Dirty Facts of Dry Cleaning
Dry Cleaning
16 Jan2018


Dirt from Dry Cleaning process

Dry cleaning is an art and the chemical used during this process of cleaning the clothes are very vulnerable to human health and the environment but if not controlled properly and handled with care, they are equally bad and harmful for the clothes as well.

One of the best examples of this is the sickly sour and sweet smell coming from the clothes when they came back from your local dry cleaner. This smell master that your clothes were treated properly and they were cleaned up through dry cleaning process as the smell is not like the smell of any detergent.

This sour or sweet smell indicates that your clothes were passed through a chemical process which is dangerous for the environment. Dry cleaners use them with due care under a very controlled environment to save both humans and environment.

Majority of people think that the dry cleaning is a simple process and can be done at home, if they have all those chemicals and equipment to do the dry cleaning but they are wrong.

Managing these chemicals to save the environment and humans is a tough task and using these chemicals at home can cause a serious damage to your health and environment as well.

The dry cleaning chemicals

One of the most dangerous cleaning agents is perchloroethylene [perc], a solvent used for removing dirt from your clothes. The perc is classified as one of the most vulnerable replacements of the detergent and water at the same time and used to dry clean your garments.

How Perc cleans the clothes?

It is a chlorocarbon agent and all the Cleaning clothes immersed into this chemical by continuously passing the chemical through the clothes and this process repeats again and again.

At the second stage of dry cleaning, all the clothes exposed to a hot air reservoir or dryer and all the remaining chemical particles and vapors further vaporized through heated air.

This vaporized perc then sent back to the perc tank on the backup and reused. All this process cannot be done at home it requires a dry cleaning machine and your local dry cleaner has a machine to handle this process.

Dirty Facts of Dry Cleaning

Dirty Facts of Dry Cleaning

It is possible that many perc particles and residues remained in the clothes and to remove those particles, the drying process repeated again and again until all the perc residuals removed properly.

How Perc damages the Environment

To understand the nature of the perc chemical let’s ask Dr. Pauzi, coordinator of Centre of Excellence in Environmental Forensics. He says that the perc is a chemical which falls into the category of CFC gasses and they are highly dangerous for the Ozone layer as they soak oxygen. The perc if left unattended, it also lefts a critically dangerous effect on the Ozone layer.

Similar to the CFCs, if perc released to the air in form of vapors, they will definitely travel to the upper layer of atmosphere and will start reacting with the Ozone layer and cause depletion of the Ozone Layer.

This is one of the serious environmental and health dangers because Ozone layer is the base of life at planet earth and protects life from ultraviolet rays and radiation coming from the sun.

The Perc and CFC gases are equally dangerous as the carbon dioxide and methane. These chemicals also generate greenhouse gases or converted into them. Under the Montreal Protocol on Substances, the majority of these gases and chemicals are banned across the globe.

The good news here is that the perc is not banned globally because it is not one of these gases just because it is treated in the controlled environment. CFCs on the other hand, contain Fluorine particles and they kill the ozone. At the same time, Perc doesn’t have any of these particles.

Why Perc is dangerous?

During the dry cleaning process, there are many possible ways when perc can go into the environment, let us discuss them all one by one. Let’s ask Dr. Catherine Yule, deputy director school of sciences, she says that the dry cleaning process involves many dangerous processes and it can pollute the buildings by vaporizing the Perc, if you drained them, it can ultimately pollute the underground water and ultimately pollute the environment around you.

The perc chemicals can kill the soil particles killing the organic matters. This dry cleaning chemical is highly volatile to the air and environment and it is equally difficult to handle as well, it is difficult to recycle and can release the vapors during the process. It also pollutes the air during the waste disposal and purification processes.

The pollution from the Perc chemicals and its particles involve several ways by them the perc can pollute your environment.

1. When the dry cleaning machines being refilled, the perc particles evaporate into the air and at the same time, they evaporate upon opening the machines for removing the clothes. This evaporation process continues upon moving the clothes from machines to dryers and then to the machines.


2. Accidental spills of the chemicals are also a major cause and these chemicals pollute the air. The exhaust discharge system is another reason.


3. Environment surrounded by the buildings pollutes through the evaporation passed through windows and air conditioning process or the exhausts. The perc vapors can easily pass through the walls, flooring and the ceilings; they cannot be stopped in either way.

Perc particles are hardly dilute able in the air and they last more than a month in the air before they break down in the chemicals. The truth cannot be denied that they are highly toxic.

  1. The fourth and most dangerous one contamination process starts when a dry cleaning batch ends and all the perc chemical removed to clean the machines and recycled for reuse. Sometimes, when the chemical meets its end limits and dry cleanser cannot use it more, they spilled it into the drains, and they do not treat the solid waste as it should be treated.
  2. Not only the dry cleaners and Textile industry in the UK use the perc chemicals, but the metal cleaning industry, rubber industry, and the painting industry also use the same chemicals. In several third world countries across the globe, it has been reported that the Perc chemicals are found in the drinking water, sourced from underground water.

