What Happens to Your Garments when You Drop Them Off at Levingers Dry Clean & Shoe Clinic For A Dry Clean

Dry Cleaning

is a process that cleans clothes without water. The cleaning fluid that is used is a liquid, and all garments are immersed and cleaned in a liquid solvent -- the fact that there is no water is why the process is called "dry." In this article we will take a behind-the-scenes look at the dry-cleaning process so that you can understand what happens to your clothes after you drop them off at the cleaners!

Dry Cleaning Evolution

Like many inventions, dry cleaning came about by accident. In 1855, Jean Baptiste Jolly, a French dye-works owner, noticed that his table cloth became cleaner after his maid accidentally overturned a kerosene lamp on it. Operating through his dye-works company, Jolly offered a new service and called it "dry cleaning."

Early dry cleaners used a variety of solvents -- including gasoline and kerosene -- to clean clothes and fabrics. In the United States, the dry-cleaning industry is fairly new and has developed only during the past 75 years. Since World War II ended, the volatile synthetic solvents carbon tetrachloride and trichlorethylene gave way to a product known as perchlorethylene (perc), which became the overwhelming solvent choice for the industry. It was not only safer and faster, but did a much better job of cleaning, required less massive equipment, less floor space, and could be installed in retail locations offering excellent quality one-hour service.

As a result of this innovation, the majority of clothes today are cleaned by perc. A proliferation of cleaning franchises and dry-cleaning businesses offering fast service from convenient, clean, and attractive locations evolved to change the industry into what we see today.

The Process

When you drop your clothes off at Levingers Dry Cleaners, the employees follow a pattern that holds true at just about any dry-cleaning operation running today. Your clothes go through the following steps:

  • Tagging and inspection - Some method, whether it is small paper tags or little labels written on a shirt collar, is used to identify your clothes so they don't get mixed up with everyone else's. Clothes are also examined for missing buttons, tears, etc. that the dry cleaner might get blamed for otherwise.
  • Pre-treatment - The cleaner looks for stains on your clothes and treats them to make removal easier and more complete.
  • Dry cleaning - The clothes are put in a machine and cleaned with a solvent.
  • Post-spotting - Any lingering stains are removed.
  • Finishing - This includes pressing, folding, packaging and other finishing touches.


When you drop off your clothes, every order is identified. Although the exact identification process may vary from dry cleaner to dry cleaner, it basically includes counting the items and describing them (e.g., shirt, blouse, slacks). Also noted is the date they were dropped off and what date they'll be ready for the customer to pick up. Then, a small, colored tag is affixed to each piece of clothing with a safety pin or staple, and this tag remains attached to the clothing during the entire dry-cleaning cycle. The dry cleaner also generates an invoice, and information about the order -- including the customer's name, address, and phone number -- is entered into a computer. This helps to keep track of the order.

A typical tag used by Levingers dry cleaners
A typical tag used by Levingers dry cleaners
If a garment needs special attention, such as removing a red wine stain from a shirt or putting a double-crease in pant legs, there's a special colored tag that gets affixed to that particular item of clothing. Once the clothing has been washed or dry cleaned, it goes through a quality check and the order gets re-assembled. This means the clothing is bundled together for the customer to pick up. Remember, every order is identified by a colored tag with a number on it so the person who re-assembles the order knows which shirts and which slacks go together and to whom they belong.

Pre-treating Stains

Pre-treating stains is similar to the procedure used at home when you apply a stain remover to stains prior to washing them. The idea is to try to remove the stain or make its removal easier using chemicals. You can even help the process, especially if you catch the stain early! Simply apply water for wet stains (a stain that had water in it) and solvent for dry stains (a stain that has grease or oil in it). Then, gently tap and blot both sides of the fabric with a soft cloth so the stain "bleeds off" onto the cloth. Then, rinse the fabric, let it dry and your cleaner will do the rest.

If you don't know what to do when a stain happens, call your cleaner and ask him. While there are many brands and makes of cleaning machines, they are all basically the same in principle and function. A cleaning machine is a motor-driven washer/extractor/dryer that holds from 20 to 100 pounds (9 to 45 kg) of clothes or fabrics in a rotating, perforated stainless-steel basket. The basket is mounted in a housing that includes motors, pumps, filters, still, recovery coils, storage tanks, fans, and a control panel. In all modern equipment, the washer and the dryer are in the same machine. Doing this makes it possible to recover nearly all of the perc used during cleaning, which is better for the environment and saves the dry cleaner money.

As the clothes rotate in the perforated basket, there is a constant flow of clean solvent from the pump and filter system. The solvent sprays into the basket and chamber constantly -- not only immersing the clothes, but gently dropping and pounding them against baffles in the cylinder as well. The dirty solvent is pumped continuously through the filter and re-circulated free and clear of dirt that gets trapped in the filter.

