What is Dry Cleaning?
Dry Cleaning is a misnomer (which is itself a misnomer, as it has literally nothing to do with lady gnomes). Dry Cleaning is so named because it's a cleaning method that doesn't use water. Instead, a liquid cleaning solvent is used to clean your clothes, and, for our purposes, 100% eucalyptus bedding (btw you can safely and effectively wash your eucalyptus sheets at home).
Around 85% of all dry cleaners in the U.S. use a solvent called perchloroethylene, or as the cool people in the industry call it, "perc."
Perc is a colorless liquid with a sweet smell that also happens to pose some serious health and environmental risks.
Is Dry Cleaning bad for the environment?
It really depends on your dry cleaner.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified perc, the most commonly used cleaning solvent, as a Group 2A carcinogen, which means that it's probably carcinogenic to humans.
Repeated exposure to perc can also include skin, eye and respiratory irritation, headaches, dizziness, impaired coordination, and liver and kidney damage. You probably don't want that stuff lingering in your clothes and bedding...and linger it does.
About 90% of perc produced finds its way into the atmosphere. The other 10% gets released into the water. Because it's so dense, it sinks far beneath the ground making it difficult to remove. In fact, it's considered more difficult to clean up than oil spills. Take that, BP.
So, yeah, these are some things you should definitely consider when you decide to take your eucalyptus bedding to the cleaners.
So, what's a good alternative to Dry Cleaning?
So glad you asked.
When the time comes to bring your eucalyptus comforter or duvet cover to the cleaners, look for a Green Dry Cleaner. A Green Dry Cleaner is a Dry Cleaner that doesn't use harmful chemicals like perc (fwiw, we're on the record for being against using harmful chemicals in our eucalyptus sheets).
Thanks to greenwashing, or that super annoying thing when a company or product merely pretends to be environmentally-friendly, you have to be careful about which green dry cleaning method you choose.
Green Dry Cleaning that isn't green
Many Dry Cleaners claim to be environmentally-friendly, but they are lying liars...or just genuinely confused because this stuff is truly dizzying.
Hydrocarbon cleaning methods are not green. Hydrocarbon is a petroleum-based solvent, which mean it’s a major source of greenhouse gases. Companies like Exxon and Chevron make their own versions of hydrocarbon cleaning products, so you know the environment is the top concern (please note the sarcasm).
GreenEarth is another greenwashing culprit. It sure sounds green and Earthy, as the name implies, but it has some serious downsides. Namely, the maker of GreenEarth uses chlorine, which releases carcinogenic dioxin during the manufacturing process. Not great.
According to the EPA, only two of the Green Dry Cleaning methods are truly green.
Look for these Green Dry Cleaning methods instead
Professional Wet Cleaning (PWC) is a method of garment cleaning that uses water, a gentle washing machine, biodegradable soaps and conditioners, and specialized drying and pressing equipment.
The EPA classifies PWC as an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional dry cleaning. This is because there's "no hazardous chemical use, no hazardous waste generation, no air pollution, and reduced potential for water and soil contamination." So...win-win-win-win-win?
And even though PWC produces waste water, it still uses less water than traditional dry cleaning. How ironic.
Liquid Carbon Dioxide Cleaning
Liquid Carbon Dioxide, sometimes called Supercritical CO2, is another alternative to perc. It uses pressurized CO2 in both gas and liquid form to dissolve dirt, fats, oils, and other stains your bedding may incur (drinking wine in bed is risky but worth it, we say).
But, wait, isn't CO2 one of the main contributors to global warming? Yes, it is, but Liquid Carbon Dioxide cleaning doesn't generate any new CO2. Instead, the CO2 is captured from other manufacturing processes, in essence, recycling it to clean your sheet.
CO2 machines are still very expensive, so there may not be any cleaners in your area who use them...yet. In the long run, however, this method is cheaper for small business owners because they won't have to pay for the regulatory and disposal costs associated with perc-based machines.
Find a Green Dry Cleaner near you
Next time you need to take your eucalyptus comforter, eucalyptus duvet cover or that blue dress you've worn to every wedding for the past 7 years to the dry cleaners, try using a Green Dry Cleaner. You'll get the same (or better) results without resorting to the use of harmful chemicals.
If you're a Google Maps user, just type in "Green Dry Cleaner near me" and explore your options. And if you're a Bing Maps user, why?