The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

March 4, 2009

Clothesnik saves plastic, if only dry cleaners would use it!

Way back in October, my friend Doug sent me a Clothesnik canvas garment bag to try out. I finally had a chance to use it last week. We haven’t taken clothes to the cleaners since July of last year! Unfortunately, it took a while to find a green cleaner that would actually use the bag. More on that later. First, I want to tell you about the Clothesnik.

The Clothesnik is a 100% cotton garment bag and laundry bag in one. Toss dirty clothes into it and tie up the bag using the strings at the bottom. Or use it clean as a garment bag to replace the disposable plastic bags the cleaners give out. If you don’t want to pay for the laundry service to clean the Clothesnik bag, wash it at home and return with it to pick up the clean clothes. Or don’t use it as a laundry bag. There are just so many options.

Our problem was finding a cleaner to use it correctly in the first place. A while back I wrote about green cleaner Blue Sky, which uses CO2 to clean clothes, one of the most environmentally-friendly methods. They also pick up and drop off clothes at your home or office. I thought surely they’d be excited about the Clothesnik.

I thought wrong.

Blue Sky Cleaners would have nothing to do with it. When I explained that its purpose is to save plastic bag waste, which is another environmental problem, the response was that their system was fixed and would not allow for different treatment for individual customers. I did not let that go. I pressed my argument, even letting them know that I would have to tell my readers on Fake Plastic Fish about this policy. The woman’s response was, “Well, you have to do what you have to do.” So okay, I just did what I just did.

Looking for another cleaner that does not use toxic chemicals, we came across the French Cleaners up the street from us on Claremont Avenue.

The employee who answered the phone told me that the company uses only water, no chemicals. Great! We took our clothes and our Clothesnik there, hoping for the best. In the shop window, we found the following sign:

Even better! The woman who took our clothes was very excited by the Clothesnik and thought it was a great idea. And we were excited about the French Cleaners. Unfortunately, just before I left the shop, I asked, “You’ll use only water, right? Even on these wool pants?” She responded, “Oh, no water on these. We send them out. But no chemicals. No perc, no chemicals.”

My heart sank a little bit. Because as I discussed in my previous post, there are several different options which tout themselves as green and are anything but. Since the employee could not tell me exactly which method was being used, I couldn’t know for sure if it would be environmentally-friendly or not. We left the clothes anyway and went home.

Returning a few days later to pick up our clean clothes, I received them on hangers, plastic-free, but also Clothesnik-free. “Where’s the canvas bag I left to put the clothes in?” “Oh, right!” the employee responded. “I forgot it!” She searched the shelves and found our Clothesnik neatly folded. No big deal. We put the clothes in it for the trip home. But I could see it might take some effort to help clothes cleaners learn to use the Clothesnik.

One last time, I tried to engage the woman about the cleaning method used. She didn’t have more information and wouldn’t give me any contact information for the owner either. After looking over the comments left on my previous post, I am seriously motivated to try some of the home cleaning methods suggested. Lauri posted a long explanation of how she cleans wool. I may have to try it, of course looking for a non-toxic soap that doesn’t come in a plastic bottle!

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Stephen John Barnett
8 years ago

Damm we should have that here in Singapore I hate those plastic things they put out clothes in and they use chemical stuff on our clothes for dry cleanings.

13 years ago

Our washer has a “handwash” program that will wash wool. I don’t know how well it works though as I haven’t tried it.

14 years ago

I’m just beginning to open my eyes to the ecological and health ramifications of plastic. I am happy to find your blog.

I am curious to know whether you tried Hi-Hat Cleaners in Oakland. They’ve been advertising Green cleaning for about a decade now. I have no idea how eco-friendly their processes are, but my experience with them suggests that they would probably be open to non-plastic suggestions.

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi, Hayley. I don’t have experience with that particular composter, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Mine is also made from recycled plastic. You can read about it here:

Maria Elena
14 years ago

Thanks for the post. It had been a while since I had been on here, and I was grudgingly just about to dry-clean this really nice wool jacket I got from goodwill. But thanks to the links in your post, I think I have figured out a way to do it myself, which what I wanted to do in the first place, hopefully it turns out OK…don’t worry I won’t blame you if it does not turn out alright:)

14 years ago

Ha, on second thought…
Once I actually bothered to look, I found aton of recycled plastic composters…
But they are all pretty expensive, and my mom might not agree to it…
Even though she could easily spend the money, she gets stingy when it comes to the environement.
Dunno why D:

But anyways…

I found this one, I think it looks pretty good…input?

14 years ago

Hmm, I can’t say this post did much for me, in terms of something I could change or something I can respond too or relate to.
I don’t even know how to use a washing machine, and have only once stepped inside a dry cleaners, and that was to pet the puppy inside.

I’ve recently become quite guilty of a once-a-week habit of buying an ice-cream….wrapped up in plastic, of course D:
I’m trying to stop…but, but…its just so good!

Ah, well. Anyways, relevant stuff, something others would care to read…
Uh, actually, no, nevermind. Stop reading now, please.