As an example, a typical machine might pump perc through the clothes at a rate of perhaps 1,500 gallons (5,678 liters) per hour. Perc is about 75 percent heavier than water. If a cycle lasts for eight minutes, the clothes would be doused during mechanical action with 200 gallons (757 liters) of solvent. This is more than adequate to thoroughly clean the clothes.

The next cycle drains and rapidly spins the clothes to expel the solvent and then goes into a dry cycle by circulating warm air through the clothes. The remaining fumes and solvent are vaporized by warm air and then condensed over cooling coils. The distilled solvent is separated from any water (that may have remained in the clothes or system) and returned to the tank as distilled solvent. Since any moisture that may have condensed into water during the process floats on top of perc, it is relatively simple to separate it.

Cleaning plants using petroleum solvent rather than perc are exposed to a different set of circumstances and face some challenging considerations. The solvent is flammable, and therefore many fire-prevention steps must be taken for safety. The solvent is very slightly lighter than water and the two mix easily. There is also a need for higher temperatures to dry and deodorize the garments, which makes shrinkage and re-deposition of soil into the clothes more likely. These disadvantages are the reason why the industry currently uses perc almost exclusively.

Regardless of which solvent the dry cleaner uses, the quality of cleaning, the degree of soil removal, the color brightness, the freshness, the odor and the softness all depend on the degree to which the cleaner controls his filter and solvent condition and moisture. Quality control can vary day to day unless the cleaner is constantly attentive to these factors.


The final phase of dry-cleaning operations includes finishing, pressing, steaming, ironing, and making any necessary repairs to restore the garment. This is the least mysterious process since most dry-cleaning stores have their professional finishing equipment in plain view of customers. Once the clothes are cleaned, they are pressed or "finished." The steps in this process include:

  • Applying steam to soften the garment
  • Re-shaping it through quick drying
  • Removing the steam with air or vacuum
  • Applying pressure to the garment
The pressure comes from the head of the pressing machine, while steam is diffused through the bottom. Most machines not only emit steam, but can vacuum it out as well!

Most asked Questions about Dry Cleaning

How Dry Cleaning Works

How to care for this year's leather trend

Leather can be a seriously long-lasting fabric if treated properly. With correct care and attention, new leather can last to a ripe old age and any vintage leather you own can continue to have a long, happy life. Proper storage, cleaning, and conditioning will keep leather looking as good as new no matter how old it is.

Storing Leather
  • How leather is stored when it is not being used is very important. To keep it in its best condition, leather should not be stored in extreme hot or cold temperatures, or in excessive dryness or humidity. It also needs to be kept away from chemicals – whether in storage or when wearing.
  • Store leather clothes on a wide wooden or padded hanger to help maintain their shape.
  • If it is necessary to cover the leather whilst storing it, ensure that a breathable fabric, such as cotton is used. Do not cover leather clothing with plastic as it will cause the leather to dry out.
  • Avoid exposing leather garments to direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time.
  • It is important that leather does not become soiled, soaked or dried out, because whilst these can be rectified, it requires much more effort to do so.
  • Always stuff empty leather handbags with newspaper and use shoetrees when storing leather shoes and boots.

Cleaning leather
  • Keeping leather clean and conditioned only takes a few minutes, but it will make a big difference in how good it looks.
  • Dry cleaning is an effective and efficient way of cleaning leather.
  • Don’t let an item become too dirty before having it cleaned and point out any stains or ingrained soiling to the dry cleaner.
  • Dry cleaning can sometimes cause a change in the depth of colour of a garment as some dyes are soluble in dry-cleaning fluids. Deluxe cleaning by LEVINGERS DRY CLEANERS provides a much kinder way of cleaning leather than traditional dry cleaning processes using PERC.
  • Incorrect care or cleaning of leather can cause it to crack and dry out, as well as remove finishes or colours, or worse still, make it too stiff to wear.
  • Continual contact with moisture (sweat, rain, alcohol, etc.,) can cause the leather to stiffen, so ensure that these are cleaned off the leather regularly.

Stains and smells on leather
  • It is possible to remove most stains from leather even blood, oil and wax – speak to the professionals!
  • Leather likes to hold on to odours, however a leather specialist or dry cleaner should be able to remove the smell.

Repairing damage to your leather
  • If leather becomes scuffed the marks can often be disguised by applying a shoe polish/leather dye or marker pen.
  • Any broken stitching is best repaired with a heavy-duty sewing machine. LEVINGERS DRY CLEANERS provides professional leather cleaning and repair services.
  • Several types of leather require more specialised maintenance. If in doubt, have leather cleaned and maintained professionally.

Top Tips on caring for your woollens, cashmere & mohair knits

Cleaning jumpers
  • The best method of washing cashmere or wools is through dry cleaning. LEVINGERS DRY CLEANERS provides the gentlest way of doing this.
  • Handwashing wools and cashmere will cause a thickening of wool over time which will ultimately misshape your jumper to the point where it will no longer fit you.

