Most people don’t have any idea how toxic it is to dry clean their clothes. The primary concern is a deadly liquid used by 85% of the professional dry cleaners called perc (perchloroethylene).
The process of dry cleaning uses liquid solvents to remove stains, perc being the most common solvent used. Sometimes a small amount of water is added in the cleaning process as well. Now this contaminated water becomes a toxic waste disposal issue. Filters are used to separate the solvent from the water so the solvent can be reused. The filters then must be disposed as a hazardous material, either to be incinerated or recycled.
Perc is suspected to be cancer causing. It is very toxic and is classified as an air and water pollutant. And get this… its disposal is regulated as a hazardous waste. Now stop and think for a moment… This hazardous waste is next to your skin and emitting fumes that you are inhaling the entire time you wear the garment. Consider the repercussions to your skin, sinuses and respiratory system!
You know that “dry clean smell” when you take your clothes into the shop to be “cleaned”? That vapor in the air is the culprit perc. This vapor is released into the atmosphere when the clothes are transferred from the washer to the dryer, not to mention the venting of the dryer exhaust airstream to the outside. This is a grave health concern to neighbors!! The EPA is phasing in requirements for toxic control devices of the dryer exhaust airstreams.
Anyone exposed to perc, even for brief periods, can experience serious symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, headaches, confusion, nausea, and skin, lung and sinus irritations. Repeated exposures can cause liver damage and respiratory failure. Studies on lab animals have shown birth defects, fetal mutations and death.
Professional cleaners are supposed to further clean the perc odor from your clothes. But still, my experience is that clothes always have that dry clean smell to some degree, and there is no way of knowing how much perc residue lingers.
The best solution?? Stop buying clothes that must be dry cleaned! Due to these health and environmental concerns, a new method is being used by some cleaners called “wet cleaning,” whereby a few additives are used in water. This process is not the same as home laundry methods, and again, what “additives” are we talking about? You can bet they are toxic as well, even if in smaller amounts or to a lesser degree.
Seek a “greener” dry cleaner if you must have something professionally cleaned who utilizes wet cleaning. When you get home, remove the plastic bags outside and let the clothes air out in the fresh outside air before hanging them in your closet.
And next time you go clothes shopping, check the label. If it says “dry clean only,” consider an alternative item that you can launder at home the natural way.
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