P.O. Box 40441, Providence, RI 02940

Tel. 401-351-9193, E-Mail:


(Sharing Information on Toxics in Everyday Life

& Providing Healthier Alternatives)


Alternatives to Dry Cleaning

(Excerpted from:


The chemicals used in dry-cleaning are solvent-based, and harmful to the environment. The widely used dry cleaning solvent known as perchloroethylene has been linked to health and environmental hazards, and is classified as a "probable carcinogen" by the Environmental Protection Agency. Two recently developed technologies now offer safer alternatives:


CO2 Cleaning: An effective and environmentally sound dry cleaning method has recently been developed by Micell Technologies, based in Raleigh NC. This method uses liquid carbon dioxide to dry-clean clothes, eliminating the use of perchloroethylene. Micell's technology combines liquid carbon dioxide with recyclable cleaning agents in a traditional basket-style machine. It is similar to today’s front-load, mechanical action machines, and features gentle wash and extract cycles. A patented detergent system enhances the cleaning ability of the liquid CO2 allowing it to remove the dirt on the garments. After the cleaning cycle, the machine pulls the mixture of liquid CO2 and cleaning agents away from the clothes, then cleans and reuses the solution. Besides being easier on the environment, CO2 cleaning is said to cause less fading and wear on clothing when compared with traditional dry cleaning. Because it doesn't require heat to clean, the process is also gentler on clothes.  (CO2 cleaning is available at the chain of Hangers cleaners, but none are currently in Rhode Island)

Wet Cleaning: A new process has been developed which cleans many "dry clean only" garments using an environmentally friendly , water-based system called "Wet Cleaning". Garments made with 100% wools, cashmere, silk, rayon, acetate and dozens of other fabrics can now be safely treated and finished.  These fabrics have a dry cleaning preference, but certain food, beverages and albuminous stains may not release in the dry cleaning process. When combined with the exact amounts of soaps, surfactants and finishing agents, wet cleaning is very effective. Most garment manufacturers are now putting their stamp of approval on this process.  The heart of the wet cleaning system is a German made "Miele" processing unit. Many dry cleaning businesses in Europe and North America are now equipped with the Miele wet cleaning unit. Ask your local dry cleaners if they have, or plan to have, the Miele unit for wet cleaning.  (Greenpeace is recommending this method.)


NOTE:  Most dry cleaners in Rhode Island have wet cleaning machines available, according to Peter Blake, of the Northeast Fabric Care Association.  However, they face legal liability issues if they do not follow label instructions. 


WHAT YOU CAN DO:  Don’t buy clothing labeled “Dry Clean”.  Encourage manufacturers to avoid unnecessary “Dry Clean only” labels on items that don’t really need it (this is often done for “snob value”).  Ask your dry cleaner if they have a wet cleaning machine, and use it for garments requiring special care when possible, instead of the perchloroethylene method.  Keep in touch with TIP to see if additional alternatives are being offered locally.

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