Dry Cleaning Solvent. What is It Exactly?

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Throughout this guide, you’ll come across the words, “dry cleaning solvent” a lot. I often suggest this as a solution for removing stains from furniture upholstery, carpets, and other fabrics you cannot wash. But what exactly is dry cleaning solvent?

What is dry cleaning solvent?

That was the question facing Virginia when she contacted us earlier this week. Virginia wrote in and said; “I have come across the terms, “dry cleaning fluid,” “dry cleaning liquid” and “dry cleaning solvent” many times and I’m still unable to figure out what it is exactly. Why is dry cleaning solvent a liquid and how do I use it to remove stains?”

What is a Dry Cleaning Solvent?

A dry cleaning solvent can refer to a liquid, powder or spray. The expectation of most people is that dry cleaning products only come in the dry state, and are therefore surprised when they see that it is in the liquid state most of the time. The term “dry cleaning” simply means that there is no water in the product, but it can still be a liquid cleaner.

It is often used for cleaning fabrics and other materials that cannot be cleaned with water. These fabrics often include furniture upholstery, curtains, carpets and some garments.

Health Impact of Dry Cleaning Solvents

The chief constituent of most dry cleaning fluids is “Tetrachloroethylene” or “Perchloroethylene (“Perc”),” which is a petroleum product. You will find it in consumer products such as paint strippers and spot removers, which makes it an excellent stain remover.

Perc is a highly volatile but stable substance, and therefore, dry cleaning solvents evaporate quickly into the environment. The solvent is often toxic when you ingest enough of it. I, therefore, recommend that you wear a face mask anytime you want to clean with a dry cleaning fluid.

You should only use dry cleaning liquids in a well-ventilated room. Open windows and doors and turn on a fan in the room if you have one.

It’s not the friendliest cleaning substance, but sometimes it is your only option to get that stain out and clean your non-washable fabrics.

How to Remove Stains Using Dry Cleaning Solvent

Perchloroethylene is often used in degreasing products for the metal and auto industry. And because it is the main constituent of dry cleaning solvents, they are used mainly to remove greasy and oily stains from fabrics that cannot be washed.

If you get ink (oil based ink) stains in your fabrics, dry cleaning solvent is an excellent remover. We have an article on how to remove ink stains by the way if you need it.

If you’ve tried everything to get a stain out of your fabric or carpet or upholstery and nothing has worked, you can give dry cleaning solvent a try as your last option.

Always perform a spot test on a small inconspicuous area of the item before using dry cleaning fluid on any fabric or carpet. You want to make sure the solvent will not damage the material or decolorize it.

Instructions for Stain Removal with Dry Cleaning Solvent

Your upholstery furniture should have a tag on it that has the letter “S” written in isolation on it. If you see this, then it is safe to clean with dry cleaning solvent. If you are not sure, call the furniture shop or the furniture manufacturer for guidance.

Apply a small amount of the solvent to a dry, soft cloth or a cotton ball and use it to blot out the stain. You will often need to repeat the process several times, switching to a new spot on the cloth or using a new cotton ball, to get the stain out.

If you use dry cleaning solvent to remove stains from washable clothing, always rinse out the solvent before washing your clothes in the washer. If you need to remove stains from fabrics, check out our stain removal category. You might just find what you want, and we continue to add more guides every day.

When used to remove stains on carpets and other surfaces that cannot be washed, you don’t have to worry about rinsing it out. It evaporates quickly and so all you have to do is to make sure the room is well-ventilated and turn a fan on to speed up the drying process. Use a wet/dry vac to vacuum most of the liquid out if you have one.

Always use as little of the solvent as you can. Don’t soak the fabric or carpet with the solvent. Less is better when it comes to removing stains with this product.

Which Dry Cleaning Solvents Should I Use and Where Do I Buy Them?

As with any other commercial product, there are tons of dry cleaning liquid brands on the market. And as with any other commercial product, not all of them are up to the task. We have tried a few of these solvents and can recommend the best out of the lot. Check out a couple of them below. Look in the cleaning products aisle of your favorite department store for these products. To be honest, they are pretty difficult to find in stores. If you don’t find them, we have provided a link where you can purchase them online.

If you do not have dry cleaning fluid, you can use lighter fluid to dry cleaning. However, be very careful when using lighter fluid because it is highly flammable.

I hope this guide has been useful to you. If you have anything you’d like to add to this guide, make suggestions or give a few tips about dry cleaning solvent, please do so by leaving a comment below. I value everyone’s input.

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