So… I don’t do a lot of dry cleaning; green dry cleaning or the regular kind. Let’s be honest, I’m a t-shirt and jeans person… Definitely not a high maintenance gal. So you can imagine that I don’t own much that needs to be dry cleaned. In fact, I can count the number of times I have gone to to the dry cleaners on one hand… and still have enough fingers to sign “I love you.” (And I do love you.)
But there are two items in my home that have that dreaded “dry clean only” tag on them. Two winter coats. One for him. One for her.
Had I been in a more lucid state of mind when purchasing my coat, I’m pretty sure I would have kept looking. My husband’s coat, on the other hand, is uber fancy. He bought it back before we were married. Apparently when he had money…
Where was I? Oh yes, green dry cleaning.
With the idea of Fall lulling me to sleep at night, my over-prepared-OCD-planner-side kicks in and reminds me I need to get ready for Winter. (Seriously.) This means pulling out our two “dry clean” only coats.
And they need to be cleaned. Desperately.
So being the hippie-green-chic that I am, I began researching alternative, more eco-friendly green dry cleaning. After all, it wouldn’t make sense to give up every other toxic part of my life and then walk on over to the toxic dry cleaners, right?
A little lesson on dry cleaning
The word “dry” in dry cleaning refers to the fact that no water is used in the process. (Brilliant, I know.) Garments are pretreated with either a solvent (for oil or grease stains) or water (for water soluble stains) and then submerged in perc which removes dirt and soil.
What is perc? I’m glad you asked.
Perchloroethylene is a dangerous toxin that can be harmful to your health and has some pretty serious affects on the environment, too. Among other things, perc has been linked to:
- increased risks of bladder, esophageal, and cervical cancer
- eyes, nose, throat and skin irritations
- reduced fertility
It’s a probable human carcinogen causing a number of types of cancer. It’s a multi-system toxin. – Dr. Peter Orris, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
Plus, according to the EPA, perc breaks down into other chemicals that contaminate air and groundwater, and depletes the ozone layer. Air quality officials in southern California banned perc in 2002 with a mandatory phase out to be completed by 2020.
So yeah, dry cleaning is pretty toxic.
The good news is that there are better alternatives to dry cleaning! Before we jump into the list, keep in mind that different fabrics and different pieces need different things. Before doing anything on your most prized piece of clothing, do a small sample to make sure it works.
Now, let’s get down to business.
6 green dry cleaning tips
1. Steam it
Steam can be a great way to clean clothes. You can place your delicates in the dryer with a damp washcloth and run a normal cycle (add a few drops of essential oils to the washcloth for a nice “yummy” factor). You can hang your garments in the bathroom and turn on the shower. Or you can by a garment steamer (like this one). The heat kills bacteria which helps with odors and other nastiness.
2. Brush it
Apparently people use to brush their clothes a lot. It’s an easy way to remove surface oil. Use a microfiber cloth or a soft brush and just brush gently.
3. Hand Wash it
Things like sweaters and other unlined garments can usually handle a hand washing with water and a mild soap just fine. In fact, the chemicals in dry cleaning can be really harsh on these more delicate pieces. Just be sure to reshape the article of clothing before letting it line or air dry.
4. Spray it
Got some vodka around the house? You can fill a spray bottle with even the cheap stuff, spray it on your garments, and then let the alcohol do its thing: Kill the bacteria which cause odor. Viola! (Note to my non-drinking self: rubbing alcohol will not work. It has additives that we want to avoid.)
5. Actual Green Dry Cleaners
If you have something that really needs a good clean and the first four options just won’t work, you can look into dry clean companies that use a greener approach. Some of these more “eco friendly” companies will use pressurized CO2 instead of Perc. It’s definitely a much better alternative to dry cleaning the “normal” way.
6. Rethink your wardrobe
Obviously the best way to avoid chemical dry cleaning is to avoid clothes that need to be dry cleaned. We have so many options available for natural fabrics that are still very low-maintenance. Which is a win-win because who wants to spend all that time and money at the dry cleaners anyway?
There you go. Isn’t it nice to know that you can find a better alternative to dry cleaning? Every step toward a more toxic-free life is a step toward a more free life.
Any tips on how you handle “dry clean” only clothes? Share in the comments!