Storing jumpers
  • Store jumpers folded on a shelf, rather than hanging on a hanger as the shoulders will become misshapen over time.
  • Ensure that the jumpers are dry before storing them – failing to do this can cause mould and provides a great environment for moth larvae to incubate.
  • Make sure you only store your jumpers clean – moth larvae feed from unseen proteins (hair, skin and residual perspiration) that are left on the garment.

Protecting jumpers from moths
  • Moths love cashmere, mohair and woollen jumpers – protect them in a wardrobe through use of natural moth repellents such as cedar balls and lavender oil sachets.
  • If you find that one jumper has succumbed to moth damage, it is likely that other jumpers in your wardrobe might follow suit. The best course of action is to dry clean all other jumpers immediately and vacuum the wardrobe to clear it of any eggs.
  • Sometimes moth damage is not noticed until after cleaning a garment as the process will remove the broken fibres caused by the larvae munching through the fabric.
  • From time to time shake out your jumpers to deter any moth larvae from settling.

Removing stains from jumpers
  • If you accidentally spill red wine (or anything else) on your jumper – do nothing! Instead take it to be dry cleaned as soon as you can. Rubbing or dabbing the stain will ingrain it further into the fibres making it harder to remove.

Think your coat is clean? Think Again!

  • Almost half of the nation clean their coats once a year or less.
  • Just one in ten people dry clean their winter outerwear the recommended once a month.
  • 13% would rather buy a new coat altogether than take theirs to be cleaned.

As the country braces itself for the winter, LEVINGERS DRY CLEANERS has revealed that almost half of the nation clean their coats once a year or less and more than one in ten of us prefer to buy a new coat than have a weathered one cleaned. Prem Bhaktawer, a Cleanologist at LEVINGERS DRY CLEANERS, gives us his top tips for keeping your outerwear in best condition come rain…or snow:

1. Macs and trench coats are the most versatile of coats, but with frequent wear comes marks and stains. Over time, the classic light, cream bonded cotton can become dull. If you spot a mark, blot it immediately with a damp sponge to lift dirt from the surface. Never rub or scratch the mark as this will ingrain it into the fabric weave.

2. Not only should a wool coat be kept clean, but much like your hair natural fibres need to be well groomed too. Brush your coat with a soft-bristle brush every other wear to keep the fibres in shape. This will also help dirt from bonding to the fabric.

3. Treat water marks with steam. If you’re caught in a downpour and your coat is splattered with rain marks, use the steam setting on your iron to gently evaporate any signs of residue. You can double up by taking creases out of the fabric as well.

4. Leather is robust, but needs to be looked after. The common mistake is to leave leather outerwear to dry by a radiator or other heat sources, but this can dry out the natural oils, which are crucial for keeping the surface supple and water repellent.

Five reasons to clean your wedding dress after the big day


For most brides, your wedding dress is the most expensive garment you have ever worn and that’s why it deserves the best treatment; after all it’s such a precious keepsake of your special day. With LEVINGERS DRY CLEANERS your wedding dress is professionally cleaned and hand finished by our expert team. Plus with LEVINGERS DRY CLEANERS it couldn’t be easier, all you need to do is bring the items in for a DELUXE service.

# 2

In a recent survey we found that 52% of brides choose to keep their wedding dress after their big day, stored in their wardrobe or loft. In order to prevent damage, fading and discolouration before storing your wedding dress it is important your dress is cleaned. The longer your dress is left with the remains of your wedding buffet, spills from the toasts and mud marks from your photographs, the more difficult they are to remove and the more damage they can do to the fabric of your dress.

We care for thousands of dresses every year, meaning we have experience delivering beautiful cleaning results working with specialist fabrics, dress construction and wedding dress accessories.

# 3

LEVINGERS DRY CLEANERS clean exclusively using DELUXE a gentle alternative to harsh chemicals used by other dry cleaners that is ideal for the delicate fabrics and detailing found on wedding dresses. Cleaning solutions used by other dry cleaners can remove anything from embellishments and sequins whilst vastly changing the shape of your dress and risking shrinkage.

# 4

Your dress gets the VIP treatment with LEVINGERS DELUXE Bridal. All our dresses enter our specialist wedding dress clean room where cleaning and finishing equipment is exclusively used for wedding dresses. Before cleaning, each wedding dress is taken into our UV chamber which highlights all the marks on your beloved dress, even ones that the naked eye can’t see. Champagne is a common culprit here, yellowing fabrics years later if it isn’t discovered and correctly cleaned.

# 5

Your wedding dress goes through it all on your wedding day, red wine spills, chocolate from your fondue and fake tan, of course the marks are memories but not something you want to see again. LEVINGERS DRY CLEANERS is the perfect solution to preserve your wedding dress, allowing you to treasure your memories of your big day for years to come.