I am looking for a job over the Christmas vacation and I have been talking to a number of places. The one that seems to be the best option is working for a dry cleaner in Paterson NJ. I did not realize that there were a lot of chemicals in use with that stuff though. In fact I really never thought too much about how a dry cleaning operation works. The definition says that you just use a solvent other than water and the one that is mentioned the most is called Perc by the people in the business, but it is a chemical called tetrachloroethylene most of the time. Of course the reason you use these methods is that the fabric can not stand up to machine washing and because it would be very difficult and very expensive for you to wash clothes by hand. The process is said to have began after some French guy’s maid spilled kerosene on a table cloth. I am guessing that the kerosene dissolved any dirt that was on it, but obviously that does not seem safe.
It was not safe and after the First World War the Industry switched to chlorinated solvents after a lot of fires caused by using gasoline based solvents for dry cleaning. The Perc is not flammable, but it was at one point classified as a carcinogen. They withdrew that tag on it , but I am not sure why it would be called a cancer causing substance if they did not have a solid foundation for thinking that. I do not understand if they actually do the dry cleaning at the store where you pick it up or not though. It seems like at least in part a lot of these places ship the clothes out to central plants.