Adventures in Office Greening, Vol 1, Issue13
The Suit Makes the Man
85% of the 35,000 dry cleaning businesses in the U.S. still use the toxic solvent perchloroethylene (perc), which is known to cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and has been linked to reproductive problems, including miscarriage and infertility in men, as well as disorders of the central nervous system. The EPA and the International Agency for Research in Cancer have labeled perc a probable human carcinogen.
1) Don’t buy “dry clean only” garments (this is very difficult)
2) Wetcleaning, which is recommended by multiple “green” consumer advocacy groups including the Green Guide
3) On the legislative front, the California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to ban the purchase of new perc machines as of 2008 and to phase out the use of perc by 2023. At the national level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected a proposal in July 2007 to phase out all perc machines, choosing instead to phase them out only at dry cleaners in residential buildings. The Sierra Club has a pending federal court lawsuit against EPA over this.
Caveat emptor: as we have all noticed, it is very trendy to claim you are “green”, and some dry cleaners are labeling themselves as such while still using perc or other toxic solvents, so make sure you ask the vendor specifically if they are using wetcleaning technology.
- no chemical smell
- whiter whites
- easier to remove water-based stains
- some items come out cleaner
- significant environmental benefits
- no hazardous chemical use
- no air pollution
- no water or soil contamination
- may cause shrinkage or color change in some garments
- is more difficult to remove grease-based stains
- most cleaners charge more because of the increased labor in pressing and finishing
- increased use of water
OK to wetclean:
- wedding gowns
- beaded and sequined garments
Not OK to wetclean:
- some acetate linings and highly tailored garments
- antique satins
If you are really interested and want to read all about it, the EPA has an extensive article here.
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