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Dry Scouring

Before we had dry cleaning, we had dry scouring, a forerunner of the process that removes dirt and grease from clothing, and if you wear fancy clothes that would be destroyed by regular soap and water, then give praise to Thomas Jennings, its inventor. Jennings, considered the first African American man to receive a patent in the United States, patented his process (U.S. Patent 3306x) in 1821 (pre-Civil War for history buffs out there), which he was able to do because he was an emancipated man living in New York City.

At the time, dry scouring was used for woolen clothes, enabling them to maintain their shape, sheen, and new-looking appearance. Jennings created this system by tinkering with different chemical combinations when his clients complained that the fabric of their clothes was being ruined by the wash.

Jennings owned a large clothing shop in Lower Manhattan, which he opened after apprenticing under a tailor. With his earnings, he helped support the abolitionist movement and the first black-owned newspaper in America.

PopUP CleanUP is an African American and women-owned event and commercial cleaning business serving the greater Los Angeles area. We celebrate the many inventors and entrepreneurs who have inspired us along the way.

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