Advantages of Wet Cleaning Over Traditional Dry Cleaning

Since primary dry cleaning solvent perchloroethylene (perc) is a known environmental and health hazard, wet cleaning has fast emerged as the best alternative. Wet cleaning treats “dry clean only” garments with water and biodegradable detergents in computerized washers and dryers. Without traditional laundering’s risk of shrinkage or damage, wet cleaning is at least as effective as dry cleaning with none of the risks associated with perc.

Dry cleaners are increasingly switching to wet cleaning. Washington’s King County, the state of California, and the Cities of Minneapolis and Philadelphia have all implemented plans to phase out perc in favor of eco-friendly alternatives. It’s important to ask “green” dry cleaners if they provide wet cleaning, given its considerable advantages for the environment, people, and even clothing.

Advantages of Wet Cleaning for the Environment

Perc spreads throughout soil, water, and air with a half-life of 96 days. Due to this persistence, perc contaminates our bodies even miles from the original dry cleaning facilities. Replacing the solvent with water negates these risks entirely, resulting in:

  • Cleaner soil – wet cleaning prevents the soil contamination reported around dry cleaning facilities (often even in residential areas).
  • Cleaner water – perc spills concentrate at the bottom of groundwater reservoirs and spread into drinking water, whereas water is harmless.
  • Cleaner air – wet cleaning eliminates the risk of perc spreading miles from its original source or into your home’s indoor air through residue on clothes.
  • Greater energy efficiency – although wet cleaning uses more water than dry cleaning, the water returns to sewers without the energy-intensive process of solvent recovery.

Advantages of Wet Cleaning for Health

One Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report details perc’s major health hazards. Because perc reaches most people’s bloodstreams through the environment, switching to wet cleaning has these advantages:

  • Lower cancer risks – eliminating perc also eliminates the greater risk of bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma reported in dry cleaning workers and confirmed in test rodents.
  • Fewer neurological issues – wet cleaning avoids perc’s risks of dizziness, sleepiness, loss of consciousness, loss of balance, headaches, and other potentially chronic issues.
  • Healthier organs – perc also has possible links to kidney and liver dysfunctions and issues in the immune, hematologic, and reproductive systems.

Advantages of Wet Cleaning for Clothing

While perc’s hazards make wet cleaning a must, it additionally offers superior cleaning in many regards. If you take clothes to wet cleaners, you can expect:

  • Odorless garments – wet cleaned garments lack the sweet chemical smell of perc residue that contaminates indoor air.
  • Brighter colors – wet cleaning can prevent fading or yellowing associated with perc.
  • Stain removal – wet cleaning removes some water-soluble stains that perc cannot treat.
  • Gentler cleaning – wet cleaning washers and dryers have specialized controls that agitate sensitive garments less often than laundering or dry cleaning.

Although the switch to wet cleaning takes significant time and money, these advantages show that it would definitely create a greener dry cleaning industry. You might even be able to find wet cleaning near you already.