Eco Friendly Dry Cleaning


Environmentally friendly dry cleaning does not roll of the tongue easily, and many companies are working hard to become a green dry clean service. People are tired of bringing home clothes that smell like chemicals and wondering if they will get a rash or something worse. The old standard method of using the petroleum based solvent, Perchloroethylene (Perc), is on the way out and new methods of green dry cleaning are coming to the forefront.

Perc is a wet method of dry cleaning that requires special storage and containment due to its hazardous characteristics. Perc is amazing at cleaning delicate clothing like silk, cashmere, and wool without damaging the textile. However, Perc leaves behind a slug in the machines and a solution that must be handled as a hazardous material and removed safely from the sight. During dry cleaning, employees are at the risk of inhaling perc vapors that can cause health hazards like dizziness, drowsiness, loss of coordination and/or blistering of the skin due to contact with the product.

Care needs to be taken when choosing a business claiming to do organic dry cleaning, because Perc is technically organic because it is made from petroleum. Organic does not always mean non-toxic dry cleaning. When organizations around the world recommend that freshly dry cleaned clothing from Perc businesses need to be aired out in a non-habitable area, it is time to find another solution.

Enter Heroes or Villians?

There are new methods coming into the arena that are environmentally dry cleaning conscious. Carbon dioxide (CO2), SytemK4, Hydrocarbons, and silicone based solvents are becoming the acceptable alternative to Perc cleaning. Each method has their own way of beating Perc environmentally, but the question remains if they can meet its cleaning ability.

Carbon Dioxide: CO2 requires purchasing new green dry cleaning equipment, since it is not compatible with conventional machines. In this method, CO2 is stored as a gas, then compressed back into a liquid and mixed with a cleaning solvent. Once the clothes are washed, the CO2 is then changed back to a gas, drying the clothes. CO2 is not toxic, but has been found to not clean overly soiled clothing as well as other methods, although it is excellent at removing odors and soot.

SystemK4: Acetal based cleaning that is biodegradable, tested for dermatological safety and rated with the best score of “very good” non-irritant. It is designed in such a way that, when properly used, it does not pose a risk to air, water, human beings and soil. This system reduces energy consumption, waste creation and has six times solvent efficiency compared to Perc. With over 100 machines in operation in the U.S.A. since its launch in the Fall of 2011 this is becoming the solution consumers and professional drycleaners have been seeking. With a low environmental profile and superior cleaning capabilities this may very well be the way of the future for professional drycleaners.

Hydrocarbons: Hydrocarbon based cleaning is another petroleum based solvent. Hydrocarbons still have a flammable capability, and require longer wash periods. This method is most similar to Perc and can be used in the same machines. Being petroleum based, hydrocarbon solvents still emit volatile organic products.

Silicone: Silicone based cleaning is odorless, colorless and many agreed it is environmentally friendly dry cleaning method in professional businesses. Silicones do require new green dry cleaning equipment. Silicones handle textiles more gently and do not produce a hazardous by-product. However, some scientists state that studies have shown the silicone based cleaner can cause specific types of cancer. The one fact dropped from many articles on the subject was that the amounts used in the study were much higher than would be encountered in daily use at the dry cleaning business, or in the home of the consumer.

Wet Cleaning: Water is safest of all the processes. Under precisely controlled temperature and water level conditions “dry clean only” clothes can be washed using water. Environmentally friendly cleaning agents are used in the process. Depending on type of fabric, the motion of water is regulated. Similar care is taken during the drying process to prevent the shrinking of clothes. Wet cleaning is the safest for consumer and environmental health. However, many dry cleaners are reluctant to start the process because it requires professional understanding to clean without ruining the clothes using wet cleaning.

DYI Saves the World
With today’s advancing in washer machine technology, many dry clean only clothing can actually be cleaned in a home washing machine. The gentle cycle must be used and a gentle soap is a must, some fabrics fair well with a homemakers touch. However, care does need to be taken because although home cleaning may be budget and environmentally friendly, heavily soiled clothing as well as those special items may only get clean with a professional’s touch. It should also be noted that many of the truly environmentally friendly cleaners produce a smaller footprint on the environment. Many have specialized machines and water systems that reuce their consumption of energy and water as well as offer pick up and delivery in efficient vehicles to reduce the amount of trips you need to make to the cleaners.thus reducing your overall footprint.

Knowledge is Always the Key
As the debate for green dry cleaning rages on, even more consumers are wondering why there needs to even be a need for dry cleaning services. If people simply stop purchasing items that require the special services that involve the complexity of dry cleaning, this would be the most effect method of saving the environment. Whether you purchase clothes that need to be dry cleaned at home or professionally, the answer is clear; if you care about the environment research the company you are going to use and make sure that they truly are using environmentally friendly dry cleaning. Never assume that a pretty face can work magic without there being something else happening behind the curtain.

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