Is it true that dry-cleaning my clothing is a health hazard and can harm the environment? If so, are there any eco-friendly alternatives?

Green

If you do go to a traditional dry-cleaner, minimize your exposure to perc: Remove your cleaned clothes from their bags and air them outside or in a well-ventilated area before storing them in your closet. Open car windows when driving home with your dry-cleaning.

Greener

Try a cleaner that uses an alternative method. Wet cleaning uses water and nontoxic soap. It’s best for items made of fabrics that you would consider hand washing at home, such as silk or linen. Another option is carbon dioxide dry-cleaning, which uses liquid CO2 to clean clothes in high-pressure machines: Hangers is a national chain of CO2 cleaners, or you can visit findco2.com to find a local option. These are the only two processes considered environmentally preferable by the EPA.  

Greenest

Cut down on professional cleaning. Here are some suggestions: Buy fewer clothes that require dry cleaning; spot clean when possible; invest in a steamer; hand wash all appropriate clothes or use the delicate cycle on your washing machine; and air out garments after wearing, only sending out stained and soiled items. You’ll save time, money and the environment with fewer trips to the dry cleaners.

Story by Lori Bongiorno. This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008