Conventional Dry Cleaning Myth-busting

Conventional Dry Cleaning Myth-busting

Despite its name, traditional dry cleaning is neither dry nor clean, as this process includes soaking the garments in toxic solvent-based cleaners, such as 'PERC' (perchloroethylene).

BLANC has replaced this toxic chemical used by conventional dry cleaners by two innovative cleaning technologies that are better for your health, your clothes and the planet: wet cleaning and liquid CO2 cleaning.

Why is conventional dry cleaning toxic?

PERC (perchloroethylene) is the dominating solvent in the dry cleaning industry, accounting for 80% to 85% of all dry cleaning fluids used by conventional dry cleaners to clean garments - this despite being toxic and known as a health and environmental hazard. It’s a colourless, non-flammable chemical, which has more recently been banned in France, parts of the US and other European countries because of the risks that come with using PERC.

What are the effects of using PERC?

PERC is a petroleum-based solvent that can negatively affect the human central nervous system, with exposure causing headaches, nausea, dizziness and memory problems for some people. Long term exposure can cause spontaneous abortions and leukaemia. According to the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency), PERC is a potential human carcinogen. PERC has also been found in the breast milk of nursing mothers at concentrations higher than those found in the blood.

The process used by conventional dry cleaners can also have a negative impact on clothes, due to the high temperatures and harsh chemicals. This can cause deterioration of the fabric fibres as well as melt buttons and sequins on the clothes.

The environment is not spared the harmful consequences of using PERC. Due to the toxic conventional dry cleaning process, it leaves contaminating waste that pollutes wastewater, air and soil.

According to an OPPT chemical fact sheet prepared by the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics of US Environmental Protection Agency (August 1994):

“Exposure to perchloroethylene can occur in the workplace or in the environment following releases to air, water, land, or groundwater. Exposure can also occur when people:

  • use products containing PERC
  • spend time in dry cleaning facilities that use PERC
  • live above or adjacent to these dry cleaning facilities, or
  • bring dry cleaned garments into their home.

PERC enters the body when breathed in with contaminated air or when consumed with contaminated food or water. It is less likely to be absorbed through skin contact. Once in the body PERC can remain, stored in fat tissue.”

Read some of the articles below to find out more about the dangers PERC and see the praise about our technology, as governments around the world implement regulations to replace dry cleaning by wet cleaning.

“A number of cleaning firms are now also looking for safer alternatives to Perc. In fact, it seems that wet is the new dry in the world of laundering.” The Guardian – UK News

“Perchloroethylene (PERC) was also found to pose a significant risk of developing [Parkinsons] if people were exposed to it. (…) PERC is used as a dry-cleaning agent and degreasing agent. The Daily Mail – UK News

“According to the EPA, breathing PERC for even a short period of time can cause dizziness, fatigue and headaches.” ABC News – US News

“Take an article of clothing that has been dry cleaned over and over again, wet clean that same garment maybe two to three times, and afterwards, you’ll see a difference. Wet cleaning restores color in the clothes.” 
EPA – The US Environmental Protection Agency

“Inhalations of high concentrations of Tetrachloroethene has induced dizziness, fatigue, headache, loss of coordination, unconsciousness, narcosis, and liver damage. Some deaths have occurred.” 
WPO – The World Health Organisation

“Several studies have found a link between inhaling tetrachloroethylene (perc) and an increased risk of miscarriage and infertility, as well as fertility problems in men.”
The Baby Center – #1 pregnancy and parenting website worldwide

“PERC has serious environmental and health impacts, it is toxic to the liver and the central nervous system, can accumulate in the body and is probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Greenpeace – leading environmental campaigning organisation

“Wet cleaning holds tremendous promise for the garment cleaning industry, the consumer and the environment. There is now broad consensus within the dry cleaning industry that wet cleaning will play an important role in the future of the industry.” 
CNT – Center for Neighbourhood Technology

“Consumer demand for environmentally-preferable cleaning methods is on the rise. This increase is evidenced by the rising number of facilities offering wetcleaning services, the growing number of wetcleaning machines sold during the past several years, and the growing number of new wetcleaning products on the market.”
DfE – Design for the Environment (an EPA Initiative)

“Perchloroethylene (PERC) is the most commonly used drycleaning solvent. PERC can enter the body through respiratory and dermal exposure. Symptoms associated with exposure include: depression of the central nervous system; damage to the liver and kidneys; impaired memory; confusion; dizziness; headache; drowsiness; and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Repeated dermal exposure may result in dermatitis. NIOSH considers PERC a potential human carcinogen.”
CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Want to know what the press says about BLANC? Read all about it here.


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