In 1821, Thomas Jennings was the first black person to receive a patent through the U.S. Patent Office, according to The Black Inventor Online Museum. He made history through his invention that he called a "dry-scouring method," which was the beginning of our present-day dry-cleaning method. Concerns about toxic dry-cleaning chemicals have prompted many people to use homemade stain removers using other solvents for dry cleaning their clothes.
The term "dry cleaning" is a little misleading. Although talc and French-chalk, which is a form of talc, are dry agents that have been used to clean clothes for centuries, professional dry cleaners use chemical solvents to clean clothes. Dry cleaning professionals spot-clean clothes by hand before placing them in machines that dry-agitate the clothes, in the absence of water. Perchloroethylene is the most commonly used chemical solvent in dry cleaning, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but it is a toxic chemical that has health risks.
Solvents are liquids in which substances (solutes) are dissolved. The resulting solution in the dry-cleaning process is used to clean clothes. Although water is a solvent in laundry detergents, it can distort fabrics or cause shrinkage. This is why other solvents must be used to clean some fabrics. Turpentine, kerosene and gasoline are petroleum products that can be used to clean clothes. Their obvious flammable properties and noxious fumes make them dangerous choices over other homemade solvent removers.
Although immersing clothes in water to clean them may adversely affect many fabrics, water can often be used as a solvent to make dilute solutions for dry cleaning. According to Eversave.com, make a solution of 1 part laundry detergent to 20 parts water and pour it into a spray bottle. Lightly spritz the solution onto clothing and blot with a clean cloth to remove stains. Slightly dampen a pillowcase and place treated clothes inside. Tumble in an unheated dryer for 20 minutes; remove clothes and hang to avoid wrinkles.
Vodka makes an effective solvent dry cleaner for fabrics, according to Teresa's Family Cleaning, a home and commercial cleaning service in Long Island. The alcohol in vodka kills bacteria, which cause odors, and removes stains, especially ink, paint, grass and vomit. Vodka cleans beaded garments that cannot be laundered in washing machines. "Reader's Digest" notes that vodka dabbed on glass or crystalline beads will make them shine. Other garments can be cleaned by saturating a soft cloth with vodka and pressing lightly into garments, concentrating on stained areas, or by spritzing garments with vodka and blotting with a soft cloth.
Victoria Lee Blackstone, Horticulturist, Master Gardener Course Instructor
Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist and a professional writer who has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, horticultural articles, and magazine and newspaper articles. After studying botany and microbiology at Clemson University, Blackstone was hired as a University of Georgia Master Gardener Coordinator. She is also a former mortgage acquisition specialist for Freddie Mac in Atlanta, GA.