Is Dry Cleaning Environmentally Friendly?

Even though it is called dry cleaning, there are still liquids involved in this method of cleaning clothes. However, it is not water that is used but liquid solvents. The truth is that traditional methods of dry cleaning are not very environmentally friendly because of the chemicals that are used.

Dry cleaning was invented way back in 1821 by Thomas Jennings. Dry cleaning, as we know it today, was first developed in the 1930s, and involves the use of the solvent perchloroethylene. This is commonly referred to as perc and is used by around 80% of all dry cleaners in the United States today. However, perc is considered to be a hazard to health and to the environment by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Dry cleaning chemicals began to be regulated by the EPA during the 1990s. They encouraged commercial cleaners to use solvents that were safer and better for the environment. This practice became known as green dry cleaning.

What Is Green Dry Cleaning?

Green dry cleaning is the term used to describe any method of dry cleaning that does not use perc. The two methods of green dry cleaning that are commonly used in the United States today are wet cleaning and liquid carbon dioxide cleaning. A more detailed description of what each of these methods involve can be found below.

eco friendly dry cleaning

Wet Cleaning

Wet cleaning does use water which is mixed with a detergent that is milder than the one you would use at home. The process of wet cleaning is often completely automated, with both the washers and dryers being computerized. It also uses finishing, pressing and steaming equipment to make sure that your clothes look their best. According to the EPA, it is one of the safest professional cleaning methods that can be used. This is because it does not use hazardous chemicals and therefore no hazardous waste is created. It also does not create air pollution and there is less chance of soil being contaminated by the water used in the process. As this method does not use a chemical solvent, the stains are treated both before and after cleaning.

Liquid Carbon Dioxide Cleaning

In this type of cleaning the liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) acts as the solvent during the cleaning process. Detergent is also used. Liquid CO2 is non-toxic and non-flammable. It is the same liquid that is used to make soft drinks carbonated.

This type of cleaning is probably the most environmentally friendly because each load of cleaning releases less than 3% of the total liquid CO2 back into the atmosphere. This means that there is virtually no impact on global warming. Less energy is used when compared to traditional dry cleaning because there is no need to heat any solvent.

The biggest barrier to this type of cleaning being widely adopted is the initial expense of buying the machines. They can cost as much as ,000 and this is often too big of an expense for a small business. The liquid CO2 itself is widely available and not expensive to buy.


As with other cleaning solutions it is recommended you shift to environmentally friendly dry cleaners. Unlike a decade ago there are options available which allow you to keep yourself, your clothes and your home clean whilst also doing your bit for our planet. The number of green dry cleaners is continually growing so you should not have to go far to find a store near you. Not only is this option great for the environment it is also considered one of the safest professional cleaning methods as there are no hazardous chemicals used. In addition there is no hazardous waste and no pollution. Don’t just take our word for it, the EPA has confirmed this assertion, so make yet another small change for our environment and use an environmentally friendly dry cleaner.

eco friendly dry cleaning
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Emma Richardson

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