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The Risks of PERC: Is Your Dry Cleaning Toxic?

The Risks of PERC: Is Your Dry Cleaning Toxic?
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Dry cleaning is often necessary to keep your clothes looking fresh. But have you ever stopped to think about the chemicals used in the process? The most common dry cleaning solvent, PERC (perchloroethylene), might be raising some red flags lately. While it effectively removes stains and wrinkles, concerns about its potential health and environmental risks are growing. This blog article explores the possible risks of PERC dry cleaning while suggesting safer alternatives. It explores deeply into the science of PERC dry cleaning. We’ll address the important query: Is the environment and your health at risk as a result of your dry cleaning habit? So, Let’s discover the secrets of dry cleaning chemicals and discover eco-friendly options for keeping your clothes looking their best.

PERC: The Common Dry Cleaning Solvent

Perchloroethylene, or PERC for short, is a colorless solvent that is widely used in the dry cleaning sector. It works as a strong solvent, easily removing grease, oils, and other stains that are too strong for water. During the dry cleaning process, garments are submerged in PERC, which lifts away dirt and grime without damaging delicate fabrics. Although PERC might seem as a wardrobe miracle, it’s important to know how often it is and how it works in the dry cleaning process. Here’s the breakdown:
  • Widespread Use: PERC accounts for a whopping 80% of all dry cleaning solvents used in the United States. Its efficiency has made it the go-to choice for many dry cleaners, but this widespread use also raises concerns about its potential impact.
  • The Cleaning Process: Imagine your garments submerged in a PERC-filled special machine. As the clothes tumble, the solvent breaks down the dirt and stains, leaving them clean and refreshed. However, this process doesn’t happen in a vacuum. PERC can be released into the air during cleaning and potentially escape into the environment.
Beyond the basics:
  • PERC is classified as a hazardous air pollutant (HAP) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to potential health risks associated with long-term exposure.
  • Although the dry cleaning process is regulated, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and consider alternative cleaning methods if you’re concerned.

The Hidden Costs of PERC Dry Cleaning

While PERC’s cleaning prowess is undeniable, its convenience comes shrouded in potential risks. Recent research has raised concerns about the potential health and environmental impact associated with this widely used solvent. Let’s delve deeper into the hidden costs of PERC dry cleaning:

Health Concerns

  • Short-Term Exposure: Direct contact or inhalation of PERC can cause immediate, albeit temporary, symptoms like dizziness, headaches, nausea, and skin irritation. These effects highlight the crucial role of proper handling and ventilation in dry cleaning facilities to safeguard worker health.
  • Long-Term Exposure: The true picture emerges with chronic exposure to PERC, which has been linked to more serious health concerns. Studies suggest potential risks for neurological effects, including memory problems and dizziness, as well as an increased risk of certain cancers in dry cleaning workers exposed to high levels over extended periods. While research on cancer risks for occasional customers is ongoing, it’s vital to be aware of the potential hazards, especially for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, pregnant women, or young children.

Environmental Impact

  • PERC’s impact goes beyond cleaning clothes. It can be released into the air during the dry cleaning process, contributing to air pollution and impacting air quality, potentially triggering respiratory problems in individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions.
  • Additionally, improper disposal of PERC-contaminated waste can lead to soil and water pollution, posing a threat to both human and environmental health. PERC can seep into the ground, contaminating groundwater sources used for drinking water and harming aquatic ecosystems.
It’s important to remember that individual experiences may vary. Occasional exposure to PERC-cleaned garments may not present immediate health risks for everyone. However, raising awareness about the potential risks and exploring safer alternatives empowers you to make informed choices that prioritize your health and the well-being of the planet.  

Exploring Safer Dry Cleaning Options

While PERC might have been the king of the dry cleaning industry for years, but it concerns about its health and environmental impact have led to a revolution. Today, a diverse range of safer and more sustainable alternatives offer peace of mind and keep your clothes looking their best without the potential downsides of PERC:

Wet Cleaning

This approach uses specific detergents and water-based solutions instead of harsh chemicals. It is a protector of delicate materials that PERC might easily harm, such as wool, silk, and leather. Furthermore, in contrast with traditional dry cleaning, wet cleaning frequently employs kinder techniques, lowering the possibility of shrinking and fading. Imagine: Your delicate silk blouse getting a luxurious spa treatment with water-based solutions, emerging refreshed and wrinkle-free, all without the harsh chemicals.

