Searching for a Green Dry Cleaners in Charlotte

Jun 21, 2010 Comments Off by EcoFlirt

 How clean is clean? How green is green? I don’t mean to wax Suess-ical, but during the hunt for a green dry cleaners in Charlotte, these questions evolved from the seemingly obvious to the somewhat infuriating.

Why Choose Green Dry Cleaning?
The need to go green is due largely to PERC (or perchloroethylene) which is used by the vast majority of dry cleaners. This cleaning chemical is a suspected carcinogen according to the National Cancer Institute, as well as a pollutant of air, water, and soil as per the EPA. Many dry cleaners don’t have proper disposal/venting equipment, so PERC enters your community’s air, soil, and groundwater. So much for clean! PERC is not only a risk for drycleaning workers and your community, but it’s a direct risk to you: PERC that isn’t released into the environment stays on your clothes, where it releases into the air in your home or works its way into the fibers of your clothes. Carcinogens aren’t exactly my idea of accessorizing an outfit, hence the EcoFlirt search for an organic dry cleaners in Charlotte.

Petroleum: The “Organic” Solution?
The search for a local organic dry cleaners has not been easy. While organic food must meet certain criteria to claim the label, no such regulation exists for dry cleaners. I found several Charlotte dry cleaners touting “organic” and “environmentally friendly” methods that “use no harmful chemicals,” yet all of these cleaners I found relied on a solvent called DF-2000. Without the slightest trace of irony, each of these dry cleaners told me that they were organic because they use this solvent — a petroleum-based neurotoxin according to the EPA — in lieu of PERC. Color me unimpressed. According to LiveScience, DF-2000 is “as organic as gasoline… After all, to a chemist, a chemical is organic if it contains a chain of carbon.” Sure, DF-2000 is slightly better than PERC, but to call a petroleum-based neurotoxin “organic” is akin to calling baked Cheetos “health food.”

The Search Continues…
The true organic dry cleaning process is the carbon dioxide cleaning process. (Irony alert: while traditional dry cleaning isn’t very clean, green dry cleaning is actually wet.) Alas, I cannot find a single dry cleaner in town that uses it. Does anyone have any leads? Where can we go to find a green dry cleaners in Charlotte that uses the carbon dioxide cleaning process?

What You Can Do:

- Inquire: Ask your dry cleaners what method they use to clean their clothes. If they tout environmentally friendly chemicals, specifically ask about PERC and DF-2000. Just by asking, you let them know that this matters to their customers.
- Handwash: Oftentimes, clothes marked “dry clean only” can be successfully hand washed. Find an eco-friendly detergent (or even an eco-friendly baby shampoo) to wash your clothes gently by hand and skip the dry cleaners altogether.
- Tread Lightly: If you find yourself with no option but traditional dry cleaners, do what you can: ask them to skip the plastic bag for your clothes, and recycle the hangers back to the store.
- Share! If you find a shop in Charlotte using the CO2 method, please e-mail me so we can pass the word!

Related Reading:
Cancer Danger from Dry Cleaning? (CBS News)
“Dry Cleaning’s Dirty Trick” (LiveScience.com) 
Is Your Cleaner Really Greener? (NY Times) 
Alternatives to Dry Cleaning (NY Times)

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