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A Brief History of Dry Cleaning

Drycleaning dates back to ancient times, probably beginning with the advent of textile clothing itself. The ruins of Pompeii gives a record of a highly developed trade of *fullers* who were professional clothes cleaners. Lye and ammonia were used in early laundering, and a type of clay known as *fuller*s earth* was used to absorb soils and grease from clothing too delicate for laundering.

There are many stories about the origin of drycleaning, all centering on a surprise discovery when a petroleum-type fluid was accidentally spilled on a greasy fabric. It quickly evaporated and the stains were miraculously removed. The firm of Jolly-Belin, opening in Paris in the 1840s, is credited as the first drycleaning firm.

Solvents

In spite of the name, drycleaning is not completely dry. Fluids are used in the drycleaning process. In the early days, garment scourers and dryers found several fluids that could be used as drycleaning solvents, including camphene, benzene, kerosene, and gasoline. These fluids are all dangerously flammable, so drycleaning was a hazardous business until safer solvents were developed.

In the 1930s, percholoroethylene or *perc*(a nonflammable, synthetic solvent) was introduced and is used today in many drycleaning plants. Other cleaning solvents have been added, and still others are currently being tested.

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