Have you ever got your suit back from the dry cleaners and your three-roll-two button suit became a three button? Or your trouser crease was off-center or not even pressed at all? Or worst of all your clothing was damaged or ruined? That’s why we advise our customers not to dry clean their clothing unless absolutely necessary.
However, we are still curious as to how clothing is laundered at a dry cleaner so that we can be assured our properly made clothing will be cleaned properly as well. So, we met with Bai Xiong Dry Cleaners and did the dirty work for you. We sat down with the three partners of this sino-Japanese managed and operated dry cleaning company and asked why it’s important to clean your garments, how they clean them and what they recommend for taking care of our suits including preventative care. They also left us with some tips on how to launder shirts and chinos at home and how to treat a stain.
Why is it important to dry clean?
BX: “If done right, dry cleaning will make your clothing last longer and can maintain the new appearance of clothing.”
If you spill something and get a stain on your clothing, it will be unsightly and dirty. Sweat inside your clothing can lead to malodor. Dust can also build up in the fibers and weaken the structural fibers and lead to deterioration.
BX: “The process of dry cleaning, wet cleaning or water cleaning will preserve your clothing’s longevity and keep it looking fresh and new.”
How does dry cleaning or wet cleaning help preserve your clothing’s longevity?
BX: “Dry cleaning is a process that uses oils to remove oil stains. Wet cleaning or water cleaning will remove water stains. If your suit has a food or oil stains, dry cleaning and spot cleaning will clean that. If it has been a long time since the last cleaning, there may be malodor from sweat or dust inside the fibers and in this case it will need a water or wet cleaning to remove the sweat and the dust. In some cases it may need both dry cleaning and wet (or water) cleaning. We call this double cleaning.”
How do we know if a garment should be dry cleaned, water washed or wet cleaned?
“All clothing has a care label sewn into the garment from the manufacturer. We will first look at this care label to see what the manufacturer suggestions are for cleaning it.”
“If it’s a bespoke garment, there probably won’t be a care label since it has been hand made by an artisan or isn’t mass manufactured. For these garments without a care label, we will take a closer look at the construction of the garment and the fabric. If there is fusing in a suit, it should not be dry cleaned, because the dry clean process removes oil, such as oil based glues used for fusing. If the garment is fully canvased, it can be dry cleaned or wet cleaned without a problem.”
“We will also take a close look at the fabric. Pure wool is generally easier to dry clean or wet clean, but blended fabrics with silk or linen require extra attention. We may recommend different methods based on the different composition of fabrics.”
The process of dry cleaning, water cleaning and wet cleaning explained
Dry cleaning is a process of cleaning garments with special detergents and oil, and does not use water. However, the dry cleaning machine itself looks like a large front loading washing machine and as it is turned on, it in fact looks like a washing machine with liquids swishing around inside. Sometimes chemicals are used, but Bai Xiong only uses eco-friendly dry cleaning methods that do not use harmful chemicals thus being better for you, the garment and the environment. We suggest you also ask your dry cleaner if they use eco-friendly detergents and non-hazardous chemicals. The detergents and oils will fight other oil stains such as food spills. The process of dry cleaning will not alter the shape of the clothing and is quite gentle and safe. This is commonly used for suits, wool or cashmere sweaters and coats. Some garments that can not be dry cleaned are suits with fusing since the dry cleaning process removes oil, causing the fuse to peel away. Yet another reason we do not use fusing in the making of our suits. Down coats should not be dry cleaned either since the down filling has natural oils.
Water cleaning is submerging a garment in water with controlled temperatures with detergent to wash water stains, such as beverages spilled on the garment, sweat and dirt or dust. The process of water washing can be done at home in a standard washing machine, dry cleans will also use the same procedure to wash garments that require water washing.
Garments that can be water washed are usually your basics such as cotton shirts or pants, undergarments, sportswear and sometimes down coats.
Wet cleaning is a process that Bai Xiong didn’t allow us to shoot for our video and called their process a “company secret” that differentiates them from other dry cleaners. In typical fashion like a chef guards his recipes, they guard their methods of wet cleaning. However, they explained it to me.
BX: “Nowadays, a lot of luxury garments have a ‘W’ on the care label which means wet clean. Wet cleaning is different from water cleaning because wet cleaning will soak the entire garment, but not submerge it, and gently remove the stains, dust and sweat. This process is done one by one where the garment is first inspected, then hung or laid flat, and then using a water gun, brush and light detergents, is cleaned by hand. This process works great for suits, because it gets the sweat and dust out. You should see the color of the water when we clean a garment that hasn’t been washed in a while. Beijing is full of dust and you can see it in the clouded water when we wash the garment.”
BX: “For our water washing technique, the water is very important. All of the water we use is first run through a water softener machine—soft water is key to a good wash. During the washing cycle, it is also important to rinse. If people wash at home, they probably use too much detergent and don’t rinse enough—home machines can be set on a double or sometimes triple rinse cycle, which is what I recommend.”
BX on Water and Wet cleaning
BX: “Water and wet cleaning are the best methods for cleaning a garment, but it is also the most difficult. Think about washing the dishes after dinner, if you use hot water it is easy to wash the dishes, but if you use cold water, it’s more difficult. Clothing made with natural fibers which consist of proteins are afraid of hot water, and will shrink, or drastically change shape of the fibers. So, when wet washing or water washing suits, we need to pay particular attention to the temperature of the water. Since dry cleaning won’t remove sweat or dust, we also need to apply wet washing to suits in order to clean the dust or sweat out. This is a difficult process because water causes garments to change shape. So before we wet wash a garment, we will take all of the measurements of the garment and after washing, drying and pressing back into shape, we will check the measurements for quality control.”
