Dry cleaning sounds innocuous enough. However you might have guessed from the overpowering smell in the shop or on your newly cleaned clothes that’s not quite the case. Here’s why you might want to choose a green dry cleaner from now on.
Harmful Dry Cleaning Chemicals
That strong dry cleaning smell is caused by the use of the chemical perchloroethylene, otherwise know as perc. It’s a toxic chemical, banned in some countries due to likely being a human carcinogen. Although it’s thought perc is released into the air in the room where you store your dry cleaning at home, that’s not the biggest risk. It’s mostly thought to be harmful to 1) dry cleaning workers and those living close by and 2) the environment.
Short term effects of contact with perc are symptoms like nausea, dizziness, headaches, respiratory and skin irritation. However longer term exposure is linked to various cancers. Those living close to dry cleaning facilities can be at risk since perc is an air pollutant too.
Green Dry Cleaning Methods
Apparently about 85% of dry cleaners use perc. Have a look for others who offer a more environmental sound method including wet cleaning and the trademarked Green Earth Cleaning.
Wet cleaning is gentle and doesn’t use solvents. Temperatures during the process are much lower and steam produced is used in other parts of the cleaning process. Both factors reducing environmental impact. Your clothes will probably feel nicer after this type of cleaning and a lot more of the process is done by hand. It’s also supposed to be much more effective on organic stains like sweat, taking away smells which perc doesn’t.
The Gentle Earth Method is more mechanical and uses silicone instead of petrochemical solvents. The silicone is made up of sand, water and carbon dioxide and is considered safe in the dry cleaning process. It isn’t regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency for this use and umpteen studies have confirmed its safety.
Other Environmentally Friendly Practises
Although plastic is the buzzword of the moment, you might want to consider the 3.5 million wire hangers that Americans throw away every year. When you find a dry cleaner who uses one of the above methods you might want to enquire about their other environmental practises.
Dry cleaners must go through huge amounts of plastic and hangers. Ask about their use of eco-friendly hangers and biodegradable poly bags or alternatives.
Wash it at Home
Also bear in mind that some clothes labelled as dry clean only may actually be ok to be washed in other ways. Allegedly manufacturers tend to only state one way of cleaning because they can be liable for damage. However consider whether you’d be happy to hand wash your clothing or use the delicates cycle on your machine. Much of the wet cleaning method above is done through machine washing that simulates hand washing.
Although perc has been recognised as hazardous for some time, it’s still very prevalent. Pubic demand is going to be a big factor in swaying dry cleaners to switch to other methods. If you live outside of London you may need to look a bit further afield to find an eco-friendly cleaner but it could be well worth your time to do so.
If you are in London, I’ve started compiling a list of green dry cleaners. Feel free to comment below with any you know of that I’ve missed.
Green Dry Cleaners in London
Click on the links below to find out more about these green dry cleaners in London and where they are located.
What’s your experience of green dry cleaners?
Have you used one before? Never realised it was an option? Can’t find one in your area? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @suzieyounguk