Many industries do not follow practices that minimize environmental damage. Unfortunately, traditional dry cleaning is no exception. Some aspects of traditional dry cleaning, such as the use of the Toxic Air Contaminant, perc (perchloroethylene) and lax standards governing practices are to blame. But times are changing.
Industry leaders have begun to recognize the impact their practices have on the environment and are altering them for the better. If you want to keep your clothes clean, there are safer alternatives today. The only responsibility you have as the consumer, is to make the right choice.
Perhaps the most problematic of traditional dry cleaning practices is the use of perc. Perc, or perchloroethylene, is a chlorinated hydrocarbon that is recognized as a Toxic Air Contaminant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If it is not safely disposed of following strict regulations, it has the potential of seriously contaminating the environment, depleting the stratospheric ozone layer and contributing to global warming. This substance can also cause health complications for those who come into contact with it, including headaches, dizziness, fatigue and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.
So why has it been used for so long?
Well, many dry cleaners still prefer to use perc because it has the ability to eliminate the soil and debris clinging to a garment's fibres gently and effectively. It is nonflammable, noncombustible, and can be reused and recycled. Modern technology has also created a "closed-loop" system, which prevents solvents from being released into the atmosphere during the cleaning process so that they may be disposed of in a less environmentally-damaging manner.
An Environmentally-Friendly Alternative: GreenEarth®
GreenEarth® is the brand name of a dry cleaning solution that is essentially a pure liquid silicone ( liquefied sand), considered to be both non-toxic and non-hazardous. This liquid silicone, known scientifically as decamethylpentacyclosiloxane, or D5, is safe for the environment and for your health. It's considered to be both non-toxic and non-hazardous. Since it simply degrades into sand (SiO2), water and carbon dioxide, it leaves no toxic residue if released into the atmosphere, making it safe for air, water and soil. Plus, it is so safe that it is a common ingredient in many skin care products, including shampoo and soap.
And it's not only environmentally sound - GreenEarth® is even considered to be a better fabric cleaner. Because liquid silicone is chemically inert, it does not interact with the textile fabric or dyes during the cleaning process - unlike typical dry cleaning solvents. This feature helps to eliminate problems associated with fabric wear or colour loss, shrinkage, and is far more gentle but just as effective (or even more so!) Furthermore, no lingering "dry clean" smell is left on your garments, since liquid silicone has no odour.
It's the perfect dry cleaning solution to processing delicate fabrics such as silks, leather and suede, as well as for dainty trims comprised of beads, sequins and specialty buttons. Fragile articles, particularly heirloom fabrics, respond excellently to GreenEarth®.
Environmentally responsible dry cleaners recycle almost everything. That's right. From used cleaning solvents to unclaimed garments and hangers to packaging, dry cleaners recycle and reuse just about everything. Here's how:
Dry Cleaning Solvents: Distillation, filtration and drying are performed on used solvents to prepare them for reuse. All impurities are removed to ensure that the next round of garments are exposed to the same pure solvents as the previous round. Drying garments emitting vapors from solvents are recaptured and condensed back to liquid form for reuse.
Unclaimed garments: Any garment or item left unclaimed by its owner is taken to charitable organizations and clothing banks. And it's not just one shirt - we're talking about the thousands of garments that go unclaimed annually, all donated to such programs as "Project Wear and Share," co-sponsored by Goodwill Industries and "Give a Coat, Share the Warmth." Unclaimed clothing, coats, comforters and blankets make a valuable difference to those in need. Dry cleaners also frequently participate in collecting clothing to be cleaned and repaired free of charge so that they may be donated to the less fortunate.
Hangers: Hangers can be recycled. Simply bring them back to your dry cleaner.
Packaging, such as polyethylene garment bags: Programs are available for dry cleaners who wish to recycle polyethylene garment bags. Customers may also contribute to the cause by removing all staples and tags attached to the bags and simply placing them into the special recycling bins that are provided at the dry cleaner's.
Because of our industry's high professional and ethical standards, we have always taken the lead in voluntary environmental compliance. We also support environmentally responsible legislation. For example, most drycleaners use proper methods to dispose of solvent residue and used filters, although only one-half of the industry is actually required to do so. In addition, the solvent used by most drycleaners for half a century does not contribute to smog formation, deplete the stratospheric ozone layer or contribute to global warming.