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Is Your Dry Cleaning Really Safe?

    Oct-18-2008

What is dry cleaning?

Contrary to the common conception, the process of dry cleaning is not completely a dry procedure. Nearly 90 per cent of the dry cleaners in North America use a poisonous liquid chemical called perchloroethylene also known as PERC for traditional dry cleaning. Petroleum hydrocarbon also called DF-2000 that is categorized as a risky air contaminant and volatile organic amalgam is another diluter most frequently used in the dry cleaning process. In Section 11A of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Environment Canada evaluated PERC to be poisonous to ecology in 1994 and since then the Environmental Protection Agency in this North American country has categorized the substance as a poisonous air pollutant that is capable of contaminating both the soil as well as the groundwater. Even the International Agency for Research in Cancer categorizes PERC as a potential human carcinogen or cancer causing agent. It has been found that coming in contact with PERC it can cause irritation and pain to your eyes, nose and throat. At the same time, PERC may also be liable for headaches and giddiness. Knowing all these, it is indeed incredible that people eagerly expose themselves to these identified poisonous chemicals.

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It is indeed good news that dry cleaning can also be done without these killer chemicals as there are many safer alternatives available for the process. The adverse affects of these toxins made the Canadian government and the delegates of the dry cleaning industry to become conscious of the fact that the common people wanted safer alternatives and they were also the need of the hour. Hence, three other procedures that are identified as green alternatives were identified. They are not only safer, but also non-poisonous to both the humans as well as the ecology.

These three green alternatives include silicon cleaning, wet cleaning and CO2 cleaning. Below are brief descriptions of each method.

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Silicon Clean-up
The silicon cleaning procedure is also known as the Green Earth Cleaning System. An innovative system based on silicon solvent or liquid sand, the method has been patented and does not have any standard procedure.
Wet Clean-up
This is a very simple process and can be termed as a larger edition of what all of us perform with our washing machines. The only difference between the two is that in this case the procedure involves computer-managed washing machines, biodegradable or eco-friendly soaps and conditioners or habituation. In addition, like we do after cleaning the clothes in our washing machines, in this case also the clothes are pressed after washing. It may be noted here that clothes of all kinds of fabrics cannot be washed in this process, but research is on to improve the system and include washing of all textiles by this method.
CO2 Clean-up
Carbon dioxide is used in this process to wash clothes. When carbon dioxide is put under pressure, it turns into liquid that is an exceptional solvent. Unlike in the case of wet cleaning, clothes made from all textiles can be cleaned through this process. Currently, there are only a small number of 'dry cleaners' who use this process to wash clothes in Canada.
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What needs to be done?

Having learnt about the toxicity of the present dry cleaning methods and the new alternatives that protect us from the exposure of the poisonous chemicals, it is time that we initiate action in this regard. Initially, one may restrict the purchase of clothes that require dry cleaning. This is not a difficult task considering the fact that cotton clothing is the best and it does not essentially require dry cleaning. Moreover, if you are not too particular about purchasing your clothes, you may do some search and locate a green dry cleaner in your locality. In fact, you may search for the green cleaners in your vicinity through the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention website. This organization has a superb tool on its website - www.c2p2online.com - that will enable you to find the green dry cleaner in your locality or anywhere in Canada.

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Alternately, you may also tell your current dry cleaner of your worries regarding the toxicity of the materials used in the conventional dry cleaning method and tell him that you want to back the green dry cleaning procedure. Try to initiate a conversation with him and tell him about your eagerness to support the green initiative. Ask him questions on whether he can offer you green dry cleaning. It may be noted here that many dry cleaners in Canada do offer green dry cleaning services even if they are not classified under the 100 per cent green initiative. Your biggest victory would be if you can convince your conventional dry cleaner and make him adapt to the green initiative.

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