Dry Cleaning Chemicals:
Alternatives to Toxic Dry Cleaning
Although traditionally an acceptable way to clean fine clothing, dry cleaning chemicals are not only being recognized as toxic - they are highly negative as far as their impact on the world in which we live.
Let’s take a look at what effects our convenience of “drop off and pick up clean” can have – if we are still cleaning our clothing in this “traditional” way.
#1 Landfills bulge with Dry Cleaning Accessories
Typically, every item of dry cleaning that you pick up comes hung on a special hanger. These often find their way into the garbage can, which then ends up in your local landfill. Some cleaners encourage the return of their hangers, but not everyone participates. In addition, all of these freshly cleaned items are covered with a plastic bag, which inevitably finds its way into the trash.
The end result? Lots of excess hangers and plastic bags hanging around in your local landfill.
The primary dry cleaning chemical used is called Percholorethylene, or Perc for short. This known toxic dry cleaning solvent is also known as tetrachloroethylene, PCE, C2C14, C12C=CC12, or tetrachloroethene. This dry cleaning chemical is used in excess of 90% of the standard dry cleaners throughout the USA.
What is Perc? It’s a petroleum byproduct and is an environmentally toxic dry cleaning solvent. It has no color, so it’s impossible to see when it ends up in our land and waterways. In addition to this dry cleaning chemical, chlorinated solvents are often used, as well as hydrogen peroxide, acetic acid, ammonia and petroleum naptha to remove stains as well as for other numerous dry cleaning processes.
These chemicals are toxic as well. Our environment is contaminated with these air and waterway toxins, and it finds its way into our soil as well.
#3 Human Complications
PERC is a well-known cancer-causing agent in animals. It is a likely human carcinogen as well, according to the International Association for Research on Cancer. (Tests are not run on humans for obvious moral and physical reasons)
In studies, Perc has been shown to cause the following problems:
• Fertility problems
• Menstrual irregularities
The PERC found in drinking H2O has been implicated in causing both kidney and liver damage. On top of all of this, the other dry cleaning chemicals used have been shown to cause:
• Skin irritation
• Eye, nose and throat irritation
• Loss of Memory
• Liver and kidney damage
• Central nervous system damage
As you can see, this is not just a minor problem – there has been a lot of suffering form the effects of these toxins - and some people don’t even realize that their problem is right next to their skin or hanging in their closet!
Non Toxic Dry Cleaning
While we have seen that dry cleaning chemicals are quite toxic – both to people and to the environment, we are not stuck with this traditional process as our only alternative. More and more dry cleaners are opting to use more eco-friendly methods to clean clothing. These include both CO2 solvents as well as wet cleaning processes.
Dry Clean At Home
You also have the option of no dry-cleaning your clothing at all! Typically, most
clothing that states “dry clean only” on the label can also be either washed by hand or steam cleaned for comparable results.
If you do opt to take your clothing to a dry cleaner, be sure to ask for an alternative to the toxic PERC. You’ll be taking one more step towards a safer environment and a healthier family.
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