“I’m noticing more and more dry cleaners using ‘green’ cleaners, or organic cleaners,” says friend Bernice. “Does that mean I need to set aside more money for dry cleaning?”
“By 2023,” explains gal-pal Sarah, “the use of perc machines in the dry-cleaning business will be banned by the State of California. I’m not sure how that translates into money.”
Eve to the info rescue!
“The reason we call it dry cleaning is because it doesn’t involve water; it’s all done by solvent,” explains Sarah Na of Fairlane Cleaners (Sorrento Valley, 858-587-8500; Clairemont, 858-279-0777). “Previously, the solvent used in the industry was perchloroethylene — ‘perc’ for short.” The state found it to be a potential carcinogen. “Due to that, a lot of our industry has changed to new products, to more environmentally friendly products.
“There are other options at this time. There is wet dry cleaning; the clothes go through a washing-machine cycle. The clothes tend to get wrinkled, so after they come out of the machine there is a lot of stretching in order to bring back the shape to the clothes. There is a lot of fading, so it’s not really popular...
“There are other solvents,” continues Sarah, “like GreenEarth.” GreenEarth is a silicone-based solvent that degrades to sand, water, and carbon dioxide. “But the one we use is the hydrocarbon,” a petroleum-based solvent. “There are a few cleaners that are using CO2 product, liquid carbon dioxide. But the machine itself to run the CO2 is very expensive.”
We got down to cost. “Fairlane Cleaners is offering 30 percent off all dry-cleaning services for the month of April,” says Sarah. A shirt at the Sorrento Valley store runs $1.85 for a cleaning; a suit runs $9.15.
Magic Touch in Little Italy (619-696-1665), formerly Liberty Cleaners, uses GreenEarth. “It is nontoxic,” offers owner Mike Nemovi. “It is much healthier. I was happy when I used it for the first time 11 years ago. It has no odor. I had used perc, and I didn’t like it. The industry had used perc for grease, for oil, because that material removed oil and grease easier. But you can take it on the board and spot-clean it. It takes more time, but it is safer, better for the public. Even though we are doing quality work, our prices are the same.” A shirt-cleaning costs $5; a suit runs $12.95.
Uptown Cleaners in Hillcrest (619-299-2378) also uses GreenEarth. “It leaves the clothes feeling softer, and there is no odor,” explains Alicia. “For dark clothes, it’s better if you dry-clean it, because if you launder it or use other cleaners, it will fade. If you use GreenEarth, the color will stay longer.” A shirt-cleaning at Uptown Cleaners costs $5; a suit, $10.20.
A few of the dry cleaners recommend GreenEarth’s website, greenearthcleaning.com, for more information. “GreenEarth cleaning is the world’s largest brand of environmentally friendly dry-cleaning,” the site boasts. “The GreenEarth brand name refers to an exclusive dry-cleaning process that replaces the petrochemical solvents traditionally used in dry-cleaning with liquid silicone. Liquid silicone is an odorless, colorless solution that is an excellent carrier for detergents, has ideal properties for fabric care, and is better for the environment.”
What, I wonder, is so wrong with the stuff we’ve used to dry-clean our clothes for so long? The website provides answers. “Indiscriminate disposal of perc can seriously contaminate soil and groundwater and exposure can irritate eyes, nose, and throat, as well as cause headaches, dizziness, or fatigue. Perc is also classified by the EPA as a likely carcinogen.”
In contrast, “When released to the environment, liquid silicone safely degrades back into its three natural components: sand (SiO2), water, and carbon dioxide.”