Nowadays, I stick to buying clothes that can be washed at home rather than dry cleaned. Dry cleaning is expensive and environmentally harmful. But I do still have several items of clothing, as well as some wool blankets, that cannot be machine laundered at home, and for those I need a good outside cleaner.
In the past, I have taken clothes to the dry cleaner down the street, not thinking about much more than the fact that I didn’t want any plastic bag covering my clothes. The cleaner would comply with my request, and I’d do an extra bit by returning my used hangers to them. This takes care of the waste problem, but not the more serious problem of the toxic chemicals used in the cleaning process itself.
Thanks to Big Green Purse, I’ve learned a lot about dry cleaning recently. Which is great because I was almost taken in by the “green cleaner” down the street. Rockridge Royal Cleaners on College Ave has posters in its windows touting the DF-2000 “green” alternative to perchloroethylene (“perc”).
Granted perc is nasty stuff which, according to Big Green Purse, has been linked to reproductive problems, disorders of the central nervous system, and has been listed by the EPA as a probably human carcinogen. In fact, the state of California is phasing it out.
But DF-2000 is not the answer. Manufactured by ExxonMobil, it is a petroleum product that “may present a fire hazard and emit volatile organic chemicals that contribute to smog.” And another supposedly green method, GreenEarth (siloxane D5) may not be the answer either. The EPA is assessing a possible link to cancer.
The only two processes considered environmentally preferable by the EPA are 1) Wet cleaning, which uses water and biodegradable detergents, and 2) Liquid CO2 cleaning. The problem is that businesses using these methods are currently hard to find. In my neighborhood, there are none at all. But checking out the East Bay Eco Metro Guide, I did find a company, Blue Sky Cleaners, which uses both non-toxic methods and which picks up and drops off clothing at your doorstep. Certainly, walking my clothes down the street would be environmentally preferable than having a van pick up and drop them off. But until more companies switch to less toxic methods, this is what we’ll have to do.
So, we’ve got the toxic chemicals out of the way, but what about the plastic? Blue Sky leaves its customers a reusable bag for their dirty clothes. But the clean clothes are delivered in plastic bags. When signing up for the service, I did request no plastic, but I guess the message wasn’t relayed.
So I called Blue Sky and discussed the issue. I wondered why they couldn’t skip the hangers and simply fold my clothes and return them to me in the blue bag. But they didn’t want to do that since the blue bags have contained soiled clothing. I’ve suggest they have “clean” reusable bags as well as “dirty” reusable bags. In the meantime, they have promised to deliver my clothes folded in paper bags that I can return to the company for reuse, with no plastic.
I plan to hold onto these particular plastic bags and send them back to the company the next time, which will actually be a very long time from now, we so rarely dry clean.
Have you found non-toxic dry cleaning in your area? Or have you given up all clothes requiring dry cleaning in the first place? I can’t bring myself to get rid of perfectly good clothes that I love and that I already own just because of the cleaning method. What do you think?