Even when it comes to eco fashion, manufacturers are very keen to label clothes as “dry clean only” to protect themselves from any complains. The label is overused and often we all can use our best judgment to see which garments really need that special treatment.
Dry cleaning is expensive and can be quite nasty for the environment. Hangers, pins and plastic covers also produce a lot of waste
Dry cleaning is a cleaning process using an organic solvent rather than water. The solvent used is typically tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), abbreviated to “perc”. Last July the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft review stating that perc’s classification should be changed to “likely human carcinogen” from its current status in a grey area between “possible” and “probable” carcinogen. When poorly managed, disposal of conventional dry cleaning waste can leak into the soil and groundwater.
There are 4 main alternatives to dry cleaning:
:: Professional Wet Cleaning is regarded as an environmentally safe alternative to dry cleaning, wet-cleaning uses water as the solvent with a mild detergent.
:: Some argue that CO2 (carbon dioxide) cleaning process is better. Compressed CO2 turns into a clear and transparent liquid, which is a very effective yet gentle solvent for cleaning garments. The CO2 is collected and purified from CO2 present in the atmosphere. Approximately 98% of the CO2 used in this cleaning process is recovered for reuse, and all dirt removed from clothes is safely disposed of.
:: Green Earth dry cleaning process uses liquid silicone, a gentle solution made from silica (sand). This method is more widely available than the previous two. In the UK Johnsons Dry Cleaners use this process.
:: The fourth alternative to dry cleaning is to avoid it altogether. Choose clothes that are not labelled as “dry clean only”. If it is a must-have piece then use your best judgement as most fabric and garment can be hand washed with cold water instead.
So next time you are shopping think twice before buying clothes you know will need dry cleaning. Shop around for a more eco friendly dry cleaner and don’t forget to recycle those plastic covers, pins and hangers back to the shop.