Today many dry cleaners are advertising that they are eco-friendly. They have signs in their windows indicating that their business is environmentally sound. But is it really true ?
Let’s explore different methods of cleaning your garment :
Dry cleaning is the most popular cleaning technique. Unfortunately, most consumers know very little about how dry cleaning works. Dry cleaning is actually similar to home laundering. Your clothes are sorted according to color, stains are pre-treated and clothing is thrown into a washing/drying machine (called dry-to-dry). But while your washer uses soap and water, dry cleaning machines are filled with chemical solvent that can leave a pungent smell. And they don't clean clothes thoroughly - even dry cleaners must use water to remove water-based stains like sweat. These solvents can also cause serious damage.
About 90% of dry cleaners (in Quebec even more) use the chemical solvent called PERC
(perchloroethylene). Perc can damage the central nervous and reproductive systems,
according to recent studies by the United States EPA and the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health. Perc is also a suspected carcinogen. Workers and those
who live near dry cleaning plants are the most likely to experience perc-related health
problems. But millions more may be affected when their dry cleaned clothes release
perc into their homes, or when they are exposed to contaminated air or water. One of
the most prevalent contaminants in urban air, perc is designated a hazardous air pollutant
by the Federal government.
After the year 2000, in Canada, so called “perc emission free” machines can only be installed. The new machines reduce the perk emission to the level considered as “safe” but never to zero. So, they are safer for the workers in the cleaning store and for the neighbourhood. Yet, the perc remains in your clothing. And what about hundreds of old installations (not banned, yet), where cleaners use machines with perc emission highly exceeding the safe level? Still, many of these dry cleaners regard themselves as eco-friendly.
Another 10% (or less) of dry cleaners are using less poisonous chemical solvents:
- The petroleum-based solvents (i.e. Hydrocarbon), called “organic” solvents, are listed by the EPA as a neurotoxin and skin and eye irritant for workers. Plus they are explosive and highly flammable. Since they are less harmful then perc, the cleaners using them call this technology eco-cleaning.
- GreenEarth is the brand name for silicone-based chemical that has been used for a long time in personal care products. The name is “green” so obviously all cleaners using it consider themselves as eco-friendly. The most recent reports on this solvent are health concern issues (like uterine tumors). Clothes shrinkage is also a common problem with this technology.
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a new emerging technology that uses liquid carbon dioxide under high pressure – over 800 psi. It is very efficient as a cleaning method but extremely expensive (about 4 times more than the cost of dry cleaning machines above). CO2 has also many proven weaknesses as a cleaning solvent and there are huge concerns about safety of this technology.
Finally, the technology used by Nettoyeur Écologique Royal – the Professional Wet Cleaning or SMART Wet Cleaning.
This is solvent-free technology; it uses one of the most important things the Nature gave us – the water. Plus 100 per cent biodegradable organic soaps and state of the art washing, drying and finishing machines. No toxic ingredients at all. This is the only one and real Eco Cleaning.