As the Holidays come around again, most of us will be pulling out our fancier dresses and suits, our wools and dry-clean “only” clothing. But did you know that most clothes (at least for us girls) that demand we only dry clean them, really don’t need anything more than gentle hand or machine washing? Granted, a good men’s wool suit can be hand washed, but handing it over to someone else to clean and press is so much easier. So, the questions are, “What can I wash at home?” and “If I’m going to dry clean, how can I do it sustainably?” The answers, thankfully, are quite easy:
Dry Cleaning – Some Facts, Do It Less, and Go With a Green Cleaner Instead
1. You know that sort of chemical smell or dry smell on your clothes after they’ve been dry cleaned? That’s perchloroethylene (perc) and it’s a known carcinogen.
2. All those clothes that say “Dry Clean Only”? Not so. Polyester is plastic. So is rayon. Silk is the oldest material out there. (Do you think the Chinese were dry cleaning silk during the Ming Dynasty?) Wool is infinitely hand-washable. Wash all of the above, by hand, in cold water with a very little soap. Don’t even think about putting in the dryer.
3. Dry cleaning isn’t really dry. In the perc method, your clothes are immersed in a chemical bath to clean them.
4. The new Green cleaners are not perfect, but they are better than the old dry perc cleaners; for you, for your kids, for your planet. They employ one of three other cleaning methods, using C02, silicone or hydrocarbons, as opposed to the aforementioned Perchloroethylene. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great step in the right direction.
For a more in depth analysis of conventional versus green cleaners, read this Wall Street Journal article by Gwendolyn Bounds.
No time for the whole article? Check out Gwendolyn’s recommendation for finding green cleaners in your neighborhood: “For now, the Web is the best bet for consumers hunting for a non-perc cleaner in their neighborhood. CO2 cleaners are listed at findco2.com, wet-cleaners at professionalwetcleaning.com and GreenEarth cleaners at greenearthcleaning.com. There’s also nodryclean.com, which lists various cleaners by method, and igreenclean.org.”
Your most green option is always to hand wash, but since that isn’t necessarily the easiest or most sensible choice, taking the extra time and effort to use a green dry cleaner not only makes your own lifestyle more sustainable, but sends a message both to your new green cleaner who’s got your business and to the old, perc-method cleaner who doesn’t.
Headline image © R. Steven Rainwater