Monday, January 12, 2009

"Dry Clean Only" -- what are my choices?

Thanks to Jacob for the link to this article in the New York Times.

Reporter Mireya Navarro explores green claims by dry cleaners, which, it turns out, are "not regulated at all". The usual solvent used in dry cleaning, perchloroethylene or perc, is linked to various nasty health problems, including cancer. The EPA has ordered "that perc be phased out in dry cleaners operating in residential buildings by 2020", which gives you some idea how great it is! The "green" cleaners are using other solvents which are not much better. There are no government standards for what makes dry cleaning "green", so once again the consumer if left to self-educate and beware. According to the article,

"The environmentally preferable choice for dry cleaning, experts say,
involves little more than water. In a process known as wet cleaning,
garments are washed with water and biodegradable detergents in
computerized machines that carefully control variables like agitation.
Most stains are water soluble, and most items labeled “dry clean
only” can be professionally wet cleaned without shrinkage or
damage, studies have found."

The Pollution Prevention Center at Occidental College has quite a bit of useful information on the topic.

And yes, you can hand wash that cashmere sweater in cold water and biodegradable detergent and it will be just fine. No wringing or twisting, though.

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