The Dangers of Dry Cleaning Chemicals

Why Green Cleaning? Part 1: The Dangers of Dry Cleaning Chemicals

At Greener Cleaner, using green, eco-friendly cleaning products is so important to us that we made it our name. In fact, we would go as far as saying it is our passion. Sure, “going green” may be a trend nowadays, but it wasn’t so popular when we started back in 1995 as the first cleaner in Illinois to offer wet cleaning as a green alternative to conventional dry cleaning.

So why is it so important to us?

Well, there are two big reasons, the first of which has to do with the under-regulated dangers of a chemical called perchloroethylene (PERC).


What Is PERC?

Chemically speaking, PERC is a chlorocarbon that acts as a solvent for organic materials. PERC is so widely used in dry cleaners around the world that it is often simply referred to as “dry cleaning liquid.” It’s low price and low viscosity (compared to water) would make it an obvious choice for cleaning delicate garments if it weren’t for the fact that it is a central nervous system depressant, Group 2A carcinogen, and a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) according to the EPA.

dry cleaning in illinoisHealth Effects

PERC can enter the body in a variety of ways, either through skin contact, inhalation, or ingestion of contaminated drinking water. Historically, the dangers of PERC were discovered when it began to affect the health of workers in the dry cleaning industry. Prolonged hours of exposure to this chemical led to debilitation migraines, nausea, respiratory irritation, organ damage, and more. Laws were passed to regulate the exposure of dry cleaning employees to PERC, but it still remains in use in 85% of dry cleaning facilities today.


Environmental Effects

If you’ve ever noticed a strange smell on your clothes after they come back from the cleaners, it’s evidence that you have come into contact with PERC. But it’s worse than that—even if you never dry clean a single garment, PERC contaminates the air, and can seep all the way into groundwater, penetrating soil and concrete. For this reason, dry cleaners are required by federal law to dispose of PERC as hazardous waste.


Why Do We Still Use PERC?

Dry cleaners have such a low profit margin that it’s difficult for them to change their business models without more significant regulation. The good news is that California has passed a law that will ban all use of PERC in the entire state by 2023. In the meantime, it’s your dollar that counts—if you care about your health and your planet as much as we do, you’ll spend your green on Greener Cleaner.