You’ve rid your home of toxic cleaning products, you’ve invested in an air purifier, and you’ve made the switch to clean linens and textiles. You’re committed to living more sustainably and your next step is trying to find a green dry cleaner in your local area. Before you spend hours trying to find the unicorn that is a truly green dry cleaner — let us share some real facts with you to help you make your dry cleaning decision.
Firstly, let’s get to the lay of the dry cleaning land…
Probably one of the biggest revelations around dry cleaning is that the clothes get wet — false advertising strikes again — not with water alone, but with a bunch of chemicals that include perchloroethylene that then make their way into our water systems. Perc, as it’s also known, is definitely great at degreasing and deodorizing textiles, but has been shown to cause cancer as well as kidney and liver damage in animal studies. Other symptoms of short term exposure include dizziness, headaches and unconsciousness.
On top of the health and water impacts, add in the plastic wrapping that comes with each freshly laundered wool jacket or cocktail dress and it becomes apparent that dry cleaning is not great for Mama Earth.
Unfortunately, some dry cleaners that purport to be environmentally-friendly are not. To be defined as “green” essentially means that they do not use perc. However, the ingredients they do use — may not be organic or truly non-toxic.
The Silver Lining…
Perhaps that “dry clean only” tag on your favorite wool jacket or that time you accidentally shrunk your favorite cocktail dress has left you wary of taking your laundry into your own hands. The truth is — although many fashion items claim to be “dry clean only” there are at-home solutions that are effective and available. Plus, you’ll stop burning a hole in your pocket with expensive dry cleaning rates.
Here are a few of our favorite dry cleaning alternatives…
Enlist Your Pantry
From spot stains to strange scents, your pantry probably holds the solution.
Baking Powder: If you’ve just got a small mark of stain, making a paste with water and baking powder is an excellent option — particularly for cotton mixes.
Vinegar: If you’re feeling that your clothes have retained an odor that normal washing cannot remove, dilute them in a bucket of cold water and vinegar for 30 minutes and let air dry. Side note: it also improves sheen.
Vodka: Got a cheap bottle of vodka that you haven’t touched in years? Similar to vinegar, it’s neutral scent is great for removing any stuck odors rather than soaking your clothes — just give them a spray.
Mesh Bags Are Laundry Miracles
In the spirit of not believing everything you read, question if your item is truly dry clean only — especially, sweaters and silks. As Patrick Richardson explains, “The trick to washing things that you think are dry clean only, like sweaters, is putting them in a mesh bag.” If you’re still unsure, check out his tutorial.
Steam Cleaners Are 100% Worth The Investment
If ironing is not in your home economic skill set but you really love that fresh-pressed look, may we suggest steam cleaners? It’s a great way to freshen up clothes and extend the time between dry cleaning on those items that truly need the professional touch. Hairdryers can also do the trick and it’s said that steam cleaners can even remove small stains from wool.
These are just a few of the tips surrounding dry cleaning alternatives. The internet and YouTube tutorials are a great place if you want to dive deeper into environmentally-friendly laundering. Having said that, we understand that some fashion pieces are special and may need a professional touch. As is the truth for long-lasting sustainable changes, it’s best to try some of these solutions for yourself and on items that make sense for you.
Rachel Guest is the Editorial Director at THE FULLEST and a forever student of all things wellness and healing. She feels incredibly privileged to be able to learn as she edits the contributions from the inspiring and knowledgeable roster of THE FULLEST writers.