Do you dry clean in your household? It’s time to rethink this. The most widely used chemical in traditional dry cleaning, perchlorethylene (perc), causes cancer in lab animals, and is a likely human carcinogen that impacts brain, liver, and kidney function, according to the EPA. 85 percent of American dry cleaners use perc. Needless to say perc isn’t good for the environment, either.
The fluid remains in the clothing after it is cleaned. If you take the plastic off your cleaned items and hang them outside, the perc residue can air out some. But most of us put the plastic-enshrouded “clean” clothes in our bedroom closets, where the perc evaporates into the air we breathe. Chances are you aren’t dry cleaning your baby’s clothes. But you might be dry cleaning their blankets or the curtains in their room. And you might be holding them while wearing a dry cleaned shirt they then suck on. Neither is a good idea.
You can replace your conventional dry cleaner in several ways. For items that truly must be dry cleaned, you can start going to a so-called organic or eco-friendly dry cleaner. There, it’s crucial to ask questions about what is used instead of perc. Many cleaners use chemicals that aren’t much better than perc, including petroleum-based solvents called hydrocarbons. A better option is to find a “wet” cleaner that uses water and biodegradable detergents. There are also C02 cleaners, which are a good option. Unfortunately these are few and far between as the equipment needed to C02 clean is not cheap.
Or you can ditch the dry cleaners entirely and wash your clothes (in plant-based eco- and kid-friendly detergent). As it turns out much of what is labeled “dry clean only” can be washed in cold and air-dried. Meanwhile, the next time you’re shopping, stop the cycle at the beginning by buying clothing that doesn’t need to be dry cleaned.