Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Greener Shade of Dry Cleaning

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

A Greener Cleaner

This was an experiment made in heaven. Let me explain. When we moved from Charlotte, NC back to Central Florida, my challenge was to find a dry cleaner that suited (no pun intended) my husband. That's not always an easy thing to do. To be honest, it is almost always very difficult. He's fussy. Not just fussy; he's downright adamant that his dry cleaning must be perfect.

So you can imagine how many dry cleaners we went through before I found one he liked. Maybe you can't, but I'll give you a hint; it was more than 20. We've stuck with the winner for quite a few years now, and when my itch to find a greener cleaner came scratching, I knew I was in for a big challenge. I honestly did not expect to be changing cleaners. But here we go.

After doing the required research I learned that there is apparently no such thing as ORGANIC dry cleaning, and that such a thing would actually be an oxy-moron. The silicone dry cleaning solution used in the GreenEarth Cleaning products, which are used by Martinizing Dry Cleaning Stores, are described as chemically inert, because they do not interact with the clothing. The reports indicate that their dry cleaning products leave no residues and are therefore, more gentle to clothing and buttons or other trims.

According to their documentation, about 85 percent of dry cleaners use perchloroethylene (or perc, for short), which is classified by the EPA as a Toxic Air Contaminant and a probable human carcinogen (cancer causing chemical). No surprise if you've ever take a whiff inside a bag of fresh dry cleaning. Perc can seriously contaminate soil and groundwater, as well as cause irritation to eyes, nose and throat, along with headaches, dizziness and fatigue.

Green Earth's silicone cleaner, a liquefied sand, is so safe that it is not regulated by the EPA. When it is released into the environment, it degrades into its three original components: sand, water and carbon dioxide.

There are 2 other recognized green dry cleaning methods--wet cleaning (another oxy-moron: "wet dry cleaning") and CO2, a liquid carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, CO2 machines are extremely expensive, making them unaffordable for the average family owned dry cleaner. Wet cleaning methods require extra labor that also is costly, leaving these two methods to represent less than one third of all dry cleaning.

In addition to checking out the chemical side of things, I wanted a dry cleaner who would recycle or reuse their hangers. After all, I had been collecting them since I pledged to go the green route--about 8 months or so. Do the math. Five shirts a week and a few jackets and suits each month need to go to the cleaners. I suppose that's about 25-30 hangers a month. It was quite a load to drop off, and they were happy to get them.

I arrived armed with a huge load of hangers and a bag of clothes to be cleaned. Angela cheerfully put my information in the computer (that was a surprise) and told me I would be emailed when my cleaning was ready. Cool! No more trips to the cleaners for naught.

Then the big day came. With my laundry quickly retrieved, I scanned it skeptically, knowing I would find something my husband wouldn't like. But I didn't. The ironing job was as perfect as can be. No broken buttons or missed stains. Before I could awaken from this dream, I grabbed the laundry and scurried out saying, "I'll be back next week. Thanks again."

Tomorrow's Food Friday post is a recipe for All Natural Chorizo and potatoes. This recipe is a man's meal, for sure. Come and enjoy a hearty meal that is also a money-saver.

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