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History of Drycleaning

Professional garment care dates back to the days of Pompeii when early cleaners were
called "fullers."  They used lye and ammonia in early laundering and a type of clay called
"fuller's earth" to absorb soils and greases from clothing too delicate for laundering.

While 1690 is the first published reference to the use of turpentine for removing tar and varnish from fabrics, it wasn't until 1716 that turpentine began to be used regularly as a "drycleaner" for grease and oil stains to supplement wetcleaning processes.  Down through the ages, turpentine, a distillation of pine pitch, has had several names: oil of turpentine, spirits of turpentine, camphene, and "turps."

Even before organic solvent was used to clean garments by immersion methods, the cleaner of clothes was known as a "degraisseur", a degreaser of textiles able to remove grease and fat stains from cloth.  The French name for cleaner was teinturier-degraisseur (a dryer-degreaser).  "Degraisseur" was the common term applied to a master dryer who specialized in both dyeing and cleaning garments.

In the early 1900s, drycleaners began using spirits of turpentine, called "camphene," as a drycleaning solvent.  The firm, Jolly-Belin in Paris, France, is credited with spearheading the first successful use of spirits of turpentine as a commercial drycleaning solvent.  This discovery quickly spread to other countries on the continent and later to the British Isles, led by John Pullar and Sons in Perth, Scotland.  The new process became known as "French Cleaning," named for the earlier reputation and fame gained in France.  This term continues to be used today to imply that the process is special and requires highly skilled handwork.