2nd March 2023

The History of Drycleaning

Drycleaning (also written as ‘dry-cleaning’, or ‘dry cleaning’) is the cleaning of textiles and clothes with solvents other than water, and the first patent dates from 1821. Some fairly flammable, smelly and poisonous chemicals were used, but by the mid 1930s the industry was using tetrachloroethylene, which was safer, and it is still the most commonly used agent. It still can be hazardous, though, and must be used with care.

The Mercury (Hobart), 4th July 1891 page 1.

The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW), 3rd May 1907 page 14. Note that benzene is now known to be a carcinogen and a skin irritant, amongst other health concerns!!


Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW), 11th September 1933 page 3.

In 1942 war-time restrictions were placed by the government to conserve chemicals.

The West Australian (Perth), 14th July 1942 page 2.

What would be an “exceptional urgent case” for dry-cleaning?

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