Spot Cleaning can be applied to garments in all cases of water, wet or dry cleaning in order to help remove stains. Spot cleaning is done by hand, and focuses on a specific area and cleans the stain by applying a mixture of air pressure, water and detergent to clean out stains while also blow drying the area to keep the fabrics dry. After a spot clean, the garment will then go on to the main method of cleaning: dry, water or wet cleaning.
Ironing is done in all cases of cleaning in order to give the shape back to the garment. Dry cleaning maintains the overall shape of a garment so pressing a suit after ironing isn’t too difficult. However, after a water wash or wet wash, a garment will lose its shape and need to be pressed carefully back into shape.
Recommendations for taking care of your clothing
We asked Baixiong what they recommended for caring for our clothing and ultimately, it depends since each garment and each circumstance is different. We will break it down for you.
Preventative care is most important for your suits. Try not to wear the same suit day in and day out. It’s best to have a rotation in your suits. If you wear the same suit two or three days in a row, you are putting extended stress on the fabric fibers, stretching them out of shape and making them weak. The heat and moisture from your body will also be absorbed into the clothing, and if the micro bacteria doesn’t dry out, it could cause malodor and growth of more bacteria. Try to wear a suit just once a week if possible.
Bacteria will grow happily on wool if there is something on it to eat, such as dust and dirt. Wool and our body oils are actually made of different types of molecules—polar and non polar—so the two types can’t mix. Wool is oleophobic so it actually repels body oils. What will happen is when you air out your suit and let it dry after a wear, the bacterias will break down and die or fall off the wool garment—as long as there isn’t a host or food source on the garment. [Science Daily, September 2014]
After you wear your suit, it’s important to let it hang in a ventilated area, especially if you were hot and there could be some moisture in the suit from sweat. It needs to dry before being stored away in your wardrobe. It’s also a good idea to brush your suit to get out any dust or dirt, which is food for bacteria. A brush made with soft natural horse hair or boar hair should suffice.
BX: “We also recommend at the end of each season, take out your suits from the closet and air them out for a few days before storing them away. Likewise, when you take out your clothing that was stored away for the changing season, let them air out as well.”
At The Cleaners
“We will usually ask when was the last time you cleaned your garment, and if it has been a while—over 6 months—and you tend to wear it frequently, we will suggest a double wash and spot clean. Meaning we will first spot clean stains, then wet wash it to get out the accumulated dust and sweat, then press it and then dry clean it and give it a final press.”
“If you cleaned your suit recently, a spot clean and dry clean should be enough.”
I spilled food on my suit, what should I do?
BX: “Do not try to rub out the stain or use water to remove it. We also don’t recommend using stain stick removers since they can cause discoloration. You can use an absorbent rag or tissue to dab the stain and try to absorb any oils before your clothing absorbs them. Then, take it to the dry cleaners sooner rather than later.”
I don’t see any stains on my suit but it’s been a while, do I need to clean it?
If you don’t see any stains and doesn’t have any odor, then there is no need to take it to the cleaners. Just continue wearing it and use preventative cleaning measures such as not wearing it more than two days in a row, let it air out after wearing on a hanger, and give it a brush with your horse hair brush to get any dust out of it.
If you think your suit needs a press and it’s a PRINCIPLE M suit, bring it to us next time you are in the area and we will press it for you at the shop. Check out this link for a tutorial on pressing your trousers.
How Should I Clean My Cotton Shirts?
Throw it in a garment laundering bag and chuck it in the washing machine with similar color clothing, use 30 degree water, normal detergent and fabric softener if desired and at least 2 rinse cycles. (Don’t use fabric softener with linen shirts). Hang dry the shirt on a hanger and then iron your shirt when it’s almost dry. Do not use a dryer machine.
You can also send your shirts to the dry cleaners but the method will be more or less the same as if you do at home. It just might be more convenient for you. Silk shirts or wool shirts should be sent to the dry cleaners or hand washed.
How should I clean my trousers?
Any trousers with wool composition should be sent to the dry cleaners.
Cotton trousers or Chinos can be washed at home. Just throw them in a garment laundry bag, and into the washing machine with similar color clothing with 30c degree water and detergent with two rinse cycles. Hang dry them and then press them before fully dried. Do not use a dryer machine.
If you have any questions about clothing care, message us or ask your desired dry cleaners.
After visiting Bai Xiong Dry Cleaners and seeing them clean a few of my suits, I feel confident in their abilities to carefully clean clothing and restore it to its original state. They have gotten smeared chocolate cake out of a linen suit, coffee or wine stains—I couldn’t tell what it was that splashed—from a light beige wool suit and other spots and stains from my clothing.
I’d recommend wearing your clothing and enjoying them without being overly worried. Just take preventative care measures and rest assured that if you ever get a bad stain, I’m pretty sure it can be cleaned.
We have high standards for our clothing quality and design, which is why we strive to work with other brands and services that have equally high standards in order to satisfy our needs and our customer’s needs.
Special thanks to Kiyama Hironobu, Goto Shigeo & Ding Min for their expertise on cleaning garments and sharing with us. They opened Bai Xiong first in 2015 after they couldn’t find a decent cleaners in town. Since then they have opened 15 shops in China and have their own cleaning facility in Beijing.