How Dry Cleaning Works

Industry Trends

The demand for environmentally safe products has increased in recent years as a result of government regulations and greater consumer awareness of environmental issues. Micell Technologies Inc. has developed a cleaning system, based on carbon dioxide (CO2) technology, that is an environmentally safe alternative to the traditional solvents.

Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring substance, and at room temperature it exists in the form of a gas. In solid form, it is known as dry ice. Liquid CO2 has a gas-like consistency and a low surface tension, allowing it to function as a very effective cleaning medium when combined with detergents.

Liquid carbon dioxide can exist at room temperature only if extra pressure (several atmospheres) is applied to it. Micell's Micare system uses a conventional rotating basket with a detergent system. The system uses a 60-pound (27-kg) capacity MICO2 machine that contains liquid CO2 under pressure. It is similar to front-load mechanical-action machines and features gentle wash and extract cycles. The big difference is a heavy pressure door and the pressure chamber around the machine.

A detergent system (containing patented cleaning agents) enhances the cleaning ability of the liquid CO2, allowing it to remove soil from the garments. After the cleaning cycle, the machine pulls the mixture of liquid CO2 and cleaning agents away from the clothes and then cleans and re-uses the solution. This process does not require heating the garments, and therefore is gentle to the fabric.

For more information on dry cleaning and related topics, check out the links below!

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links!

About the Author

Nate Marks has been in the dry-cleaning industry since 1940. He has served dry cleaning organizations on local, state, and national levels as an owner, operator, and allied tradesman. Nate says he feels privileged to have worked with many of the pioneers in the dry-cleaning industry and to participate in its growth.