Three Questionable Dry Cleaning Chemicals

Three Questionable Dry Cleaning Chemicals

Dry cleaning, when you think about it, is a strange term used to describe the process of dousing clothes in a slurry of oil byproducts. Dry cleaning is not dry at all, and neither is it very clean.

1) Hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbons are extracted from plant material by your local farmers and made into cleaning agents – if by local farmer you mean the oil titan Exxon-Mobile and the plant material is millions of years old. Hydrocarbons are petroleum-based solvents and are extracted using a series of chemical processes that we do not have the credentials to explain.

Hydrocarbons are volatile organic compounds, which means they make rather unpleasant guests in your body. They are known to cause damage to your liver, kidneys, and your central nervous system, which are things that you usually want to keep from getting damaged.

2) Liquid Silicone

Silicone is so smooth and wonderful, who wouldn’t want it smeared all over their pants on a regular basis? Actually, silicone is a relatively innocent compound among the other dry cleaning agents.

One study, which was conducted over a period of 50 years, saw a dramatic increase in tumors in rats that were exposed to silicone. However, scientists have since confirmed that rats are in fact different from humans, so there is less risk than initially thought.

Silicone is also relatively expensive. On average, it costs about twice as much as other toxic compounds that do the same job. As a result of this, many struggling or questionable dry cleaning outfits might not use it. Silicon degrades in a few days, and it produces non-hazardous waste.

3) “Perc” (Perchloroethylene)

Perc has been used since 1940s, and it is the most common and offensive dry cleaning chemical around. It is known as being the most aggressive cleaner, especially at removing oil-based stains. The chemical is known for the characteristic smell it leaves on your clothes.

One recent study done at Georgetown University classifies perchloroethylene as carcinogenic to humans.

If you are reading this, then there is a very good chance you are a sitting at a computer in a city. If you live in a city, you are more than likely being exposed to carcinogens on a daily basis. Do we really need to wash our clothes in the stuff?

Perchloroethylene isn’t something you can wash off either. Perc does not actually leave the garment after cleaning, and it accumulates every time you get the item dry cleaned. Eventually, you will have clothes so clean that people will pay you compliments on how much cancer they are getting from it.


  1. 10:23 pm-July 25, 2013
    Tim Maxwell

    Silicone-based dry cleaning is known as GreenEarth Cleaning, and you are correct that the environmental and human health profile of our process offers a welcome alternative to petroleum-based cleaning methods. It is not entirely true that silicone is more expensive. Regional costs vary, but the cost per gallon for silicone usually runs less than perc, and operators can process twice as many clothes per gallon. The detergent, steam, water and electricity burden with GreenEarth’s optimized process is also significantly lower than perc (by 55-75%).

    We would welcome a dialogue with anyone interested in learning more about the safety of the GreenEarth process, our cleaning chemistry or our sustainability goals.

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  2. 10:23 pm-July 25, 2013
    Paul McDonald

    I think you analysis and discussion is lame and one side.

  3. 10:23 pm-July 25, 2013
    Garry Anderson

    “…scientists have since confirmed that rats are in fact different from humans.”

    Gold. Who would have thought? hahah

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