Wet Cleaning vs. Dry Cleaning: What Is the Difference?


Wet Cleaning vs. Dry Cleaning: What Is the Difference?

Wet Cleaning vs. Dry Cleaning: What Is the Difference?

When choosing whether to focus on wet or dry cleaning for your business, it’s essential to understand the difference between them. The primary method you use will depend on the services you provide and your cleaning demands. You will also need to ensure you have the right equipment in place. Read on to learn more about the difference between wet cleaning and dry cleaning.

What Is Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning is a misnomer because the operator still uses liquids in the process, just not water. Instead of water, dry cleaning uses a liquid solvent to clean clothing. This is because certain materials, such as wool, leather, and silk, can be damaged by raw water.

Although clothing does become wet in the process of dry cleaning, the liquid solvent used can be extracted so when the load finishes the garments can be pressed and finished to be ready for customer pick up. Detergents are commonly added to these solvents to help with soil removal, fresh scents, etc.

Because these solvents are generally considered hazardous, the solvent does not get drained and removed the way a typical washer does with dirtied water. The solvent is re-claimed via a filtering or still process in between wash baths. The contaminants that have been captured during the re-claim process are then disposed of separately at the expense of the operator. Regularly operators also must clean/replace filters used to re-claim their solvent as well as replace their solvent after extended use. The combination of re-claiming solvent, disposing of contaminants, and replacing solvent can have significant cost impact on a cleaning plant.

Once the “wash” step is complete via the dry-cleaning machine, the clothes are then pressed with specialist machinery. The cleaner uses steam to relax creases, improve pressing, and facilitate final cleaning by eliminating any leftover water-soluble chemicals and debris.

What Is Wet Cleaning

Rather than chemical solvents, wet cleaning employs water and biodegradable detergents that typically consist of rare plant oils that act to protect the core fibers of a garment from raw water. The combination of a small amount of water and the right additive safely cleans “dry-clean only” fabrics in a remarkably less expensive and environmentally safe manor.

Wet cleaning has several benefits over dry cleaning. For example, since the cleaning solution is water soluble and environmentally safe it can be drain through the plants water system. Unlike dry-cleaning solvents that require license and waste removal companies.

Also, since the operator uses new solution and new water each time, they don’t have the cost associated with servicing or replacing filters, utilities used to operate a still, and they are assured no cross contamination between loads.

The common assumption that prevents operators from stepping towards wet cleaning is that it can’t handle everything a dry-cleaning machine can. This debate continues to raise arguments in which both sides have solid points. But it always goes back and forth.

  • “You can’t do EVERYTHING in a wet-cleaning machine…”
    • “You also can’t do EVERYTHING in a dry-cleaning machine…”
  • “My load takes longer to finish after a wet-cleaning machine…”
    • “The cleaning cycle is much longer in a dry-cleaning machine…”

Here are some facts:

  1. The cost of a dry-cleaning machine is significantly more expensive than a wet-cleaning machine.
  2. The cost to operate a dry-cleaning machine is significantly more expensive than a wet-cleaning machine. (In many cases its over 60% more expensive)
  3. Not all wet-cleaning additives are the same. Several do NOT have the chemistry to safely clean delicate fibers like 100% silk, wool, or rayon. But some, like Harmony Cleaning System CAN with proper programing.
  4. Dry-cleaning machines are more effective at removing oil-based soils from garments.
  5. BOTH cleaning processes require proper sorting and finishing.

Hopefully, this has helped break down the difference between wet and dry cleaning. Wet cleaning is a relatively newer process compared to dry cleaning. Still, it can have a significant impact on your laundry services. Yamamoto offers high-quality wet cleaning machines for dry cleaners and other commercial industries. Feel free to contact us with any questions about our products.