It May Market Organic Alternatives, but Is Your Cleaner Really Greener?

In New York and around the country, dry-cleaning stores have increasingly sprouted signs reading “organic” or “green,” as environmentally conscious consumers look for alternatives to traditional dry cleaning and its use of the solvent perchloroethylene. Prolonged contact with that solvent, known as PCE or perc, has been linked in some studies to cancer and neurological troubles like vision problems, and its use is strictly regulated.

Government and environmental watchdogs say many cleaners are turning to methods that are only slightly less toxic than perc. The National Cleaners Association, a trade group, says some businesses are using the term “organic” in a blatantly misleading way — not in the sense of a chemical-free peach, but in the chemistry-class sense of containing carbon, the element found in all organic compounds, including perc.

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.

Cleaners who use wet cleaning say it does a better job of removing some stains than traditional dry cleaning — which, despite its name, is actually a wet method that immerses clothes in a liquid solvent.

The quality of wet cleaning “is comparable, and it should not cost any more,” said Peter Sinsheimer, director of the Pollution Prevention Center at Occidental College in Los Angeles, a leading source of research on issues related to garment care.

Most cleaners weaning themselves off perc have switched instead to a hydrocarbon solvent that acts in a way similar to perc. But Judith S. Schreiber, the chief scientist for the Environmental Protection Bureau of the New York State attorney general’s office, said the solvent, which is petroleum-based, was “a cleaned-up version of gasoline” and only slightly less toxic than perc.

To read the entire article refer to “It May Market Organic Alternatives, but Is Your Cleaner Really Greener?”    By MIREYA NAVARRO

Published: January 11, 2009

Karl Huie

Pacific Heights Cleaners

San Francisco, Sausalito

The First Dry Cleaners to be Certified Green By San Francisco Environment and

The Bay Area Green Business Program Marin County.

Other Articles of Interest:

Breast Cancer and the Relationship to Dry Cleaning Chemicals

The 2009 Francine Levien Activist is Karl Huie, Video

How To Eliminate Shrinkage During Washing

How to choose a dry cleaner

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