Washed clean

'Wet dry' cleaning could soon become a safer alternative to clean clothes

Published: Sunday 30 April 2000

Is dry cleaning clothes bad fo (Credit: RUSTAM VANIA / CSE)ALMOST 90 per cent of dry cleaners in the us use a chemical solvent called perchloroethylene or perc for dry cleaning. Perc is a primary solvent. However, the health and environmental effects have been found to be quite disastrous and depend on the length of time and amount of exposure. Its inhalation can cause problems in the central nervous system, starting from mild dizziness to unconsciousness. Longer exposure can also lead to kidney damage. Perc has also been linked to eye defects among children living near dry cleaning plants that use this solvent.

To check whether there are other technologies that can replace this chemical, the us-based Centre for Neighbourhood Technology (CNT) launched the Alternative Clothes Cleaning Demonstration Project commonly known as the 'wet cleaning project' to test the range of technologies and techniques of water to clean all kinds of items even for garments traditionally considered for dry clean only.

A wet cleaning shop was managed by a dry cleaner with 13 years of experience. During the year it operated, it was made to function as a typical commercial dry cleaning shop. The major difference was that all the garments coming into the shop would be 'wet dry' cleaned. The new equipment included a wascomat /aquaclean washer and dryer and veit tensioning (pressing equipment).

This project concluded in 1995. A major portion of the wet cleaning data was received from the shop which was launched by CNT, the US Environmental Protection Agency and a private investor. By 1998, efforts increased to reduce dry cleaners reliance on perc. The number of wet cleaning equipment and chemical options are easy to get. The overall acceptance of wet dry leaning is here to stay and should get easier.

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