Dry cleaning has been a long standing way of keeping your fine clothes in good shape. And it’s simple.
You take your clothes to the cleaner, drop them off and a few days later they’re returned nice and clean. It’s convenient to be sure. However, dry cleaning also has a profound impact on the environment.
#1 Dry Clean ing Extras Fill Landfills
Each piece of dry cleaning you pick up is hung on a nice hanger. Generally, those hangers end up in the garbage. Some dry cleaners give you a credit if you take them back and reuse them. However, most people forget to return them or just throw them away.
Additionally, all dry cleaning items come covered with plastic. This plastic gets tossed in the garbage and ends up in landfills. The end result is that there are a lot of hangers and plastic bags sitting around your local landfill.
The primary chemical used to for dry cleaning is Perchloroethylene. This toxic chemical is also known as tetrachloroethylene, perc, PCE, C2Cl4, Cl2C=CCl2, or tetrachloroethene. It’s used in more than 90% of the dry cleaners throughout the United States.
Perc is a petroleum byproduct and it is toxic to the environment. It’s colorless and clear so it’s not apparent when it ends up in our soil or water ways. Additionally, dry cleaners use chlorinated solvents, acetic acid, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and petroleum naptha to clean stains and for other dry cleaning processes. These chemicals are also toxins. The environment is contaminated to these toxins via air born exposure. It also ends up in our soil and waterways.
#3 Human Complications
PERC is a known animal carcinogen. International Association for Research on Cancer has deemed it a likely human carcinogen as well. Among women who work in dry cleaning, Perc has been studied and has been shown to cause:
* menstrual irregularities,
* fertility problems,
* spontaneous abortions
Perc found in drinking water has been shown to cause liver and kidney damage. Additionally, the other dry cleaning chemicals has been shown to cause:
* Central nervous system damage
* Liver and kidney damage
* Skin irritation
* Respiratory problems
* Loss of memory
* Eye, nose and throat irritation
Alternatives to Perc
While dry cleaning chemicals are quite toxic to both people and the environment, they’re not your only option. Many dry cleaners are now using more environmentally friendly methods. They include: wet cleaning and CO2 solvents.
You can also choose to not dry clean your clothing. Most “dry clean only” clothes can also be hand washed or steam cleaned. If you do dry clean your clothing make sure your cleaner uses an alternative to Perc. It’s better for your health and the environment.