Monday, January 12, 2009

Plastic Free dry cleaning?

Ever seen "Organic Dry Cleaning" signs and wondered just how much of an oxymoron that was? An article in today's New York Times has an answer.

It May Market Organic Alternatives, but Is Your Cleaner Really Greener?

In New York and around the country, dry-cleaning stores have increasingly sprouted signs reading “organic” or “green,” as environmentally conscious consumers look for alternatives to traditional dry cleaning and its use of the solvent perchloroethylene. Prolonged contact with that solvent, known as PCE or perc, has been linked in some studies to cancer and neurological troubles like vision problems, and its use is strictly regulated.

But marketing claims for the alternatives are not regulated at all.

Frightening, no? The Times has an excellent chart showing the pros and cons of dry cleaning alternatives, check it out.

Meanwhile, no matter what method of professional cleaning you use, you are still left with that pesky plastic bag. (The hanger is fully re-usable, which is way better than recycling, and cleaners gladly take them back, btw. I am always surprised when people don't know this.) Here in NYC we can recycle dry cleaning bags along with plastic grocery bags at stores, but the best choice is still to not use them at all.

In my imagination there is a very fine and fancy cleaning service that gives your fresh clothes back to you in a fabric garment bag, to be exchanged at your next service. Does it exist? I mean if it exists anywhere... How did the Rockefellers and Astors get their coats and morning suits cleaned at the turn of the century? What was there before dry cleaning?

Personally I avoid dry cleaning if at all possible. Partly for 'green' reasons but mostly because I am a cheapskate. I hand wash sweaters and delicates, and disregard "Dry Clean Only" tags- they are a lot of bull, in most cases. If a garment is made from natural fibers, or mostly from natural fibers, it can be hand washed and laid flat to dry. The only problem with this is shaped garments with linings, like overcoats and suits, and garments with trimming and beading. Paddings, trim and linings get shriveled and can be next to impossible to reshape. These are the things I get dry cleaned, after putting it off until it absolutely must be done.

You see 'dry clean only' in many cheaply made garments- things that cost more than the original purchase price after you get them cleaned a few times. I see the 'dry clean only' tag as a way to hide the cheapness of materials and construction- dyes that won't stay when the garment gets wet, buttons that break in the dryer, hems that come out completely when one thread is snagged. Things to think about when purchasing clothing for sure. Quality clothes not only look better, they are better for the earth in the long run. And when I say quality I mean actual quality, not marketing quality. Expensive marketing does not mean a good product.

Rant over! Anyway, do you think plastic free dry cleaning exists?

1 comment:

Fix said...

Hi, Juli -

Hm, thanks for the article. I've been using Green Apple but now I might reconsider...generally I leave the hangers and bags in the store and stick the clothes in my bag - it doesn't take that long for me to get home with them, where I can hang them up!