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Can Dry Cleaning Really be Green?

Is There Such a Thing as Green Dry Cleaning?

eco clothing concept, wooden coat hanger on grass

In one word, YES. In fact, way back in Roman days, the first dry cleaners (known as fullonicae) were green, using “waterless” solvents like animal urine and fuller’s earth to clean their woolen togas. While these methods might make modern fashionistas turn up their noses (literally), they were undeniably green. After the Romans, dry cleaning solvents got a whole lot more dangerous to people and the environment before they became really green again.

Just as we can‘t imagine cleaning our garments in urine and clay, it’s hard to imagine using kerosene or gasoline to do the job either. But, in the mid-19th century, these petroleum-based solvents became popular after a French dye-worker noticed that stains on his tablecloth faded when his maid spilled kerosene from a lamp on it. They may have made effective cleaners, but kerosene and gasoline are highly flammable, and posed practical concerns for dry cleaning establishments.

In the 1940’s, dry cleaners began using chlorinated solvents, which cleaned better and had the added benefit of not exploding in the cleaning room. The most popular solvent to come out of this period, and the one that would become the standard for the industry, was perchloroethylene (perc). Perc was an excellent cleanser, gentle on fabrics and – maybe most importantly – non-flammable. It was also the first ever chemical identified as carcinogenic by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (a classification that was later withdrawn).

Increased environmental activism and awareness meant that, by the 1990’s, the demand for more earth-friendly cleaning solutions and increased government regulations were growing. Techniques like wet cleaning and CO2 made their appearance on the dry cleaning scene – both were easier on the environment, but neither offered ideal cleaning results.

And, so it went for nearly 20 years. The industry and its clientele were saddled with the choice between high-performance solvents that caused environmental harm, or green solutions that just didn’t clean as well. Then SYSTEMK4 was introduced, and the industry finally had a high-performance, truly green alternative.

Used by Best Cleaners, SYSTEMK4 is an environmentally-friendly and absolutely safe cleaning process. The halogen-free solvent used in SYSTEMK4 doesn’t pose any risk to the air, water, human beings or soil; is biodegradable; and has been dermatologically tested for skin friendliness with the result of “very good”. What makes SYSTEMK4 so exciting is that it cleans better than traditional solvents and green solvents on the market today.

At Best Cleaners, we’re proud to be able to not only offer great dry cleaning, but GREEN dry cleaning as well. So, when you ask us dry cleaning can really be green, we’re proud to be able to say YES!