Clean Clothing Without Chemicals

Going green — By Stephanie on December 22, 2010 at 6:31 am
drycleaning2 Clean Clothing Without Chemicals

A cleaner, greener way to freshen your clothes!

For more than 50 years, my grandfather owned a dry cleaning business.  He’s been gone for 2 years now, but the chemical clean-up at the property will probably continue for decades. ‘Tis the season for spilling food or drink on your favorite garments.  So, how can you get clean clothing without chemicals?

Most dry cleaners use perchloroethylene (perc or PCE) in a liquid solvent to remove stains. But inhalation exposure to the chemical can result in increased health risks, including to liver, kidney and neurological cancer.  For women of childbearing age, high levels of PCE exposure can even result in miscarriage.

The law is slow to catch up to protect the public.  As of the date of this publication, about 85% of dry cleaners still use perc.  Not only that, but dry cleaners use plastic bags and hangers that often get tossed into the garbage, which adds to environmental harm.  Or, request your dry cleaning to be returned naked (love this funny video):

Funny videos aside, you can have clean clothing without chemicals.  Unless you can find a green dry cleaners in your town (and be satisfied that they are actually using eco-friendly cleaning products), your best bet is to clean at home.

Here are some great tips:

  • Wool should be gently hand-washed with a mild soap in warm water.  Its eco-friendly and safe to add distilled white vinegar to the water when rinsing. Lay flat to dry, and then stretch it to its proper size.
  • Silk also can be gently washed in warm water, with a gentle soap that has a neutral pH, like castile.  Simply swirl the garment in the soapy water; do not wring it or scrub hard. To remove wrinkles, iron silk garments on a low setting, or steam by placing it on a hanger while you take a shower.
  • Rayon is hand-washable in cool water with a mild soap. After rinsing, gently press the water out of the garment, then hang it to dry.
drycleaning1 Clean Clothing Without Chemicals

Don't clean your clothes this way!

Beyond gentle hand-washing, you can can also clean clothing without chemicals using a home garment steamer (remove wrinkles and kill microbes), brushing with microfiber fabric or a soft brush to remove surface dirt, or simply choosing items that do not require dry cleaning only!

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