Milwaukee Edition
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Feed Feed

Healthier Dry Cleaning

Non-Toxic Ways to Lower Risks

tomas garcia/Shutterstock.com

Chemicals used in dry cleaning clothes have long been linked to health concerns for both people and the environment. Perchloroethylene (“perc” for short) is most commonly used in this process. Federal regulatory agencies have documented myriad negative effects from exposure to the petroleum-based solvent.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration links it to dizziness, blurred vision, loss of coordination and other nervous system effects, including memory loss. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls perc a likely human carcinogen “by all routes of exposure.” The EPA also warns that the chemical can leak into the ground, contaminating water supplies, and react in the air to form smog, which has been associated with respiratory effects.

Earthtalk.org suggests there are safer alternatives through products and processes used by independent “green” dry cleaners nationwide. These include a biodegradable liquid silicone—essentially liquefied sand—which doesn’t chemically react with fabric fibers. It’s safe to use on delicate garments like beads, lace, silk and cashmere, and won’t cause shrinkage. GreenEarthCleaning.com includes a store locator function.

Another good option is wet cleaning, whereby fabric is laundered in a computer-controlled washer and dryer that uses water—along with specialized soaps and conditioners instead of solvents—and spins its contents much more slowly than a typical home washing machine.

Because wet cleaning is free of hazardous volatile organic compounds like those in perc, it eliminates health and safety risks, as well as environmental hazards associated with traditional dry cleaning, according to GreenAmerica.org. As an added benefit, the equipment and operating costs are lower. While the biggest disadvantage to wet cleaning is that it produces waste water, it’s still a highly energy-efficient method.

Another method is liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) cleaning, in which some commercial cleaners use the pressurized gas in combination with other gentle cleaning agents to dissolve and remove dirt, fats and oils in clothing instead of using perc; or consider simply handwashing delicate clothes and fabrics in a mild, non-toxic detergent, and then hanging them outside to dry.


This article appears in the April 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Green Surfing

Ecosia, a German Internet search engine, has planted more than 52 million trees in the last 10 years by diverting its advertising revenue to funding new trees worldwide.

Aqua Breakthrough

Chinese scientists have used ultraviolet light and graphitic carbon nitride to purify two and a half gallons of water in one hour.

Far Out

The outermost region of the Earth’s atmosphere has been newly determined to reach out much farther than the moon.

Baby Balking

The U.S. birthrate has been falling steadily, partly because prospective parents are worried about the increased frequency and intensity of storm, drought and wildfires, as well as about growing geopolitical unrest and resource scarcity.

Revamping Recycling

China, a major importer of recycled waste, is rejecting shipments contaminated by greasy pizza boxes, polyethylene-lined disposable coffee cups, and plastics like yogurt cups and butter tubs.

Action Alert

The Cabin Air Safety Act seeks to protect airline passengers and crew from toxic fumes that can occur when engine exhaust, fuel fumes, de-icing fluids or ozone is sucked through jet engines into the aircraft cabin.

Hopper Stopper

Almost two million acres of California mountain habitat will remain a protected area for endangered frogs and toads after a federal court dismissed a cattlemen’s lawsuit challenging the designation.

Mold Matters

Toxic mold caused by heavy rains, leaky pipes, and high humidity can be removed with natural products like vinegar and tea tree oil, but extensive mold growth is best remediated by professionals using “green” cleaning methods.

3-D Meat

A researcher has developed a synthetic meat substitute using vegetable proteins that imitate protein complexes found in real meat and can be produced using a 3-D printer to mimic the texture of beef or chicken.

Treasures of Oz Celebrates 10 Years of Educational Eco-Tours

Treasures of Oz, an annual outing that allows participants to download a free passport to explore the natural highlights throughout Ozaukee County, celebrates its tenth year with another eco-tour filled with six treasure sites—all with an infusion of art.

Zilis Full-Spectrum Cannabidiol Products Now Available Locally

Zilis, a Texas-based maker of cannabidiol (CBD) tinctures and topicals, has expanded to the Milwaukee area.

New Lemon Line, Online Ordering Available at Simply Earth Market

Simply Earth Market, located in Bayshore Town Center, is now offering Lemon Line, a line of products made from their lemon essential oil.

Add your comment: