Everyone may not be familiar with the term wet cleaning, but I am confident everyone has done it.
Wet cleaning is just the professional term for washing. Outside the dry cleaning world, I have never heard it used and if I referred to it at my business my customers had no idea what I was talking about.
Washing clothes is something everyone has to do. Love it or despise it, it is a necessity.
Wet cleaning is a vital part of the dry cleaning industry. Over the last 10 years the wet cleaning demand has grown more than 50%. A couple of factors for the increase in my opinion is;
- busy two income families
- materials used in garments are washable
The introduction of blended fabrics and Lycra into the garments we wear created less of a need for dry cleaning because these garments now became almost wash and wear for the average individual. However, because the garments looked and felt like work wear, most customers continued to bring them for professional cleaning services. People are apprehensive about trusting their own laundry skills when it comes to pieces that they have spent a fair amount of money on. Understandable.
A cotton/polyester blended fabric offers the resiliency of low wrinkles and the comfort of a little give to make this combo a popular choice for work wear. The introduction of Lycra or elastic fibers to material and consumers were in love. These garments however, posed a challenge to professionals in dry cleaning. The elastic fibers of comfort were not friends to the PERC we were using as cleaning solvents back in the day (see my previous post for info on PERC). The fibers would melt and break down in the cleaning and over repeated cleanings, the once lovely, comfortable garment became limp and stretched out.
In comes the wet cleaning process for the elastic fiber clothing.
I found that by wet cleaning these garments, the elasticity remained taught, but shrinkage and wrinkles could be an issue in the most “stretchy” items. The trade off was the preservation of the fabric over time. The minor shrinkage and wrinkles were taken care of in the steam finishing process. A win win for the customer and the dry cleaner. The customer gets a professional cleaning and pressing, while the dry cleaner saves on costs.
The market for laundering men’s dress shirts remained constant and consistent and a good detergent is a dry cleaners best friend.
Not all laundry detergents are created equal.
I have used commercial soaps that come in 50 pound bags, I have made my own laundry soap, and I have used store bought liquid and powder soaps. Some liquid soaps were way too scented for commercial use, others were too diluted and not getting the job done.. In the end, my favorite was a store bought liquid soap that was a good balance of cleaning power and low scent. Not as cost effective as the 50 pound bag of commercial powder soap, but it was the best overall.