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Green Living Guide

Eco-Friendly Dry Cleaning

by Michele Zipp on April 14, 2009 at 4:30 PM

green guide

eco-friendly dry cleaning

Photo by LelandsMommy

Tetrachloroethene, or perc as it is known, is a man-made chemical used in dry cleaning and it's a big culprit in the contamination of our water. Cleanup from spills has cost billions.

The more I learn about the dangers of dry cleaning, the more I want to spread the word about safer alternatives. I want photos like this one of an adorable kid in the green grass eating an apple to be able to be snapped for years and years to come.

So I'm sharing what I know with you.

About 80 percent of dry cleaners are still using perc, deemed a hazardous air-pollutant by the Clean Air Act and is a suspected cancer causing agent. There are perc spills more often than there should be...I googled it. It's a carcinogen. It's bad for us, our kids, the Earth.

I hand wash a lot of items that say "dry clean only," but there are some that must be dry cleaned.

What can we do? Get the conversation started.

I have a dry cleaner two doors down from my house. I pass the shop's fan blowing exhaust every day. I hold my breath every time. They offer a hanger recycling program (good start) and I'm going to talk to the owners about what methods (and chemicals) they use to clean. I'm hoping they are in the 20 percent that doesn't use perc. I'll let you know what I learn.

The Wall Street Journal featured a great piece on the best eco-friendly dry cleaners and how safe they are for the environment. It's not a simple answer.

They concluded that there are four alternative methods that are better than using perc and work just as well -- wet, CO2, hydrocarbon, and silicon-based cleaning. But some come with other red flags not as bad as perc, but not entirely the most green way to clean.

WSJ went to Peter Sinsheimer, director of the Pollution Prevention Center at Occidental College in Los Angeles who focuses on the garment-care industry, and asked for his thoughts on the matter.

Wet and CO2 cleaners got his highest marks.

The Professional Wet Cleaners may spell perc with a "k", but we're not judging them on spelling. They launder "dry clean only" garments with water and non-toxic solvents in a machine programmed to suit the needs of the fabric. Note: Some, not all, wet cleaners use perc or other toxic materials to clean, so you have to do your research with individual cleaners. Click here to find a wet cleaner near you.

The CO2 cleaning method compresses carbon dioxide gas into a liquid and mixes it with detergent to clean garments. The CO2 is converted back to a gas and off the fabric as it dries. Yes, it's a greenhouse gas, but it is technically recycled, so no new gas is created in this process. Sinsheimer does say that some cleaners using this method also use other chemicals, so as with wet cleaning, you have to check with the shop. Click here to find CO2 cleaners near you.

Green dry cleaning isn't easy to come by. But I'm going to seek out a professional who offers non-perc dry cleaning (if the one on my corner doesn't) and continue to hand wash when I can. 

What about you? Do you dry clean? Are there eco-friendly cleaners near your home?

 

Related: Simple Steps to Green Your Wardrobe

Filed Under: going green, green guide

Comments

2
  • lucin...
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    lucindamartinez

    April 14, 2009 at 8:23 PM

    There are a few eco-friendly cleaners near my home.  However, that is not what I intended to comment on.  My husband owns a drycleaners with a drycleaning machine that uses perc, as 90% in our area do.  Drycleaning is an industry that has very little profit margin after paying for supplies, labor, rent, and other operating costs.  Any suggestions on how these dry cleaning operators are to afford the new equipment?  We would love to be able to switch over, yet it is not at all possible for us financially. 


  • wooly
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    wooly

    April 15, 2009 at 5:07 AM

    I used a green dry cleaner and was not happy with the way my drapes came out.  They didn't have that funny  dry cleaqner smell, but they did look too clean either.


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