Is Green Dry Cleaning Actually Safer?

Have you ever seen “green” or “organic” signs posted in the window of a dry cleaner? Do you ever wonder what those words actually mean? Similar to the skin care industry, stores can throw around these terms as marketing copy without any real substantiation. Here’s a little information to help you find a safer dry cleaning experience.

Aside from being expensive, conventional dry cleaning is harmful for the environment and our health. Most conventional dry cleaners use a toxic chemical called PERC (perchloroethylene), which has been linked to central nervous system damage, harm to the kidney and liver, chronic fatigue, headaches and other health concerns.

Many dry cleaners that are labeled “organic” don’t use PERC but instead use VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, which are also linked to harming our health.


What to ask when finding a safer dry cleaner:

  • Do you use PERC or perchlorate in the dry cleaning process?
  • Do you use any chemicals that are VOCs?
  • Can you provide a full list of the chemicals used in your dry cleaning process?
  • Do you perform “wet cleaning”? (This is the safest method for cleaning “dry clean only” clothes.)

Other tips to avoid harsh dry cleaning chemicals:

  • Avoid buying “dry clean only” clothing when possible to make things easy and save a few bucks.
  • Many “dry clean only” outfits can be washed at home by hand. Find out how to do this here.
  • Hard to keep it straight? Print off this wallet card from the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).
  • Don’t miss my best tips for finding safe laundry detergent when you clean the rest of your clothes.

Once you find a genuinely safer dry or wet cleaner (they do exist!) you can tell your friends and family and help support a local business owner doing the right thing. Here’s to a healthy environment, safe workers and our health.

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5 Responses to Is Green Dry Cleaning Actually Safer?

  1. Anna @Green Talk July 21, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    When I go to the no dry clean site, it lists dry cleaners who use silicone. The NRDC says this option isn’t very green.

    So people should read the NRDC article first then search.

    Thanks for the eye opener.

    • Lindsay Dahl July 21, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      Good to know Anna, I will check it out!

  2. Anne July 21, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    I can’t remember the last time I used the dry cleaners. I try very hard to not have clothes that need that anymore, as we will likely be one of the last areas to have truly green dry cleaners.

  3. Mike Schade July 23, 2015 at 7:27 am #

    Great tips and info! Another good resource on this is the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute, who had a program to promote “wet cleaning” in NYS a few years ago.

    They worked with drycleaners using PERC to transition to safer methods, and had some interesting successful pilot projects and resources they developed.


  4. Janice Stone October 20, 2015 at 6:44 am #

    Really useful post! It is true that many of the clothes that we think require dry leaning can be cleaned at home by hand with no problems whatsoever!

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