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Keep It Clean: Green Dry Cleaning

APRIL 2, 2009

You've heard about dry cleaning sending loads of bad chemicals into the environment–but what are the alternatives?

Perchloroethylene (perc) is a toxic solvent commonly used in dry cleaning. It can contaminate the environment, and it’s been shown to cause cancer in lab rats–but up to 85% of dry cleaners use it.

Is organic better?
While dry cleaners may claim to use "organic" cleaning processes, beware. These contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) like petroleum, propane, and methane, that, while they are indeed organic, aren't much better for the environment than perc.

A better alternative
Professional wet cleaning is an aqueous process that uses water and biodegradable detergents, varying the pH for specific types of cloth.

The best
CO2 cleaning is a relatively new alternative that is slowly getting recognized as a safe, non-toxic cleaning method that won't leave harmful residues behind. The CO2 (liquid carbon dioxide solvent–it's used to decaffeinate coffee) cleaning process doesn't produce any new CO2, so it doesn't contribute to global warming–the CO2 used in alcohol fermentation processes is recycled for use in dry-cleaning.

Ecovian green city guide provides a helpful list of local green cleaners, and in New York City, Green Apple Cleaners has been making news for being the area’s only carbon dioxide (CO2) cleaner, one of only 32 in the country.