But does anyone know of a non-plastic mechanical pencil? I can’t stand the others…
And, my Mom has agreed to get a composter…but she wants one of the turnable $200 ones…but they are all plastic. Does anyone know where I might be able to get a non-plastic turny one?
I don’t think there are any, but ’tis worth a try

14 years ago

Was intrigued by the story about the clothesnik…which I happen to own and use and reuse for the past few years. In fact, my dry cleaner (not a “green” cleaner) now even sells the Clothesniks even though she orginally had no idea what it was. I have never had a problem getting it back with my clothes in it maybe because they do everything onsite. Dry cleaners do have to be taught about how to be green and many are giving it lip service and not understanding the need to change how they do business and more importantly that their customers are changing. I checked out green garmento but it was one piece of plastic replacing another and it cant be cleaned and dried properly because it is plastic…not the way to go!
Over the years I have told many friends about my clothesnik and they seem to like it…i hope your dry cleaners can see their to this so they get rid of the plastic.

14 years ago

I’ve found that a lot of the dry clean only clothes that I have had could either say “do not dry” or “hand wash cold” instead.

I think that most dry cleaning places would be pretty responsive to letting you know what kind of products that they use to clean things–especially since there is a chance that some people could be allergic to what they are using. Threatening to take your business elsewhere is always a helpful tactic as well.


Martin at plasticless
14 years ago

I have taken two things to the cleaners in living memory. The most recent item was picked up in a plastic bag. As with every other unintentional piece of plastic, plan B is to reuse.

knutty knitter
14 years ago

Warm water hand wash is best with wool anyway. Dry flat if you need to or hang otherwise. I don’t think I’ve ever used a dry cleaner except for one rug which was too big to handle, and that was a special case caused by a bunch of untrained wild kittens. They took effort to tame up but we found homes for all of them so it was worth it eventually but I did have to scrub everything in sight for a week or so.

viv in nz

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi Tracey. I checked out the Green Garmento, and it’s made from polypropylene plastic. The Clothesnik is 100% cotton, so it’s my choice. But I seriously am going to avoid the dry cleaners as much as possible from now on.

Lara S.
14 years ago

I love how you go through all this trouble to dry clean your clothes in an eco-friendly way. Lazyness keeps me from making green choices sometimes…
Thanks a lot for answering my questions about bottled water! I think I’ll give glass a chance and try not to freak out about this too much..
Green hugs!

Citizen Green
14 years ago

To me, buying clothes that need to be dry cleaned is like renting clothes. You have to pay more money for them every time they are cleaned.

I have tried Dryel sheets that you put into your home dryer with moderate success. Does anyone know how eco-friendly Dryel is?

Anarres Natural Health
14 years ago

I found this Green Garmento Bag:

Anarres Natural Health
14 years ago


So far as I know, to clean wool, you just wash (hand wash if it's delicate) in cold water, spot clean, and hang to dry outside. Wool is pretty self cleaning if you hang and air it regularly.

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

14 years ago

When I lived in Chicago, the Greener Cleaner had canvas garment bags that you could use. It was wonderful, as back then I had a lot more dry-clean-only wear. Somehow in the move to Richmond, I lost those bags, and I’m glad to know that I have another option, as our “green” cleaner doesn’t have such a thing. We don’t go to the cleaners more than once a season, but, it’s still waste.

Unfortunately, the only green cleaner in RVa is on the other side of town, in an area that I can’t access without a long car ride. :(

14 years ago

I no longer buy any clothes that need to by dry cleaned. I wear a lot of merino wool undergarments–wonderfully soft, don’t need to be washed very often ’cause bacteria can’t propagate in wool, so they don’t smell, and when you do wash these clothes they don’t shrink. Wonderful stuff. Expensive, but worth it.

Lisa Sharp
14 years ago

I haven’t taken anything to a dry cleaner since I have been married. We have very few dry clean clothes and they are things we rarely wear. I use this towel (yes it’s microfiber so plastic but *sigh* what can you do) thing in the dryer to clean them. Some dry clean only clothes can really be washed, I have done that as well.

I love the threat of writing it on your blog. I have done that haha.

14 years ago

I’m so impressed by the way you stick to your guns — like telling Blue Sky that you were going to “report” them (for lack of a better word) on your blog, and then actually doing so.

I know you left a comment a while back on another blog about how hard it is to stick your neck out all the time. Thanks for doing it yet again!

14 years ago

You are making me see plastic everywhere!

On Saturday I came home from the grocery store (with my reusable bags) and noticed plastic bags tied to doors and mailboxes on my street. Safeway is sponsoring a canned food drive in Baltimore and had someone tie the bags to the houses.

Unfortunately it was windy so I got to see half of them blowing down the street. Now they get to clog up the sewers and trees. If they were so determined to use plastic, couldn’t they have placed the bags INSIDE of the doors and mailboxes? It was disgusting.

14 years ago

It’s the easiest thing in the world to SAY that something is the case, even when it isn’t. Did you see the 60 Minutes episode with the “green” electronics recycler bragging about how none of the stuff he collected went to China then 60 Minutes filmed it being loaded into a shipping container for China!

It costs nothing to lie and there is much money to be made by doing so. If you can appear to be something without any cost – go for it and let the few who actually abide by their word take the expenses. The refusal of any retailer to release contact information for the manager is a red flag to go elsewhere.

The other factor is the natural inclination to want to be liked and to get along with others. Who wants to be a pest? Yet, sometimes you have to be one.

I tried to get the local director of streets and sanitation to simply put a notice not to use plastic bags on the city website. I would get silence or non-committal responses. I got nowhere and this is a simple 5 minute task for a webmaster.

I finally prevailed by threatening a letter to the mayor and the city manager about the issue if nothing was done within a week. Sure enough, the notice was posted on the website.

Be nice if possible. If not, use whatever leverage you have.