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Is Dry Cleaning Safe?

Is dry cleaning safe? It’s a fair question. After all, if you’ve ever taken your clothes to a professional dry cleaner, odds are they’ve come back with a faint – or not so faint – chemical odor clinging to them. Anything that smells like that can’t be healthy, right?

According to the National Institutes of Safety and Health (NIOSH), fully 85% of the US’s 36,000 dry cleaning shops use perchloroethylene (perc). The list of potential symptoms related to exposure is sobering and includes: depression of the central nervous system; damage to the liver and kidneys; impaired memory; confusion; dizziness; headache; drowsiness; and eye, nose, and throat irritation. It’s important to note that NIOSH considers perc a potential human carcinogen.

While the concerns over exposure apply mainly to employees of the dry cleaning shops that use it, the fact that it can be absorbed through the skin or by inhaling the fumes is cause for concern to consumers. Just how much perc it takes to affect the health issues listed above isn’t certain – according to the Sierra Club, even “minor” exposure can be enough to cause symptoms.

Fears over perc exposure have led to the development of a host of “green” cleaning technologies. But beware – just because they’re marketed as green doesn’t mean they’re truly safe for human and the environment. Hydrocarbons have been touted as natural, but hydrocarbons marketed under names like DF2000, PureDry, EcoSolve, Shell Sol 140 HT, or Stoddard solvent are, in reality, petroleum-based, and emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). GreenEarth, another popular alternative cleaning method, uses methyl siloxane, or D5 – a solvent that is still being assessed on its safety, and to which EPA studies have shown exposure to high concentrations can cause an increase in cancer. DrySolv, a process that utilizes bromopropane, has also been shown in animal studies to cause sterility in males and females and damage to developing fetuses.

So, short of not buying anything with the label “dry clean only”, how can you get your clothes the professional care and cleaning they need, while protecting the health of you, your family and the environment?

At Best Cleaners, we use two proven green cleaning technologies. The first, which is endorsed by the EPA as the safest professional method of cleaning, is wetcleaning. Just what it sounds like, wetcleaning combines specialized equipment, water, and specialized detergents to clean your garments. Because wetcleaning doesn’t use hazardous chemicals, it doesn’t generate any hazardous waste or pollution and reduces the potential for water or soil contamination.

The second green cleaning process used at Best Cleaners is SYSTEMK4 (SK4), a halogen-free solvent that has been shown to pose no risk to air, water, human beings or soil. What is exciting about this innovative cleaning technology is that it is biodegradable and has been skin-tested with a result of “very good”. Moreover, SK4 is both EPA and California State approved. Perhaps most exciting, SK4 offers consumers an odorless cleaning solution – ensuring that your clothes smell as safe and healthy as the cleaning process behind them.