Dry cleaning is not environmentally safe, but what options do you have when you have ‘dry clean only’ clothes? A lot of business attire and special occasion clothing is ‘dry clean only’. This creates a dilemma for many of us. Also, environmentally friendly is a bit of a misnomer in and of itself.
The industry refers to any dry cleaning that does not use the most common dry cleaning chemical of perchloroethylene to do the cleaning as environmentally friendly. Though, of the four common non-perchloroethylene methods only two are truly considered environmentally safe.
Typically dry cleaning is done with chemicals. These chemicals are still wet, but do not use water to do the cleaning. The common options that do not use perchloroethylene are silicon based cleaners, carbon dioxide, wet cleaning, and hydrocarbon. Though in reality only the wet cleaning and carbon dioxide options are considered to be truly environmentally safe.
Dry Cleaning with Liquid Carbon Dioxide:
This process uses often naturally occurring CO2. They place the carbon dioxide (CO2) under high pressure so that it it can work as both a detergent and solvent for the clothes. The non-toxic gas becomes a liquid under this pressure and it is then pumped into special machines holding the clothes. After the clothes complete their cleaning process, the CO2 is recaptured for using again.
Industry reports that less than 3% of the CO2 used is lost through this process so environmental impact is minimal. Though not entirely absent it is thought that this is likely the most environmentally safe option.
Dry Cleaning with the Wet Cleaning Method:
This method uses specially formulated detergents that are far more mild than those available for home use to clean these most delicate of clothing items. Though they go through a washing process very similar in appearance to those you see at home, these washers are computerized to minimize any wear and tear on the garment. Additionally, the articles are very carefully stain treated before and after the wet cleaning process to ensure their removal. This method is considered environmentally safe because there are no hazardous chemical usage, no air pollution or hazardous waste generation.