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Is Dry Cleaning Bad for the Environment?

Learn if you have to avoid dry cleaning in order to be eco-friendly in this Howcast video featuring Alegre of Green and Greener.


Hi, Alegre from Ember Living. A number of you have asked if you have to avoid dry cleaning in order to be green. And I would like to say yes. Personally, because I personally try and avoid dry cleaning. There are some new technologies that are less toxic both for you and for the planet. The main carcinogen that you really want to avoid in traditional dry cleaning is perchloroethylene or 'perc' as it's known for short. This is what's commonly used.

It's a petroleum-based solvent and it's highly carcinogenic and it lingers on your clothes. So a lot of people, when they bring their dry cleaning home, they leave it in those plastic bags, and so that perc is just in there ready to get on your skin as soon as you put it on. So even though you're not doing the dry cleaning yourself, you're still exposing yourself to the toxic chemical. And the people who do the dry cleaning are really exposing themselves to this toxic chemical.

And the funny thing about dry cleaning is that it's actually not really dry. They call it dry cleaning because it doesn't use water, but literally what they're doing with your clothing is they're dipping it in this solvent in order to get the stains out. So there's two technologies that are much greener than using traditional dry cleaning. You can do what's called 'wet cleaning', which is basically a type of cleaning that uses water but they're much more careful with the garments to make sure that they don't lose their shape and everything. Or you can use carbon dioxide cleaning, which is a technology that tends to be a lot more expensive than wet cleaning or traditional dry cleaning.

Now there are a lot of companies out there who call themselves eco-friendly dry cleaners who use solvents besides perc, but it's not water and it's not carbon dioxide, and they are toxic. They're still toxic. They're not as toxic as perc, but they're still toxic. So I would avoid those. So, my tip is to go to a cleaner that uses wet cleaning or carbon dioxide, or best of all, maybe buy fewer clothes that need dry cleaning. Or even experiment with washing them yourselves. A lot of companies put the dry cleaning label on their clothes kind of as a way to, you know, CYA, with regards to 'Well if the clothes doesn't look the best, it's because you didn't take it to the dry cleaner'.

But the reality is, there's a lot of things, including wool, I actually wash all of my wool at home on a really gentle cycle or hand wash it, and it's fine. You just have to learn how to deal with your clothes. So I would personally recommend avoiding dry cleaning, but if you really have to dry clean and you want to do it in an eco-friendly way, then go to a company that does wet cleaning or uses carbon dioxide.

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