Modern dry cleaning was invented by two men in the mid-19th century: a Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Jolly, and an American, Thomas Jennings. Though their discoveries occurred independently of each other, they both used various chemical solvents to improve upon the cleaning practices of the day.
Jolly's discovery occurred around 1855 when kerosene spilled on a dirty table cloth, and the fabric became cleaner afterwards. He marketed this technique to others as "nettoyage à sec" (dry cleaning).
Jennings, thought to be the first African American to receive a patent in 1820, worked as a tailor and experimented with various solvents until he found a combination that preserved clothing while ridding it of stains. His invention was known as "dry-scouring."