What is Dry Cleaning?
Many of us send our clothes for a dry clean but are we even aware of what this process actually is?
Dry cleaning is a process of washing a garment using a chemical solvent like Tetrachloroethene or Perchloroethylene. In this process the colour and texture is maintained better than conventional method of washing and it rarely causes shrinkage. Dry cleaning does keep clothes looking newer, longer.
The chemical Perchloroethylene or PERC is very hazardous to health. The International Agency for Research on Cancer,
has designated PERC as a probable human carcinogen. The most direct risk is to dry-cleaning workers, who may inhale the vapours or spill it on their skin while at work.
PERC has been the standard dry cleaning solvent for over 50 years because it is effective, easy to use and relatively inexpensive. But improper use, storage and disposal of PERC have resulted in widespread soil and groundwater contamination at dry cleaning sites. Studies show that long-term exposure can harm the liver, kidneys, central nervous system and the reproductive system.
There are a number of safer alternatives which are nontoxic and currently available in the market, such as professional wet cleaning, which uses water and special equipment that gently washes, dries and restores fabrics; or liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) cleaning, in which carbon dioxide is pressurised into a liquid solvent that safely cleans clothing. There is a trend towards a green dry cleaning alternative using liquid silicone, known as decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (D5).
D5 is a clear, odourless and non-toxic silicone based solvent (siloxane) considered to be both non-toxic and non-hazardous.
What can you do?
Ask your dry cleaner what kind of technology he uses and encourage them to choose the greenest option, professional wet cleaning. If your cleaner uses PERC, be sure to let your clothes air out before putting them in your closet. When buying new clothes, read the care labels and choose garments that can be machine washed or hand-washed.