Finding a Greener Dry Cleaner

If you’ve ever taken your clothes to a conventional dry cleaner, then you’ve likely taken them back home infused with cleaning chemicals.

The conventional dry cleaning method uses a liquid chemical solvent known as Perc (perchloroethylene), a synthetic volatile organic compound (VOC) identified by the EPA as a health and environmental hazard. According to the Clean Air Act, Perc has a bad rep as an air pollutant and a probable human carcinogen, as identified by California Prop 65 and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It easily absorbs into our bodies and it has been shown to contaminate groundwater, as well. While Perc was banned in the state of California in 2008, it is still used by the majority of dry cleaners across the country today.

The good news: today, you can find many alternative ways to clean “Dry Clean Only” garments safely, without risking your health (and the health of your home) or putting toxins into the environment.

Green Dry Cleaning Alternatives:

1. Wetter is Better

Wet cleaning uses biodegradable detergents and water in special machines. This process is energy and water efficient, plus it’s free of VOCs, and produces no hazardous waste or air pollution.

2. CO2 recycled

Liquid CO2, captured as a by-product from industrial processes, is mixed in a special machine with detergent. This process saves energy without generating new CO2, so there is minimal impact on global warming.

3. Do It Yourself

Instead of dropping your wardrobe off at the cleaners, consider hand washing washable clothing items with an eco-friendly laundry detergent. Check out these eco-friendly instructions from Care-2 and Ellen Sandbeck’s Green Housekeeping book, chapter 5 on Laundry. If the tag says “Dry Clean Only,” look for a truly eco-friendly dry cleaner in your area (see Tips below) or try the semi-green Dryel at-home, do-it-yourself dry cleaning kit, which contains water, biodegradable cleaning agents, fragrance, and preservatives.

Green Dry Cleaning Tips:

1.     Ask about your cleaner’s method

Those dry cleaners that say they are “Organic” and “Green” may still be using questionable chemicals. Used by numerous dry cleaners across the country, the popular Greenearth hydrocarbon method has received both positive and negative reviews, but the product itself (Siloxane D5) is a petroleum-based solvent—so it’s less toxic than Perc but it’s still a VOC (volatile organic compound) and may possibly be a carcinogen.

2.     Locate CO2 and Wet Cleaners

These alternative cleaners offer a great alternative to conventional dry cleaning. Wet cleaning uses uses special equipment and water-based and alternative cleaning solutions and systems to get your clothes clean in an environmentally friendly way. Liquid carbon dioxide cleaning (CO2 cleaning) is a carbon-neutral cleaning method that uses pressurized liquid CO2—in place of Perc—in combination with other cleaning agents to dissolve dirt, fats, and oils in the clothing. Here, a few links to help you locate both wet cleaners and CO2 cleaners across the country: