By Jim Gilligan
With so many clothing care options at your disposal, narrowing your choices down to the greener clothes cleaning methods can be confusing. You want to ensure that your clothing is properly cared for, but you may also be concerned about the impact of the cleaning process on your health and the health of the environment.
As an avid outdoorsman here in the Great Lakes State, I care deeply about the health of our environment and my personal health and fitness. Throughout my career, I've always prioritized the safety and well-being of my community, customers, and employees. Over my 40 years in the dry cleaning and laundry industry, I've gathered volumes of information about various cleaning processes and their associated risks.
In this article, I’ll guide you through a comparison of green dry cleaning and traditional dry cleaning, highlighting the key differences, benefits, and drawbacks of each method. By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of both options, enabling you to make an informed decision that best suits your needs and aligns with your values.
Understanding Traditional Dry Cleaning
The Process: Traditional dry cleaning involves the use of chemical solvents, typically perchloroethylene (Perc), to remove stains and dirt from garments without the use of water. The clothes are placed in a specialized machine, where they are immersed in the solvent, which effectively dissolves and removes various types of dirt, stains, and grease. Once the cleaning process is complete, the garments are dried and pressed, ready for pickup.
Advantages: Traditional dry cleaning is known for its effectiveness in removing tough stains and preserving the integrity of delicate garments. It has long been a reliable method of cleaning garments that may be damaged by conventional washing.
Disadvantages: Despite its effectiveness, traditional dry cleaning has some downsides. The primary concern is the use of Perc, a volatile organic compound (VOC) that has been classified as a potential human carcinogen. Perc can have negative impacts on both human health and the environment, with risks including air and water pollution, soil contamination, and harm to aquatic life. Additionally, the disposal of Perc can be problematic, requiring proper management to minimize its environmental impact.
Now that we have a basic understanding of traditional dry cleaning let's explore the alternative: green dry cleaning.
An Introduction to Green Dry Cleaning
Green dry cleaning has emerged as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional dry cleaning, utilizing methods and materials that are gentler on both garments and the environment. As an advocate for sustainable practices, I believe it's essential to explore this modern, more sustainable approach to garment care.
The Process: Green dry cleaning methods vary, but the most effective ones to date are liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) or silicone-based solvents like GreenEarth® Cleaning. In the CO2 cleaning process, the garments are placed in a specialized machine that uses high pressure to convert CO2 into a liquid state. This liquid CO2 effectively removes dirt and stains from the garments without the use of harmful chemicals. GreenEarth® Cleaning, on the other hand, utilizes a silicone-based solvent that is non-toxic, non-hazardous, and breaks down into sand, water, and carbon dioxide when disposed of.
Advantages: The primary advantage of green dry cleaning is its reduced environmental impact. Both CO2 and GreenEarth® Cleaning methods eliminate the need for hazardous chemicals like Perc, mitigating the risks associated with air and water pollution and soil contamination. Green dry cleaning also tends to be gentler on garments, preserving their color, texture, and integrity over a longer period of time. Additionally, green dry cleaning methods typically produce less waste, contributing to a more sustainable industry.
Disadvantages: One of the main drawbacks of green dry cleaning is the higher initial cost associated with implementing the technology and processes. This can lead to slightly higher prices for consumers. However, as green dry cleaning becomes more widespread and popular, costs are likely to decrease.
Green Dry Cleaning vs. Traditional Dry Cleaning – A Comprehensive Comparison
Having explored the processes, advantages, and disadvantages of both traditional and green dry cleaning, it's time to compare them side by side. This comparison will help you make an informed decision about which method is the best fit for your garment care needs.
Environmental Impact: Green dry cleaning has a significantly lower environmental impact compared to traditional dry cleaning. By using non-toxic, biodegradable solvents like CO2 or GreenEarth® Cleaning, green dry cleaning reduces air and water pollution and soil contamination, making it a more sustainable choice.
Garment Care: Green dry cleaning is generally gentler on garments than traditional dry cleaning, preserving colors, textures, and overall integrity. It is particularly beneficial for delicate fabrics and intricate embellishments, reducing the risk of damage during the cleaning process.
Health and Safety: Traditional dry cleaning methods using Perc can pose potential health risks for both industry workers and consumers. Green dry cleaning eliminates these risks by utilizing non-toxic solvents that are safe for both human health and the environment.
Cost: Green dry cleaning can be slightly more expensive than traditional dry cleaning due to the higher initial costs associated with implementing the technology and processes. However, as green dry cleaning becomes more prevalent, prices are likely to decrease, making it a more accessible option for consumers.
Availability: Traditional dry cleaning is currently more widely available than green dry cleaning, as it has been the industry standard for many years. However, the increasing demand for environmentally-friendly alternatives is driving the growth of green dry cleaning, making it more accessible in many locations.
Making the Right Choice for You, Your Garments, and the Environment
When you first began researching the differences between green dry cleaning and traditional dry cleaning, you may have felt uncertain about which method was best for your garments and the environment.
Now that you’ve read this article, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your individual preferences and requirements. Ultimately, the choice between green dry cleaning and traditional dry cleaning comes down to your personal values, priorities, and garment care needs.
Regardless of the direction you choose to take, we are here to help with all your clothing care questions or needs. If you’d like to learn about other chemicals used in dry cleaning, check out my article on the subject. Thanks for reading!