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Reduce the amount of clothes that you dry clean

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Probably the most effective way to reduce your dry cleaning-related environmental impact is to cut back on the number of pieces of clothing you need to have dry cleaned. A few simple steps is all it takes.

How to reduce the amount of clothes that you dry clean

Traditional dry cleaning methods use toxic chemicals (namely perc) to remove odors and stains, yet most of us have at least one or two garments that specify dry cleaning as the preferred freshening method. But what if you could reduce how many times you visit your local cleaners? Here's how:

  1. Keep clothing fresh: There are a number of tricks to keep clothing as fresh as possible between dry cleaning trips. Here are a few:
    • Hang up your clothes after you take them off and brush off any debris or dirt.
    • Iron your clothes between each wearing to keep a fresh, crisp look.
    • Blot spills immediately. Do not iron areas that have stains since heat will set in dirt.
    • Wear undershirts or dress shields with sweaters and other clothing to keep these items cleaner longer. This extra garment layer will keep body oils and deodorants away from your more delicate clothing.
    • Use a fabric refreshener or home dry cleaning kits to remove odors and freshen up your clothes.
  2. Cut back on dry cleaning excursions: Aside from general upkeep of your attire, there are ways to reduce the number of times you go back and forth between your home and the dry cleaners:
    • Decrease the frequency of your trips to the dry cleaners by wearing your clothes more than once before sending them for a clean. Barring any major stains or spills, clothes stay clean after two to six wears. This will reduce the amount of chemicals and money that go into your clothing.
    • Be conscious of required cleaning methods when purchasing new clothing and when possible, stay away from those that specify dry cleaning. Machine and hand washable options are the best in terms of long-term cleaning impact.
  3. Hand wash your clothing: Clothes labeled "Dry Clean Only" are best cleaned by a professional. However, garments with the tag "Dry Clean" do not necessarily need to by dry cleaned, but is only suggested. You may be able to wash these items by hand.[1] Determine the best cleaning method based on the type of fabric.

Reducing the amount of clothes that you dry clean helps you go green because…

  • You reduce the amount of chemicals and energy spent on cleaning your clothes.

Standard dry cleaning, despite its name, is neither a dry nor "clean” process. Approximately 85 percent of commercial dry cleaners use perchloroethylene (perc) as the liquid solvent in their cleaning method. Perc, which is also known as tetrachloroethylene, has been known to cause short-term side effects such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Prolonged inhalation exposure is linked to chronic kidney, liver, and reproductive damage, and may also increase the risk of cancer.[2] An individual cleaner only uses about 140 gallons of perc per year, but when this is multiplied by 30,000 businesses it amounts to approximately 4.2 million gallons of perc that are used annually.[3]

Controversies

The "Dry Clean Only" and "Dry Clean" care labels are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission's Care Labeling Rule. Not every garment labeled as such needs to be dry cleaned, and may actually be laundered in an alternative way, such as hand washing. "Dry Clean Only" signifies that there is proof that the item will be damaged by home laundering, whereas the simple tag of "Dry Clean" merely suggests professional cleaning.[1] There is a push to expand care labels to include wet cleaning and other laundering methods.[4]