HOW THE RIGHT DRY CLEANERS CAN PROTECT YOUR CLOTHES AND THE ENVIRONMENT
When it comes to your next big fashion investment, you want it to last, and for that, aftercare is essential. Beautifully crafted, often delicate designer clothing will invariably carry a ‘Dry Clean Only’ label, but what does that actually mean and why is it harmful to the environment? We asked one of the UK’s leading eco-cleaners, BLANC, how we can care for our most precious pieces without compromising the planet, and what a sustainable and ‘green’ alternative to conventional dry cleaning looks like.
WHAT DO DRY CLEANERS DO?
Despite its name, conventional dry cleaning is neither dry nor clean. It is a chemical-heavy process where clothes are soaked in solvents, which are then evaporated at very high temperatures. While it might be efficient at removing certain stains, it is very hard on the garment’s fibres, and on the environment. The main solvent used is Perchloroethylene (or PERC), a potential carcinogen and a strong pollutant of air, soil, and water, which has recently been banned in France, Denmark, and several states of the US, but not in the UK.
WHAT DOES A “DRY CLEAN ONLY” CARE LABEL MEAN?
Some manufacturers have been known to abuse the use of ‘Dry Clean Only’ labels in their clothing: they err on the side of caution to mitigate the risk of aftercare damage by the customer when in reality, some garments could very well be dry cleaned at home .
However, some clothes do need to be handled by professional cleaners, especially those made from delicate materials or featuring embroidery, beading or leather patches. If you do not trust yourself to wash something at home, or a garment is stained and you do not know how to remove it, we recommend looking for a dry cleaner that uses greener methods, which can clean your clothes without the nasty chemicals.
WHAT IS GREEN OR ECO DRY CLEANING?
Green dry cleaning technologies do not require the use of toxic solvents to be effective. The new eco dry cleaners, such as BLANC, focus on combining artisanal care and expert technology to avoid the unnecessarily use of harsh chemicals.
Without these chemicals and energy-intensive processes, eco cleaning successfully ticks the boxes that traditional dry cleaners miss. Not only is the process much kinder on the clothes themselves, due to the lower heat processes and gentle treatments, it does not cause allergic reactions or aggravate sensitive skin. Importantly, this also means the employees, customers and surrounding community do not inhale the solvent vapors.
There are many different ways a professional dry cleaning service can be more environmentally friendly. Below are a few to look for:
Wet cleaning is one of the safest cleaning methods for washing delicate clothes. Using less water than for usual laundry, alongside specialist biodegradable detergents and soft mechanical action, it ensures fibres are respected and can be cleaned safely. It is very efficient in removing organic stains, is safe for babies, children and allergy sufferers, while uses less energy and water.
CARBON DIOXIDE CLEANING
Another complementary technology uses liquid CO2 cleaning: carbon dioxide is a non-toxic and naturally occurring gas that turns to liquid when exposed to high pressure, becoming a super-efficient natural solvent. It is particularly good at tackling oil-based stains and minimises the risk of shrinkage. Because the carbon dioxide used is a by-product of existing industrial processes, this all-natural method has a very low impact.
Ozone cleaning is a 100% hypoallergenic clean technology based on a chemical water treatment technique that uses oxidation of water and can safely remove odors and eliminate moths. It prevents unnecessary cleaning, ensuring a longer lifespan for the garment. This one is a great option to hit the reset button on winter clothes before storing them away.
ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY PACKAGING
Most dry cleaners use plastic bags to protect the garments after they have been cleaned, which comes at a great cost to the planet. They cannot be recycled domestically, and need to be taken to your local retail store. Eco-cleaners offer more conscious packaging: for instance with BLANC, they have replaced all the plastic covers with a 100% home-compostable alternative, and also offer reusable laundry bags - a small swap that can make a big difference to your fashion footprint.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR WITH ECO DRY CLEANING COMPANIES
As a rule of thumb, tread cautiously with dry cleaners who shout about being “green”, “organic” or “environmentally friendly”. These terms are largely unregulated and, sadly, some businesses make sweeping statements about being eco-friendly when they are not. To spot potential greenwashing, ask for more information on their processes, either online or in store. Providers using eco-technologies can share specific information about how beneficial these processes are, so a lack of information will require a deeper look.
London-based BLANC specialise in clothing aftercare and offer a sustainable alternative to conventional dry cleaning, alongside alterations and repairs. If you too are in the capital, you can enjoy an exclusive 15% off your first BLANC order with the code OUTNET15 when booking either at home or visiting one of their stores. T&Cs apply.