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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Organic Dry Cleaning


By Dana D, Green Queen, CharlotteSmartyPants

I read a long time ago about conventional dry cleaning not being good for you. The solvent used is called perc, or perchloroethylene. It is known to cause symptoms such as headaches, confusion, nausea and skin, lung and eye irritations. Studies on laboratory animals indicate that high exposures can produce effects on the developing fetus. It is also a major air and water pollutant.

So I read all about this when I was pregnant with the boys. Of course, I became paranoid about the dry cleaning. No need to send my size XXL sweatpants to the cleaners! No really, I did start reading labels and tried to steer clear from dry clean-only clothes. It will save you money and it's better for you and the environment. I would even wash them in the hand wash cycle at home vs. taking the clothes to the dry cleaner. My husband wouldn't be able to forgo the cleaners so this seemed like a good solution for the time being. Of course, the "organic" dry cleaning did cost more than the conventional but not enough to deter me from going there.

Then probably a year or so later, I read that these "perc-free" cleaners were using unhealthy petroleum-derived substitutes such as DF-2000 and Eco Solv. These are potentially toxic and one called Green Earth has been linked to uterine cancer. I thought "come on!" This is ridiculous. So I called my "organic" cleaner and to my dismay they used DF2000. They were very reluctant to give up the information and wanted to know why I wanted to know. So I thought I might as well go back to our old cleaner which was way more convenient in location and less money. I felt like I had been scammed. It appears that the safe way to go is find a cleaner that uses liquid carbon dioxide which has no known risks and less pollution.

"Wet cleaning" is the best alternative. When handled appropriately, your cleaner should be able to clean fabrics such as wool and silk with water. There is a site http://www.findco2.com/that will find cleaners that use CO2. Unfortunately, there aren't many out there in North Carolina. It looks like we will continue to use our current dry cleaner but try to do as much at home as possible. I plan to ask next time if they are able to wet clean garments. I am not sure what the best answer is for my husband's work attire ....... I am hoping that maybe some of you entrepreneurs out there will seize this opportunity and start your own CO2 or wet cleaning business!! You can also urge your cleaners to make the switch. I guess I could try the old way and wash, iron and starch the shirts myself. Who am I kidding! I hate to iron and I honestly don't think I could find the time to do it.

Please visit the following site for more information on wet cleaning and to download a wallet guide - www.coopamerica.org/pubs/realmoney/articles/drycleaning.cfm

So be careful with all these companies jumping on the "green" bandwagon and question your organic cleaner. I would LOVE to hear if you find a place that does use the safer alternatives. In today's economy or any economy, it is wise to know if you are really paying for what you think you are getting. Oh, and on the recycling note. I always return our hangers to the cleaners for reuse. I have found that most places accept them instead of throwing in the trash.

2 comments:

Pam said...

Wet cleaning IS the best alternative, and cleaners are finding that it not only performs as well or better than traditional dry cleaning, but that it also is less expensive to operate. Go to http://www.turi.org/community/wet_cleaning to learn more!!

GreenEarth said...

GreenEarth was never linked to uterine cancer, that was a rumor started five years ago and it was absolutely false. There have been many different studies and regulatory bodies confirming that the GreenEarth process poses no risk to human health. Go to www.greenearthcleaning.com to learn more. GreenEarth is the only alternative solvent to openly share independent research and information about the safety of its materials and process.

Another thing to know, GreenEarth is not an organic process and that is a good thing. Dry cleaners who claim to be using organic methods are using petrochemicals--the term "organic" means something very different when it is used to describe chemicals rather than food. With chemicals, organic is used to describe something with a carbon backbone. Gasoline is organic but you wouldn't want to wash your clothes in it. From your dry cleaners point of view, GreenEarth is the best way to clean eco-friendly because the labor and equipment isn't expensive like it is with wet cleaning and CO2 systems.

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