✔ Be aware of PERC – Perchloroethylene (PERC) is a synthetic, volatile organic compound (VOC) that poses a health risk to humans and a threat to the environment and is often used in dry cleaning. Minimal contact with PERC can cause dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, nausea, and skin and respiratory irritation. Prolonged PERC exposure has been linked to liver and kidney damage, and cancer. PERC is used in over 85% of commercial dry cleaners in the US. PERC alternatives are available in the market.
✔ Find a dry cleaner that uses the liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) method – During the liquid CO2 method, CO2 is put under high pressure to convert it into a liquid. As a liquid, it acts as a carrier of biodegradable soaps in much the same way as water does in a washing machine. Once the cycle is done, it turns back into a gas and is mostly reused.
✔ Ask your dry cleaners about their cleaning method – Below are some of the most common dry cleaning methods.
- Perchloroethylene (perc) – Perc is a synthetic, volatile organic compound (VOC) that poses a health risk to humans and a threat to the environment. If they are claiming to be ‘green’, but they use this method, they are definitely greenwashing.
- Liquid carbon dioxide – This is the greenest option available on the market today.
- Hydrocarbon cleaning – While being less toxic than perc, the hydrocarbon cleaning method is still not a green option. It uses a petroleum-based solvent which carries all the environmental concerns and toxicity of petroleum products.
- GreenEarth method – This method replaces perc with a silicone-based solvent called siloxane or D-5. D-5 degrades to sand, water, and carbon dioxide. It’s chemically inert, which means no chemicals mix with your clothes while they are being cleaned. However, there have been some concerns about its health effects. Initial research has led the EPA to note that it may be a carcinogen.
✔ Avoid dry cleaners that use Solvair machines – If a cleaner says it uses liquid CO2, ask if it does so with a Solvair machine. These machines replace perc with glycol ether as a solvent. This has been classified as a suspected toxin and a possible hormone disrupter by the EPA.
✔ Reduce the number of clothes you take to the cleaners – Probably the most effective way to reduce your dry cleaning-related environmental impact is to cut back on the number of pieces of clothing you need to have dry cleaned. For suits, be sure to hang them up as soon as you take them off. For sweaters, be sure to treat spots when they happen. Finally, if you wear a shirt or a pair of pants for a short period of time, consider hanging them up and wearing them again.
✔ Use “wet” dry cleaning – “Wet” dry cleaning (also called wet cleaning) is a professional nontoxic, zero-emission cleaning process that uses water as the solvent and biodegradable detergents. This option is safe for “dry clean only” items. Wetcleaning is effective for many materials including cotton, wool, silk, leather, suede, wedding gowns, highly decorated beads, and sequins.
✔ Don’t dry clean items that could be laundered – Often times, clothes do not require dry cleaning. Be sure to read the label on your clothes to make sure they say ‘Dry Clean Only’.
✔ Recycle your plastic dry cleaning bags – Recycle your plastic bags once they can no longer be reused. You may be able to put them out with your other curbside recycling, your local grocery store may have an in-store plastic recycling program, or you may be able to find a plastics recycling center near your home.
✔ Store your dry-cleaned clothes in a well-ventilated area – When you bring your dry cleaning home, be sure to take it out of its plastic bag. Then hang up your clothes in a well-ventilated area. This helps dissipate the gasses released from your clothes, which depending on the cleaning method, may be harmful.
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