Understanding Environmentally Friendly Dry Cleaning

Ogbo Godfrey

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Understanding Environmentally Friendly Dry Cleaning

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Understanding environmentally friendly dry cleaning is one of the surest ways to have a healthy and eco-friendly society. Hence, our discussion will centered around this today.

After the harmful effects of environmental toxins started to show up in all biosystems, humanity began making efforts to make our environment cleaner and we have been making progress ever since.

Efforts are being made to replace conventional toxic and hazardous products with organic products that cause little or no harm on the environment.

The dry-cleaning industry is not left out in this revolution. Hence the need to use environmentally friendly methods to clean clothes and other materials. 

We may have heard the word “dry cleaning” a lot or may have taken our clothes for dry cleaning but have we stopped to ponder the process that is involved in cleaning our wears? 

This blog post will look at the concept of dry cleaning and understanding environmentally friendly dry cleaning.

Environmentally Friendly Dry Cleaning

The Concept Of Dry Cleaning

It may surprise you to know that the clothes you take to a dry cleaner are never actually washed, and the process uses very little or no water. That’s why it’s called “dry” cleaning.

Behind the scenes, there are machines that are run by computers that uses a liquid solvent instead of water. This solvent evaporates much faster than water and is recirculated through filters as it cleans.

One of the main reasons to dry clean clothes is to protect them from shrinking. Clothes shrink because water makes the fibers in them swell, which causes fading and subsequent shrinking.

Dry cleaning is much easier on clothes than regular washing, and once they are clean, the clothes are steamed, pressed, and ready to be picked up by the owner.

But the most important question to ask is whether or not dry cleaning is bad for the environment. You might think “it should be fine” because no water is used, but the chemical that is used is called PERC (PERChloroethylene).

What is PERC (PERChloroethylene)

Perchloroethylene is a liquid solvent that is colourless, nonflammable and smells sweet like ether. It is often used as a dry-cleaning fluid.

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The Romans were the first people to use chemicals instead of water to clean their clothes. They started with the use of ammonia made from urine to clean their woollen togas. 

Environmentally Friendly Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning has changed over the years which lead to the use of perchloroethylene in the 1930s. This chemical became the most popular way to clean fabrics without water. About 65% of dry cleaners still use it as their main solvent.  

In the US alone, there are about 27,745 dry cleaning companies. That’s about 19,421 companies that pollute our air, our health, and our ecosystems.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PERC is bad for both your health and the environment. 

PERC leads to hazardous waste that pollutes the air, water, and soil, which harms animals and plants. Human health is also at risk.  PERC can make people more prone to cancer, lung diseases, and nerve damage.

In the 1990s, the US Environmental Protection Agency started to regulate dry cleaning chemicals and tried to get commercial cleaners to use safer, less harmful solvents. This led to the amendment of the Clean Air Act and it was called “green dry cleaning.”

By nature, PERC is difficult to break down, which means it will stay in the soil and turn into a vapour that won’t go away for a very long time.

What Is Environmentally Friendly Dry Cleaning?

If you have shirts, pants, or other clothes that require extra care from the dry cleaner, all hope is not lost. There is something called environmentally friendly or green dry cleaning, and it is much safer for our health and our environment.

The term “green dry cleaning” refers to any dry cleaning method that doesn’t use PERC. 

Wet cleaning, which is a gentler way to do laundry at home, is one method. There are three other green ways to clean that use traditional solvent models though not PERC. They use hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, and silicon cleaners.

Only two of the four alternative ways to clean that are available in the U.S. are really safe for people and our environment.  These include wet cleaning and carbon dioxide cleaning. So you need to ask your dry cleaner about the cleaning method they use.

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Methods Used By Green Dry Cleaners

The following below are the environmentally friendly dry cleaning methods. 

Environmentally Friendly Dry Cleaning


1. Wet Cleaning

With PWC (Professional Wet Cleaning), your clothes are gently washed in water with biodegradable soaps and a steam press.

This seems like how you would wash your clothes at home, but the detergents used are much gentler for your clothes, and the washers and dryers are computerized. This is thought to be one of the safest ways to have your clothes cleaned at a dry cleaner.

2. Liquid Carbon Dioxide Cleaning

CO2 is used in this method to clean your clothes. Pressurized CO2 will dissolve dirt, oil, and other stains from your clothes. CO2 is known to contribute to global warming, so this may not seem like the best choice, but liquid CO2 can be reused and can be captured as a byproduct of existing processes.

It has been said that this is the most eco-friendly way to dry clean clothes because it has the least effect on global warming.

3. DF-2000 Hydrocarbon Solvent

Some cleaners say that they are “green” because they use a “natural” solvent called DF-2000. This solvent is made from petroleum because it is a hydrocarbon. Concerns about the environment are raised by the production of these chemicals, especially greenhouse gases.

4. Silicon-Based Solvent

This method uses GreenEarth cleaning, which is basically liquid sand (SiO2) that replaces PERC. When the product is used up and thrown away, it can break down into water, sand, and carbon dioxide. This method is gentle on clothes, and it works best for delicate items like those with lace or sequins.

Environmentally Friendly Dry Cleaning

The Future Of Eco-Friendly Dry Cleaning

California is leading the way toward green dry cleaning by promising to stop using PERC by 2023,. The state helps cleaners who switch from PERC to CO2 or wet cleaning by giving them grants. other states are also considering similar laws.  

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Be on the look out for dry cleaners near you that use both wet cleaning and carbon dioxide cleaning to contribute your quota towards clean cleaning.


The best way to wash your clothes is at home, where you can choose what detergent to use, dry your clothes by hanging them up, and wash them in the setting you like.

There is a lot of waste in the dry cleaning business and those annoying plastic bags cannot be recycled. That is why you need to opt for environmentally friendly dry cleaning methods.

Ogbo Godfrey
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