Have you ever noticed that when you pick your clothing up from the dry cleaners it has a pretty noticeable, distinct chemical smell? If you have, that smell you have noticed is most likely a chemical known as perchloroethylene (perchloroethylene), aka 'perc.' My favorite little tidbit about perc is that it was the first chemical to be officially classified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as a carcinogen. That classification has since been withdrawn but many people still have their doubts about its safety. Link to Risks Some of the more commonly associated side effects are dizzyness, nausea and headaches while the more serious concerns range from infertility in men and miscarriage in women to central nervous system disorders. Now, many people and good honest business owners will tell you that their dry cleaning is perfectly safe. They might be right. I make my choice not to take those kinds of chances and I also prefer to vote with my dollar for a better solution.
We're not going to discuss the entire process of dry cleaning but I would like to point out that dry cleaning is not actually DRY. Perc and the other solvents used are liquids but they just generally aren't water based. If you'd like to know how dry cleaning works, check out Wikipedia or HowStuffWorks.com.
If you are like many Atlantans, you wear some clothing that requires an occasional dry cleaning. The problem is that there aren't too many cleaners in town that offer alternatives to traditional Perc based dry cleaning. About 85% of cleaners are still using perc as their cleaning solvent. So, what are the alternatives and where can I find them?
- Wet Cleaning - Water and non-toxic biodegradable detergents. Consumer reports rated this method lower than Perc on its cleaning abilities.
- Liquid CO2 - Just at it sounds with some additives that can have VOCs. Consumer Reports rated this method superior to Perc in shrinkage, discoloration, and preservation of texture
- Siloxane (GreenEarth) - Not chlorine based but manufactured using chlorine and may release dioxins. The EPA has listed Siloxane as a possible carcinogen.
- Hydrocarbon (DF2000 and comexsol)
Locations (if you know any more, please let us know and we'll update the list)
- 21st Century Cleaners, 4305 State Bridge Rd., Aipharetta, GA 30022 map
- Professional Cleaners, 6018 Sandy Springs Circle, Atlanta, GA 30328 map
- Pleasant Hill Cleaners, 4300 Pleasant Hill Rd #F, Duluth, GA 30136 map
- K.S. Personal Touch, 2014 Powers Ferry Rd., Atlanta, GA 30339 map
- Jett Ferry Cleaners, 2482 Jett Ferry Rd, Atlanta, GA 30338 map
What to do if there are no green cleaners near you?
- Always remove the plastic from the clothing and let it breathe.
- Increase the number of uses between cleaning trips. Most of the time, you can safely wear something twice before it needs a cleaning. The main problem is taking the time to hang it back up after a long day at the office.