5 things your dry cleaner isn’t telling you

Even “organic” dry cleaners use petroleum-based solvents.

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From the Summer 2013 issue of the magazine.

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Dry-Cleaner
1. Dry cleaning isn’t dry. Water isn’t used in the dry cleaning process, but liquid solvents are. The most common solvent used is perchloroethylene (perc). While it leaves no chemical residue on garments when it’s used properly, it’s still very damaging to the environment.

2. We’re organic, technically. Alternative solvents make up roughly 25% of the market, according to Brad Maxwell, President of the Ontario Fabricare Association. Hydrocarbon, another petroleum-based solvent, is the most prevalent and it’s manufactured by ExxonMobil, among others. Because of the carbon component, the impact of these cleaners is open to interpretation. “There are some dry cleaners using hydrocarbon and calling themselves ‘organic,’” says Maxwell. More environmentally-friendly solvents are made from silicon rather than petroleum.

3. We like to bundle and reuse. Whether the process is wet or dry, multiple garments are thrown into massive, high-tech machines all at once—so don’t expect individualized care. But don’t worry: they group like colours, just like you would at home. Also many dry cleaners reuse wire hangers that are in good condition. De-clutter your closet and reduce waste by giving yours back. It’s cost-effective and good for the environment.

4. “Dry clean only” doesn’t mean dry clean only. You can hand-wash wools, cashmeres and pale silks. Just don’t wring them out. Instead, roll them in a clean, dry towel to remove excess water before lying them flat to dry. Dark silks tend to fade so it’s best to leave these delicate items to the pros.

5. You have recourse. Believe your clothes were damaged at the cleaners? For roughly $45, the Canadian Garment Analysis Lab can test clothing for improper cleaning techniques. Some dry cleaners will even pick up the tab from the lab to resolve a dispute, especially if they believe they did a good job.

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