Jul 25

Eco Dry Cleaning: Spiff Up Your Clothes and the Environment

Grey_and_navy_suit_on_mannequinEver since we terrestrials decided long ago to cover our loins with leaves, we’ve been on a mission to set ourselves apart with our clothing.  If you work in a professional environment, dress code or not, you’ve likely found yourself the proud (or frustrated) owner of at least a few “dry clean only” garments.  Myself?  I do everything I can to avoid them for simplicity’s sake, but I do admit to owning a few pairs of pants that must be cleaned by a “professional.”

Once every few months (I don’t wear them often), I begrudgingly gather up these pants and march down the street to the local dry cleaner.  Little did I know, the main ingredient in this process is a chemical called perchloroethylene or, more affectionately abbreviated, “perc.”  Turns out, perc is a nasty toxin, classified as a Group 2A carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  In other words, it’s likely carcinogenic to humans.  We already know it does nasty things to fish and other wildlife, causes skin irritations for many people, and is heavy enough to seep under the water table, making it a soil contaminant that is very difficult to clean.  Did you know you might live next door to a future Superfund site? :)

Enter the Eco Cleaner

Given my increased awareness of these sorts of issues and an intense desire to avoid itchy legs, I decided to take my bi-annual load of dry clean only pants to a new eco-friendly shop that just opened up a few more blocks away.  They call themselves ecodrycleaner and shops just like them seem to be popping up all over the country.  They bill themselves as sustainable for these reasons:

  • Their cleaning solution is a liquid silicone that breaks down into water, CO2, and sand – no potentially harmful chemicals involved.
  • Their newer, efficient equipment allows them to harvest and recycle cleaning solution so that very little is wasted in the process.
  • They offset their electricity needs with investment in renewable energy.
  • Recycling of metal hangers, cuff clips, collar supports, and poly garment bags is heavily encouraged and promoted through their customer recycling program.
  • They reduce auto emissions by offering a free pick-up and delivery service that maximizes the efficiency of car trips to their business.

After chatting with the girl at the counter for a bit, she handed me my receipt and I was impressed to see that the cost was pretty comparable to other dry cleaners I’ve used around town.  I suppose they might be better able to compete by being able to reuse more solution (most traditional dry cleaning shops I’ve frequented have pretty antiquated equipment) and by cutting costs on new expendables by encouraging their patrons to drop off  unneeded hangers, garment bags, and other accessories.

Either way, now that I know that they exist and are competitively priced , I’ll continue to give my business to ecodrycleaner for my bi-annual laundry dump.

Cut down on your trips to the cleaner

At this point, you might be wondering how I manage to make such infrequent trips to the cleaners.  Like I said above, I have very few dry clean only garments and I don’t wear them all that often, but I also wash them myself from time to time.  That’s right, if it isn’t stained and just needs to be “freshened up,” I’ll hand wash an item to prevent a trip to the dry cleaners.

You might be surprised to know that many clothing manufacturers will label a piece as dry clean only when delicate hand washing is more than adequate.  This is a marketing tactic they use because people are more likely to buy something they perceive to be less work to maintain.  Turns out, most people consider going to the dry cleaner less work than hand washing.  Now, you can’t do this with every item and different materials will require different types of care, but for many typical garments, some delicate elbow grease will do the trick.  Check out this article for a more in depth explanation of how you can care for your dry clean only clothes.

All in all, we should act within our means whenever possible to reduce our impact on the environment.  This is especially true when alternatives to what we are used to exist but require just a small investment of time to discover and implement.  By rejecting the status-quo and committing ourselves to life long learning, we will continuously improve ourselves and the world around us.


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  1. Sheila

    I like your findings on the dry cleaner. I had no idea. I will look for an “Eco Dry Cleaner” here in Seattle. I’m leaving for North Dakota tomorrow. They DO NOT recycle there. I will try my best though. I also loved your article on having fun. Taking time out for your mom, walking around having a good time is always a good thing and good for the planet!!

  2. Michael Thomas

    Thanks Sheila. Good luck finding a dry cleaner in Seattle. A quick Google search turned up several options.

    I hope you have a good time in North Dakota. It’s true that there are still quite a few places in the US that have not yet embraced recycling. All you can do is do your best and hope that your habits wear off on others. Good luck!

  3. Jennie

    Blue Sky Cleaners in Seattle uses Reusable garment/laundry bags by The Green Garmento to eliminate the plastic waste.

    People can buy the bags online and they have a free bag offer as well. thegreengarmento.com

  4. Gilbert OBERDICK

    Thanks for the insight, James. You’re right, it’s important to ask your dry cleaner about their process and verify that it is as green as it claims!

    For lightly soiled clothes, CO2 alone should be an effective enough cleaner. However, it’s a good idea to ask what your cleaner will do when something stronger is needed.

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