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Good Question: How Does Dry Cleaning Work?

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Not everything we wear finds its way into the washing machine. Some of our clothes have to be dry cleaned. And for many, that means frequent trips to the local dry cleaner to have suits and blazers professionally treated.

And chances are pretty good you have no idea the journey your clothes embark upon at the dry cleaner.

“Between what happens when I leave them here and I come back and get them, I haven’t a clue,” one customer said.

That’s where Dave Nemec, the owner of St. Croix Cleaners and Treasured Garment Restoration, comes into play.

“We’ve got 20 locations throughout the east metro as well as downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. The business has been her for more than 100 years,” Nemec said.

Nemec says every item that gets dropped off, gets a bar code.

“It tells us the fabric, it tells us the brand name, the color, who owns it. We unbutton every button and check all the pockets twice,” Nemec said.

From there, 60 to 100 pounds of clothes at a time are put in the dry cleaning machine, where they’re treated with an eco-friendly solvent.

“It looks just like water but it’s not water, so they call it dry cleaning,” Nemec said.

The solvent actually dissolves salts and stains, which are then pushed out of the machine. The solvent is then recycled.

Each load takes more than an hour, and then clothes are inspected for stains like food, ink or magic markers.

Next, it’s off to the press, an area that is full of hot air and that’s a good thing. The hot air is pumped into pants to take care of wrinkles.

“The Legger” then presses the pants; “The Suzie” treats blouses and blazers.

Men’s shirts are washed, the cuffs and colors are tended to, and then they are pressed in a machine called “The Buck.”

About 4,000 articles of clothing are processed each day at St. Croix Cleaners, including rugs, Uggs, wedding gowns and theater costumes.

Finally, the clothes are sorted by their bar code on the roller coaster so they can find their way back home. It typically takes about two days for your clothes to be ready once you drop them off.

“It’s our last chance before the customer sees that garment to make sure we have got it just as good as it can be,” Nemec said.

St. Croix Cleaners actually has its own water tower. That helps them conserve about 2 million gallons of city water a year.

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