Dry Clean Green

“I’m noticing more and more dry cleaners using ‘green’ cleaners, or organic cleaners,” says friend Bernice. “Does that mean I need to set aside more money for dry cleaning?”

“By 2023,” explains gal-pal Sarah, “the use of perc machines in the dry-cleaning business will be banned by the State of California. I’m not sure how that translates into money.”

Eve to the info rescue!

“The reason we call it dry cleaning is because it doesn’t involve water; it’s all done by solvent,” explains Sarah Na of Fairlane Cleaners (Sorrento Valley, 858-587-8500; Clairemont, 858-279-0777). “Previously, the solvent used in the industry was perchloroethylene — ‘perc’ for short.” The state found it to be a potential carcinogen. “Due to that, a lot of our industry has changed to new products, to more environmentally friendly products.

“There are other options at this time. There is wet dry cleaning; the clothes go through a washing-machine cycle. The clothes tend to get wrinkled, so after they come out of the machine there is a lot of stretching in order to bring back the shape to the clothes. There is a lot of fading, so it’s not really popular...

“There are other solvents,” continues Sarah, “like GreenEarth.” GreenEarth is a silicone-based solvent that degrades to sand, water, and carbon dioxide. “But the one we use is the hydrocarbon,” a petroleum-based solvent. “There are a few cleaners that are using CO2 product, liquid carbon dioxide. But the machine itself to run the CO2 is very expensive.”

We got down to cost. “Fairlane Cleaners is offering 30 percent off all dry-cleaning services for the month of April,” says Sarah. A shirt at the Sorrento Valley store runs $1.85 for a cleaning; a suit runs $9.15.

Magic Touch in Little Italy (619-696-1665), formerly Liberty Cleaners, uses GreenEarth. “It is nontoxic,” offers owner Mike Nemovi. “It is much healthier. I was happy when I used it for the first time 11 years ago. It has no odor. I had used perc, and I didn’t like it. The industry had used perc for grease, for oil, because that material removed oil and grease easier. But you can take it on the board and spot-clean it. It takes more time, but it is safer, better for the public. Even though we are doing quality work, our prices are the same.” A shirt-cleaning costs $5; a suit runs $12.95.

Uptown Cleaners in Hillcrest (619-299-2378) also uses GreenEarth. “It leaves the clothes feeling softer, and there is no odor,” explains Alicia. “For dark clothes, it’s better if you dry-clean it, because if you launder it or use other cleaners, it will fade. If you use GreenEarth, the color will stay longer.” A shirt-cleaning at Uptown Cleaners costs $5; a suit, $10.20.

A few of the dry cleaners recommend GreenEarth’s website, greenearthcleaning.com, for more information. “GreenEarth cleaning is the world’s largest brand of environmentally friendly dry-cleaning,” the site boasts. “The GreenEarth brand name refers to an exclusive dry-cleaning process that replaces the petrochemical solvents traditionally used in dry-cleaning with liquid silicone. Liquid silicone is an odorless, colorless solution that is an excellent carrier for detergents, has ideal properties for fabric care, and is better for the environment.”

What, I wonder, is so wrong with the stuff we’ve used to dry-clean our clothes for so long? The website provides answers. “Indiscriminate disposal of perc can seriously contaminate soil and groundwater and exposure can irritate eyes, nose, and throat, as well as cause headaches, dizziness, or fatigue. Perc is also classified by the EPA as a likely carcinogen.”

In contrast, “When released to the environment, liquid silicone safely degrades back into its three natural components: sand (SiO2), water, and carbon dioxide.”

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In reference to "Greenearth" - the company seems to be engaged in a series of greenwashing exercises via the media to paint the solvent behind this - "D5" or "cyclosiloxanes" - as a benign substance.

In fact, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added D5 to its "Priority" list of chemicals for biomonitoring in July 2009. This is the highest designation and most would find it odd to classify any chemical on this list as "environmentally friendly."

Details on this classification and D5's addition can be seen here: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/multimedia/biomon/pdf/0709PotPriorChemsOEHHA.pdf

This may be why the state Air Resources Board has rejected requests by the company to include the solvent with those (water, co2) eligible for grants to cleaners seeking to adopt greener alternatives.

Perhaps a follow on to the story might be in order to inform readers of these facts?

