.
Removes tough organic stains like sweat, mildew, urine etc better than dry cleaning. Dissolves grease and oil-based stains better than wet cleaning.
Clothes may shrink or stretch when saturated with water during wet cleaning. Less environment friendly than the water used in wet cleaning.

References:

  1. Care and Maintenance of Textile Products Including Apparel and Protective Clothing by Rajkishore Nayak and Saminathan Ratnapandian
  2. Textile Engineering An Introduction Edited by Yasir Nawab
  3. A Practical Guide to Textile Testing by K. Amutha
  4. http://www.presstoasia.com.my/blog/dry-cleaning-vs-wet-cleaning/
  5. https://www.foxcleaners.com/wet-cleaning-vs-dry-cleaning-the-major-differences/
  6. https://monteleone.az/wet-cleaning-vs-dry-cleaning/

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