Dry Cleaning: Eco Options by Guest Blogger, December 30 2008, 0 Comments

Copyright: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

Regardless of the name, dry cleaning is not a dry process. In traditional methods, potent chemical solvents are used to remove stains from delicate fabrics, and these solvents can be toxic to your health and the environment.

The main solvent used by dry cleaners is called perchloroethylene, also known as perc or PCE. Though it does a good job of removing stains, PCE can have toxic effects on the kidneys, liver, lungs and especially the nervous system. Brief PCE exposure can cause eye, skin and respiratory irritation. Additionally, this chemical is a suspected carcinogen through oral exposure, which is particularly worrying since PCE often contaminates groundwater—many aquifers around the world have been contaminated by dry cleaning solvents at dangerous concentrations.

Also, beware of dry cleaners claiming to be ‘organic’ or ‘green’. These companies typically use petroleum-based chemicals, such as DF-2000, that have similar negative health and environmental implications.

Two new methods, however, offer clean clothing without the health and environmental hazards. Wet cleaning—not to be confused with normal household washing and drying—involves the use of water, very mild detergents and computer-operated washers and dryers. This process requires little water and no hazardous chemicals, produces no air pollution and no hazardous waste, and is suitable for nearly all delicate fabrics. A second alternative to dry cleaning is carbon dioxide (CO2) cleaning. In this method, liquid CO2 is created from CO2 gas captured from polluting factories and used along with detergents to clean clothing. The method not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but has no toxic effects and uses less energy than the typical process.

Consult The Cleaner Guide to find an EPA approved safer cleaner in your area.

Guest Blogger: Jessie Mee