I must agree with ghelmwood. I have owned and operated drycleaners in SD for over thirty years (In fact I built the above referenced Fairlane Cleaners in 1984.) Since 2001, I have built and operated four Hangers Cleaners, San Diego's ONLY truly environmentally friendly drycleaning operations. We use supercritical liquid carbon dioxide, and have been featured in Newsweek and MSNBC.com. No drycleaners using Decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (Green Earth) can boast that. I welcome anyone, including Eve, Bernice, and gal-pal Sarah to experience the difference of REAL environmentally friendly drycleaning. Mention this comment to get one sweater cleaned in cool CO2 for free. We offer far more than a banner proclaiming ourselves to be "green".

Gordon Hangers Cleaners Torrey Hills

Hello, my name is Tim Maxwell and I am the President of GreenEarth Cleaning. I would like to address the green washing comments posted here.

GreenEarth is, and has always been, 100% open and honest about its environment and safety profile. In fact, we are the only alternative solvent system willing to perform and openly report results of scientific testing on the solvent we use or its application in our cleaning system; we also routinely share relevant regulatory evaluations. We suspect that Mr. Ghelmwood already knows this, because it has been posted on our website since March, 2008, but to set the record straight: while GreenEarth is not currently approved for the AB998 grant program, CARB did endorse GreenEarth as "acceptable dry cleaning solvent alternative" that “poses no risk the public”, and that they "see no need" to regulate use of liquid silicone in dry cleaning. With respect to the comment about OEHHA, as we publically stated last year on the same issue, GreenEarth would sincerely welcome a biomontioring program. To date, the concerns raised about the potential for bioaccumulation of silicone are derived from computer modeling theory rather than real world empirical data. We believe that a biomonitoring program would support what over 50 studies, more than 60 years of real world use in personal care products, and 10 years of use in our dry cleaning application have consistently shown about D5 silicone: it is perfectly safe when used as intended. The safety of a food or chemical is often a matter of degree. Fluoride, salt and aspirin are all chemicals that can be toxic at high levels, but because their intended applications do not exceed safe limits, and because they provide benefits when used appropriately, we use them every day without concern. This is in fact the reason CARB could be comfortable making statements about the human health and environmental safety of GreenEarth — because the way we use silicone is exceedingly safe. In our dry cleaning application, silicone is continually recycled within the machine in a closed loop system, it does not empty down a drain; bioaccumulation would, in point of fact, be an irrelevant concern with respect to the GreenEarth Cleaning system.

With trust we do not need to respond to Mr. Shaw’s comment, although we wish him the best and always have. He uses a safe and green system and is justifiably proud of his success. To learn more about GreenEarth, or to see some of our own positive press, we welcome readers to visit www.greenearthcleaning.com.

Mr Maxwell's response is that of a well funded industrial executive, obscurring the discussion with self serving statements on potential bioaccumulation being based upon "modeling" and implying that modeling is always inaccurate. This sounds remarkably similar to the pooh-poohing of "modeling" by the learned community of industrialists questioning global warming research. Au contraire monsiuer, a goodly amount of scientific research in this day and age is conducted via modeling and accepted by the scientific community. Certainly long term bio-monitoring studies would be desirable and I would encourage he and his large corporate backers to commence these studies immediately. It is their product after all. However I would note that both Canada and California have tagged D5 to be a significant bioaccumulator and California even went so far as to say there is virtually no possibility it will degrade in an aquatic environment. Therein lies the rub. Green Earth advertises their product alternately breaks down to, or is made up of, carbon dioxide, water and sand. Bull-hooey! Great marketing, but if the product does indeed break down like this, how is it that every time a dry cleaner opens his cleaning wheel door, after a drying cycle of 150 degrees fahrenheit (heat after all being one of the primary catalysts to chemical degradation), why isn't he met with the whoosh of escaping CO2 and splat of gritty mud spilling out of the wheel. Why? Because the compound is very stable and DOESN'T BREAK DOWN. In fact, he himself states that the solvent is continually recycled (and distilled at High T)in a closed system. So what we have here is an industrial, highly stable, SYNTHETIC chemical (Mr Maxwell I'll leave it to you to enlighten the public who the industrial suppliers of your base stock and who your largest corporate sponsor is, I'm sure that will cement your status in the green sector) that is manufactured and transported long distances (uh..........carbon footprint?) that has a very slick, and false, marketing campaign. While I have no problem with Green Earth as a replacement solvent for perc, in fact it appears to be a very good one by all current science, the company should be lauded for that, however I must ask....sand, co2 and water?....IF THIS AIN'T GREENWASHING, WHAT IS???

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