Carbon Dioxide Cleaning

This innovative method features liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) as the cleaning knight in shining armor. CO2 is a naturally occurring gas, non-toxic, and non-flammable, making it a safe choice for both you and the environment. In its liquid form, it effectively removes dirt and stains without harming delicate fabrics or releasing harmful emissions. This eco-friendly option is gaining popularity due to its effectiveness and minimal environmental impact. Think of it as: Using a natural gas that is already present in the atmosphere, our sensitive yet effective cleaning method leaves your clothing clean and the environment pleased.

Hydrocarbon Cleaning

This method uses a solvent derived from petroleum. While not entirely “natural,” hydrocarbon solvents are generally considered safer than PERC because they don’t pose the same health and environmental risks. However, it’s crucial to choose a dry cleaner that uses high-quality, purified hydrocarbon solvents with minimal environmental impact. Remember: Not all hydrocarbon solvents are created equal. Choose a dry cleaner that prioritizes responsible sourcing and purification processes to minimize environmental impact.

The “PERC-Free” Badge

Many eco-conscious dry cleaners are proudly displaying their “PERC-Free” badges, showcasing their commitment to using safer alternatives. When choosing a dry cleaner, look for signage or inquire about their cleaning methods to ensure they’re on board with the green movement. Think of it as: Finding a dry cleaner that shares your values and prioritizes the health of both you and the planet.

Spot Cleaning and Hand Washing:

For lightly soiled garments that don’t require a full dry cleaning treatment, consider becoming a DIY superhero. Spot clean stains with a gentle detergent and hand wash your clothes. This can be a cost-effective and eco-friendly way to maintain your clothes between professional cleanings. Remember: You don’t have to rely solely on professional cleaning for everything. Taking charge and using gentle methods for lightly soiled clothes can save money and reduce your environmental footprint.


PERC dry cleaning, while effective, has raised concerns about its potential health and environmental impact. As consumers, we have the power to make informed choices that not only keep our clothes looking fresh but also contribute to a healthier planet. Thorugh the potential risks of PERC and exploring safer alternatives like wet cleaning, CO2 cleaning, and hydrocarbon cleaning, we can make a significant contribution. Additionally, looking for “PERC-Free” labels and embracing DIY methods for lightly soiled garments can further empower us to take control of our dry cleaning choices.  

Experience the Difference with Hamlet Laundry Ltd.

Ready to make the switch? Looking for a dry cleaning experience that prioritizes both your health and the environment? Look no further than Hamlet Laundry Ltd.! We are committed to using PERC-free cleaning methods, ensuring your clothes are impeccably clean without the potential downsides of traditional dry cleaning. Here’s what sets us apart:
  • Eco-Friendly Cleaning: We utilize safe and sustainable alternatives like wet cleaning and CO2 cleaning, keeping your clothes looking their best while protecting your health and the planet.
  • Quality and Care: Our skilled professionals handle your garments with the utmost care, ensuring they receive the highest quality cleaning while preserving their delicate fabrics.
  • Convenience: Enjoy the ease of convenient free pick-up services and delivery services or utilize our online ordering system for a seamless and hassle-free experience.
Ready to make the switch to sustainable dry cleaning? Visit our website or contact us today to learn more about our services. Together, let’s create a cleaner future, one garment at a time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What are the benefits of PERC-free dry cleaning?
It is gentler on clothes, healthier for you and better for the mother earth.
  1. Is PERC-free more expensive?
Prices may vary slightly, but the difference is often minimal. Many consider the health and environmental benefits a worthwhile investment.
  1. How can I find PERC-free cleaners?
  • Look for “PERC-free” labels at dry cleaners.
  • Search online for “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” dry cleaners in your area.
  • Call dry cleaners to inquire about their cleaning methods.
  1. Can I clean clothes at home as an alternative?
Yes, for lightly soiled garments, gentle handwashing with proper detergents can be a viable option. However, this might not work for all clothes or heavy stains.
  1. What if my local cleaner doesn’t offer PERC-free options?
Politely express your interest in PERC-free services. This can raise awareness and potentially encourage them to explore alternatives. Support dry cleaners in your area who already prioritize sustainable practices.
  1. Are there any other PERC-free alternatives besides wet cleaning?
Yes! CO2 cleaning and hydrocarbon cleaning are also safe and effective options offered by some dry cleaners.
  1. Is PERC-free dry cleaning safe for all fabrics?
Most PERC-free methods are gentle on fabrics, but it’s always recommended to consult a professional or check the care label on your garment for specific cleaning instructions.
  1. How often should I get my clothes dry cleaned?
This depends on the type of fabric, how often you wear the garment, and your individual cleaning habits. It’s generally recommended to dry clean delicate items less frequently and spot clean whenever possible.  
Jahid Hasan

Jahid Hasan

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