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The Green Life: The Dirt on Dry Cleaning

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February 24, 2007

The Dirt on Dry Cleaning

Get this: dry cleaning isn’t really dry. Nope, we’re not pulling your (dry-clean-only trouser) leg. Although no water is involved in the process (hence the name), liquid solvents are, and the main one, perchloroethylene, is nasty stuff. Better known as perc, it’s a likely carcinogen linked to a host of other health problems that also contaminates our soil and water.

Greener alternatives include wet cleaning (a kind of high-tech version of hand-washing) and liquid-CO2 dry cleaning.

Of course, the simplest (and probably cheapest) solution is to avoid clothes that require dry cleaning in the first place. These days, there are even machine-washable suits (look for ones that haven't been treated with wrinkle- or stain-repellents, which often use formaldehyde). And many cotton, linen, and silk clothes can be safely hand-washed in cold water even if they say "dry-clean-only."

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