It’s Time to Talk About Dry Cleaning’s Dirty Little Secret

This post was written for Fashion Journal. 

dry cleaning

Clean conscience.

Let’s get this straight: dry cleaning is not the water-saving, earth-positive washing method some of us have been led to believe.

Very naively, I had long thought dry cleaning was a good thing. Not only would it make me feel like a responsible grown-up (who actually reads the care label), but I also believed I was saving some precious water.

But here’s the truth: dry cleaning, generally speaking, really sucks. If you care about the environment – or people for that matter – say goodbye to your regular dry cleaners’ trip.

While dry cleaning may be a waterless form of washing, toxic chemical solvents take its place. Our clothing is chucked in an industrial washing machine, chemically cleaned, then drained and dried. This devilish solvent is commonly known as ‘perc’ – an ingredient also found in nail polish remover and petrol.

Even with strict laws to govern the containment of these chemicals, it’s hard to avoid some release into the air. It seeps out and impacts workers, the community and the environment. Considered a carcinogen, perc is known to cause dizziness, skin irritation and visual impairment. Environment-wise, perc causes air pollution, and often causes groundwater and soil contamination. The kind of thing best to steer clear of.

According to Fashion Revolution, 25 per cent of our clothes’ carbon footprint comes from consumer care. With that in mind, we hold an immense responsibility in looking after our garments the right way, with minimal environmental and human impact.

So, what’s a girl to do with a wardrobe full of delicate dresses and oversized coats? Consider a couple of alternatives:

Seek out a GreenEarth dry cleaner

The talented folks at GreenEarth have devised a liquid silicone alternative to perc, offering a safe option for both humans and the environment. Liquid silicone is non-toxic and non-hazardous with a circular lifespan. Once released back into the surroundings post-washing, it safely breaks down into sand, water and carbon dioxide – the elements from whence it came. Head to gecleaning.com to find a GreenEarth affiliate near you.

Learn to hand wash and spot clean

The ultimate method for cleaning our clothes is to DIY. How often do we clean the entire dress when we’ve spilt just a drop of tea? Or left a couple of afternoon pick-me-up chocolate crumbs? With a ton of guides online and trustworthy how-tos, it’s time we revisited the age of doing things simply with homegrown solutions. Generally, all it takes is a little time, detergent and a dash of water. For trickier stains like blood, coffee, ink and wine, turn to old mate Google.

While sustainable labels like Reformation still mark clothing ‘dry clean only’ – a contradiction I can’t quite understand – the care factor is ultimately our decision. So, make your choice a conscious one. Seek out your local green alternative or teach yourself a new skill. Join the chemical-free clothing revolution and make your wardrobe match your organic #pantrygoals.

(Image via Pinterest)

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