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How Do Dry Cleaners Clean Clothes Without Water? What’s the Process?

Dry cleaning is essentially a fabric-cleaning procedure that uses little or no water. Learn how dry cleaning definitely works on tough stains!

A blue shirt with a hanger dry cleaned.

Dry cleaning, contrary to its name, is not truly dry cleaning. It’s basically a method of cleaning fabrics that require little or no use of water. The fabrics are typically cleaned using a chemical solvent.

In contrast to washing machines, which use water to permeate the fibers that your clothes are made from, dry cleaning just cleans the surface of the fabric.

Therefore, while it is true that dry cleaning gets the fabrics wet, this is not due to the use of water. The dry-cleaning chemicals that are used wet the garments as they’re being cleaned.

The word “dry cleaning” refers to the fact that, contrary to water-based cleaning, dry-cleaning chemicals do not enter garment fibers, thus the name.

Dry cleaners are often used to clean fabrics that would not be able to resist the demands of a conventional home washing machine and dryer. Dry cleaning is a method that helps to retain the attractive features of fabrics while also ensuring that they do not shrink or stretch.

Furthermore, when compared to hand washing, it’s a simple procedure that takes less time.

The Dry Cleaning Process

A man ironing the dry cleaned clothes.

As soon as you bring your materials to the cleaners, the cleaners follow a specific routine that can be found at almost every dry-cleaning establishment. The following processes are performed on your clothes:

Tagging and inspecting

An identification method in which tags or labels printed on a shirt or collar is used to identify the fabrics to guarantee they are not mixed up with those of other fabrics.

Your garments will then be checked for any tears or missing buttons by the dry cleaners throughout this phase as well.

They also keep a record of the date on which your garments are dropped off, and an invoice is issued by the cleaners. This includes all of the details about the order and the client, such as your name, address, as well as phone number, among other details.

Garments that need the treatment of tough stains, such as red wine stains are labeled with special tags. 


After your clothes have been inspected and tagged, they will undergo a pre-spotting process. During this process, a chemical solvent or heat is applied to your fabrics, which helps in the removal of stains during the dry cleaning process.

The Dry Cleaning Process

After pre-spotting, your clothes are put in a machine and immersed in a non-water-based solvent. This is done to get rid of stains.

After that, the fabrics are spun in a perforated cylinder, where the cleaning solvent is dispensed in a consistent quantity during the whole cleaning procedure.

From then, the machine swiftly spins the garments to remove any surplus solvent before releasing warm air. 

The process is repeated many times. By the time your garments are removed from the drier, they should be completely dry.

Once your garments have been cleaned, your cleaners will check the clothes for any leftover stains or residues and clean them using the same procedure that they used throughout the cleaning process before spotting. 

What are some home-based alternatives?

A blue blouse dry-cleaned at home.

After reading through the previous section, you’re probably convinced that there’s no way you could replicate the complicated dry cleaning process at home. In a sense, you’re right.

Because while there are several alternatives to dry cleaning, including hand-washing, they don’t exactly work like dry-cleaning in the usual sense. 

Hand washing is by far the gentlest and most effective method (aside from dry cleaning) of cleaning and keeping fragile fabrics intact. 

Now, it isn’t always possible to hand wash clothes that are intended for dry cleaning exclusively, but it is doable in certain instances. There are gentle, environmentally friendly detergents commercially available that may be used to clean such garments. 

Green dry cleaning refers to any dry cleaning method that does not involve using perc, a liquid chemical used for commercial degreasing and deodorizing to clean fabrics without shrinkage or fading.

You just need to ensure that you are gentle when washing such clothes and be cautious. Whatever you do, never wash and dry these types of delicate clothes in a washing machine.

When it comes to drying, we recommend air drying rather than using a machine drier, especially if you want to preserve your clothes. 

The Final Step

Once the whole dry cleaning process is over, the fabrics are steamed, pressed, or ironed so that by the time you receive them, they look brand-new. During this phase, steam is applied to the garment to soften it.

The fabrics are re-shaped after the steam has been applied, and the steam is then removed using either air or vacuum. Finally, pressure is applied to the garment from the pressing machine’s head to complete the process. 


Dry cleaners clean garments using a method known as dry cleaning, which involves the use of chemicals that contain little or no water. The solvent used in the cleaning process is a liquid, and all clothing is soaked in it before being cleaned. 

Because there is no water present, the procedure is referred to as “dry.” Generally, dry cleaners use this procedure for clothes that cannot be cleaned with water or that have difficult stains on them.

Simply put, dry cleaning is an industrial-strength cleaning process that cannot be done at home in a standard washing machine.

You would have to hand-wash and air-dry your clothes to achieve anything close to the result you would get with dry-cleaning.