You will be amazed that the countries like America and Malaysia are also the victims of underground water contamination. Although they are now in the phase of setting out the Perc out of the market they already got infected.

The real dirt and preventive measures

One of the most attentive things is the dry cleaning machine that must be cleaned up to the best extent. Machines must be well organized and certified for green environment. All your local Gorsehill Dry Cleaners have certified green earth certified and they have environmental friendly dry cleaning process in place.

All these businesses also acknowledge that the perc is damaging the environment. It is important to handle the perc according to the international guidelines and ensure that the dry cleaning machines are in the mint condition. It is also important to store and transfer the perc chemicals in a safe way to save the planet earth.

Big laundry and dry cleaning chains like Gorsehill Dry Cleaners in the UK, has big players as their clients e.g. Ministry of Defense UK. All this comes because of the trust developed by the chain in the past decades. Big hotel chains and governmental institutes rely on the group just because of the standards and safety measures applied.

The Director of The Clean Machine says, they have implemented the most modern and advanced system to handle the chemicals, although it is hard to prevent them 100% he says they are doing it up to 99.9% secure. Their systems are capable enough to remove the last particle of perc left in the dry-cleaned clothes, including its stingy odor.

The general manager at David Barns dry cleaners agrees to the reality that the machines and the programs are important to protect the environment and they have strict standards in place at all of its branches.

All the branches are connected to a certified chemical waste disposal system and are socially responsible establishments. The group has a strong schedule of waste handling where chemical based waste handled with due care as well. The company uses the solvents to their usable life by recycling the solvents, distilling and extracting even a single drop of usable perc for reusing. After recycling all the waste, the remaining solid and liquid waste are sent to waste management facilities.

The classified and chemical wastes including perc residue comes under dangerous goods waste and handled by environment protection organizations, all priory businesses are certified green businesses and they all come under the watch of local authorities.

Are your garments making you gruesome?

The perc is a chemical that hosts many health related issues and causes suffocation in the human behavior. There are two possible circumstances in which dry cleaning particles cause harm to the human health. Firstly, the dry cleaning workers are directly exposed to the dangers posed by the Perc chemicals. They directly exposed to the solvents and vapors forming from the dry cleaning process.  Secondly, the most volatile condition occurs when customers exposed to these clothes which are poorly treated during the dry cleaning. These clothes mostly enriched in the residues of the chemicals and perc particles and directly comes in contact with human body.

Perc is hugely toxic to the human beings and equally volatile to the animals, plants and the life under water. These particles breathed in can get into the body when they come in to direct contact with the body. These chemicals have the ability to pass through the skin as they can easily pass through the walls ceilings and floorings. They can cause a serious damage to the kidneys, liver, and heart and at the same time, they can cause of forming a different kind of cancers.

So, it is advised by the experts and doctors that only used certified green launders who are environmentally friendly in their businesses processes like the Priory group.

Any conclusive pieces of evidence of medical emergencies?

While the perc is a known hazardous chemical for human beings and life on the planet earth but there isn’t any solid evidence found till date that there is any medical emergency is being called because of the Perc based chemicals in the UK. But there are numerous researchers by different researchers and studies from different environment agencies prove that the Perc is dangerous if not treated accordingly. And it as declared as a poison and hazard chemical in the same year.

Environmental Protection Agency

In 1985, the environmental protection agency announced the perc as a dangerous chemical for the environment and human life. They also stated that it can cause cancer in humans and pose dangerous effects into the other lives on the planet earth. This chemical is now classified as a human carcinogen by the international research associate who conducted researches on cancer and its causes.

The US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

The US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has also stated that the perc if exposed to the human body for short term, it poses the adverse effects on the human body where health problems like the nerve system disturbance. Other effects including a headache and sweating that can cause in coordination and unconsciousness.

Kolstad, Brandt and Rasmussen Study

A Danish group of researchers conducted a study on the dry cleaning industry and they pronounced adverse effects on the workers who were working in the bad sanitation conditions and were directly exposed to these chemicals. They also stated that in comparison to the pregnant staff at other jobs, the pregnant female staff in the dry cleaning business were twice in danger of likely to have the miscarriage.

University of California Study

Another study by the U.S based University of California stated that the male staff working in the bad and third class dry cleaning firms have more sperms problems as compared to the male staff working in other professions. Again, the companies like Priorydrycleaners and David Barns provide proper guidelines and training to their employees and staff in these matters.

Good companies provide great instruction manuals and stuff to give knowledge of the industry standards and other hazardous problems. It is time for us and good companies to have a close look at the chemicals and hazards posed by these chemicals.

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