Organic Dry Cleaning?
I dread my semi-annual trip to the dry cleaners. Unfortunately, it is inevitable, unless of course I unfashionably decide to live the rest of my life draped in garbage bags in order to deter ever fleck of dirt and every ounce of tomato sauce. Lately, while going on the dreaded task, I have noticed a new “green option” in dry cleaning, “organic dry cleaning”. It sounds environmentally friendly, but what does “organic dry cleaning” mean?
Organic is a word usually used to describe agricultural businesses based on a list of requirements by the FDA. To my knowledge we don’t farm or eat dry cleaning. Since there is no real standard for organic dry cleaning, the term organic refers to the non use of the chemical perchloroethylene, usually referred to as “perc”
“Perc” is the main solvent used in conventional dry cleaning. Perc has been studied by the EPA and deemed hazardous to human health. Use of perc is regulated through the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act . Many states, like California have plans to phase the use of perc in conventional dry cleaning all together.
There are 3 main organic perc-free dry cleaning options, patended “Green Earth Cleaning”, CO2 Cleaning, and Hydrocarbon Cleaning.
GreenEarth Cleaning, also known as D-5, uses a silicone based solvent which decomposes into silica, water, and small amounts of carbon dioxide. This is harmless to handlers using the product and the environment after it is disposed of but the process to manufacture it releases traces of the carcinogen dioxin.
CO2 Cleaning is the newest and most expensive form of perc-free dry cleaning. It involves machinery that converts CO2 from gas, to liquid for cleaning, then back to gas. CO2 cleaning keeps fabric chemical free. Because of its increased cost the adoption of this process has been slow.
Hydrocarbon cleaning is the oldest, and cheapest, alternative to perc cleaning. It uses a chemical very similar in chemical composition to perc but is less hazardous to the environment and workers. The chemical used for hydrocarbon cleaning is very volatile and can leave a smell on clothes.
Organic options are becoming more and more readily available at dry cleaners, but not all options are equal. Be sure to ask the dry cleaners what process they use before selecting your organic process.
Dry Cleaning via Shutterstock