11-13 SHELTON STREET, LONDON WC2H 9JN, TEL: 020 7240 9274 info@sevendialsdrycleaners.co.uk

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Dry Cleaning — Explained!

Have you ever wondered why Dry Cleaning is called dry cleaning ? Well this is because the entire dry cleaning process does not require water or soap, hence we call it DRY CLEANING. Instead, dry cleaning companies normally use various chemicals, and most often tetrachloroethylene or perchloroethylene. It is a colourless liquid which is commonly used for dry cleaning of various fabrics and sometimes it is also called “dry-cleaning fluid”[1]. The reason why this particular liquid is used is that it works perfectly as a solvent of organic materials, it highly stable and non-flammable. Various articles[2] suggest that use of non-water-based solvents for dry cleaning purposes begun in 19th century. By mid 1930s the dry cleaning industry has adopted use of tetrachloroethylene.

Dry cleaning process

Modern dry cleaners use machines look similar to a domestic washing machine, but a little bit bigger. During the wash cycle, the machine chamber is filled with solvent to one third. The solvent used is constantly distilled in order to remove impurities which might be transferred to a piece of clothing. A typical wash cycle lasts for about 10 to 15 min. Once “the washing process” is finished, the fabric is tumble dried in a steam of hot air. It is necessary to mention that modern machines recover more than 99% of solvent used during the cleaning process.

Not all garments can be cleaned in such machines and not all stains can be removed. All garments are thoroughly checked prior to dry cleaning. Any foreign objects such as pens for example, might be dissolved in the solvent and cause damage to the fabric. Some garments might need to be treated with spotting solvents by soaking in special stain removing liquids (before they are dry cleaned). Professional dry cleaners, such as Seven Dials Dry Cleaners, know what to do in such situation and will offer you best service and advice.

Laundry Care Symbols - faq

Every garment has a little label which says how it must be cleaned, in what temperature it has to be washed and a little bit more information. If you pay attention to this label you will save time and money!

A laundry symbol, which is also called a care symbol, is a pictogram which represents a method of washing, dry cleaning, ironing and drying. These care labels or care tags are normally located on the internal side of any garment, near the main stitching. The information provided on these care tags is truly valuable if you want to keep your favourite garments looking at their best.


Most of the time, care labels state the maximum allowable washing temperature. If a piece of clothing is washed in a temperature below recommended, it will not cause any damage to it. On the other hand if you wash the same piece of clothing in a higher than recommended temperature, it is quite likely that this item might incur some sort of damage. For example it might lose its shape or colour after a wash. The maximum wash temperature is shown on a washtub like icon and is stated in degrees Celsius. The bars underneath the washtub icon (if there are any) indicate a maximum level of treatment — mild if there is one bar, and very mild treatment if there are two bars.

Professional Cleaning — Dry Cleaning

A circle on a laundry care tag provides instructions to professional dry cleaners. This circle might contain letter P or F. Letter F indicates that a garment should be Dry Cleaned using only hydrocarbon based solvent, while letter P suggests that tetrachloroethylene solvent should be used. If one or two bars are shown underneath the circle, the garment must be cleaned gently or very gently. Finally, circle icon might be crossed with two lines — this would indicate to a dry cleaner that this garment cannot be dry cleaned. Regular consumer do not have to worry about the dry cleaning symbols as these are for professional only.

Suede, Leather and Specialist Items

As a responsible cleaner we would like to bring the following possible risks associated with the treatment of specialist items to your attention, and the terms under which we accept your item(s) for treatment.

We are unable to accept responsibility for colour uniformity if your item is part of a matching suit / outfit / costume, and left for cleaning and/or treatment without the other matching part(s).

Due to the delicate cleaning / treatment methods that are necessary, not all marks, dirt or stains (including, but not limited to: ink, blood, milk, egg, mud, water, soot) can always be completely removed, especially if too deeply ingrained.

Dyes from darker colours may ‘run/bleed’ onto lighter coloured skins, materials or linings which may cause discolouration and / or staining.

Dyes used during the tanning process may not be colour fast, and some degree of colour loss / colour run may occur.

The first time an item is cleaned may result in change of colour / shade / texture / finish.

The use of adhesives during your item(s) manufacture may result in staining on the surface of the item(s) after treatment.

Bonded garments may be subject to damage - the backing fabric may separate from the leather / suede during cleaning which may cause the garment to lose shape and become unwearable.

Treatment of skin items (such as leathers, suedes, furs) may result in slight colour differences which only become apparent after treatment. This can be due to the use of different skins from different animals during the manufacturing process, or in some cases due to the type of dyes used in the tanning and manufacturing process.

Scar tissue may become more apparent following treatment.

Leather, suede or fur items manufactured using weak skins may be liable to break up or tear during treatment.

Worn and/or aged items may become damaged during treatment.

Worn, aged or weak linings may come apart during treatment.

Fine skin items may lose shape during or after treatment.

New garments may appear ‘aged’ following treatment.

Some items may be subject to shape loss or shrinkage following treatment.

Any items without clear care instructions are only accepted on an ‘owners risk / best results’ basis.

We are unable to accept responsibility for trimmings, buckles, zips, buttons, beads or sequins.

We are committed to carrying out the treatment your item(s) with the utmost care and attention, and if necessary we may seek the advice and assistance of industry leading specialists to do so.

Care Symbols Additional Information

In addition to the information provided in previous paragraphs, laundry care tags might also tell you how to Wet clean (for professionals only), Iron and Dry (naturally or using tumble drier) your garment. It is always a good idea to inspect the laundry care tags before you wash or clean any piece of your clothing. If you are not sure what the symbols shown on care tags mean, you can always go online and find out what exactly these symbols mean. Simply type the phrase — “laundry care symbols” into the search field of any search engine and you will find lots of useful information. There are many very informative website which provide vast amounts of information on this topic. Wikipedia is one of these websites.

Few small tips to conclude with

Treat the stain as soon as you can. Do not delay until next week! Natural fibres such as cotton, wool and silk when left in stained condition are unlikely to be restored to their original colour.
You can simply apply some water when pre-treating fresh, still wet stains. Gently tap both sides of fabric with a soft cloth so that the stain is transferred onto the cloth — DO NOT RUB! If you are not sure what to do, simply call you dry cleaner and ask for advice.