I am always surprised by the types of clothes people bring to the dry cleaner – men’s dress shirts, women’s blouses, sweaters, cotton slacks. A lot of it can safely be washed at home for a lot less money and at a lower environmental (for all of us) and health (for the dry cleaning staff) price. Dry cleaning is a chemically intense process that involves the toxic solvent perc (follow the link for information about dry cleaning), still used by 85% of all dry cleaning businesses.
I only get business suits and dresses dry cleaned since they cannot be laundered at home. I never even brought sweaters in and hand washed them instead, the way my mother always did; but luckily I now have a washing machine with a hand wash program that does it safely and gently. And, I concede that you’ll have to do some ironing if you launder more at home and don’t care for wrinkly slacks and dress shirts.
To add insult to injury, dry cleaners wrap the cleaned clothes in those long thin plastic sleeves to protect them from dust while awaiting pick-up, and then for the way home. So, while I have brought my own canvas shopping bags to the supermarket and farmer’s market for years to avoid using environmentally unfriendly plastic bags, I have only now awoken to the nasty dry cleaning plastic wrap scourge. Unlike the plastic supermarket bags, the thin dry cleaning plastic bags cannot even be recycled! Between toxins and trash, a double whammy that ends up in the garbage stream.
I have now asked my dry cleaner to refrain from slipping those plastic sleeves over our clothes. They have been very cooperative and are hanging our unwrapped clothes on a pick-up rack by the door.
Lastly, there are now two environmentally safe dry cleaning methods, professional wet cleaning and liquid carbon dioxide cleaning (follow the link for information on environmentally friendly methods). Keep a lookout for cleaners that adopt these new safer methods.
In conclusion, consider saving on the dry cleaner by washing more of your clothes at home, looking out for dry cleaners that use environmentally safer methods, and if you must, at least forego the plastic.