When you see the words eco-friendly on your dry cleaner's window, you may feel good about getting your clothes cleaned at that particular establishment. However, you may want to reconsider your choice. These words are unregulated in the industry, and thus useless to an everyday customer who doesn't have the time for extra research. Green or organic cleaners may still well use petroleum-based products, or they may use another compound called PERC. This chemical combination has been known to cause cancer (among other things), and is best avoided by everyone.
What Is PERC?
PERC stands for tetrachloroethylene, and it's used to both clean fabric and degrease metals. The cleaning benefits of this compound were attractive enough to prompt the vast majority of dry cleaners to start using it (currently about 85% of dry cleaners still rely on PERC, a known carcinogen.) Not only was it non-flammable, but it was also predictable and plentiful. Cleaners could count on it to effectively clean clothes without damaging them. For a while, it seemed to be a bit of a miracle — until scientists started seeing the short- and long-term effects of PERC.
What Does PERC Do?
In addition to getting things clean, PERC is also associated with a variety of horrible health problems. Just one chance exposure can cause dizziness, headaches, and skin irritation. It's been linked to truly scary diseases such as Parkinson's and chronic conditions like liver damage and cardiac arrhythmia. It can be passed from mother to child by nursing, which can wreak havoc with an infant's developing systems. The EPA regulates PERC, classifying it as a type of hazardous waste. Experts at the EPA state that merely storing the garment can raise the amount of toxins in that area of the home. Cleaners can call it organic because it technically contains carbons, but there's nothing natural about using it to clean clothes.
What Can You Do?
Despite all of the proven drawbacks of PERC, it's not yet illegal to use in dry cleaning. California has started regulating this chemical, but not every state is following suit. However, it doesn't have to be a time-consuming process to find a non-PERC dry cleaner. There are plenty of alternatives that are safe for you, safe for your clothes, and safe for the environment. And they're available right now. Look for a cleaner who doesn't just use buzz words in order to get you to trust them. Choose someone who can give you direct answers about their cleaning methods, and who absolutely refuses to compromise your health for their profit.
Why you should choose a dry cleaner that's *not* PERC.