Is Dry Cleaning Sustainable? Common Techniques & Products


Dry cleaning has some sustainability challenges when traditionally practiced due to certain chemicals and processes. However, dry cleaning can be sustainable, and many ongoing efforts try to make it as sustainable as possible. This has resulted in certain practices and changes that slowly but surely started to remove the most common solvent used in the industry, namely perchloroethylene (PERC). The next time you use dry cleaners, see if the greener alternatives we are about to present are available. Here are some new techniques used in the industry that make dry cleaning more sustainable:

Wet Cleaning

Wet cleaning can be an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional dry cleaning, but don’t worry, it’s still a process offered by dry cleaners. The difference is that wet cleaning can be performed by highly sophisticated washing machines, which do not operate like traditional washers.

Wet cleaning is a water-based cleaning method that uses specialized equipment and specialized detergents and processes to clean garments that are typically labeled “dry clean only.” The true wonder of wet cleaning is the fact that it reduces the use of hazardous chemicals and minimizes environmental impact.

The gentle detergent used in wet cleaning is free of chemicals and toxins, and the washing machine’s cleaning process rotates a couple of times per minute so as not to damage delicate items of clothing. Clothes are then carefully dried and pressed using the wet cleaning method. Even though wet cleaning might imply water use, it uses less water and energy than traditional dry cleaning processes.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Cleaning

CO2 cleaning, or CO2 dry cleaning, can also be a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional dry cleaning. It uses liquid carbon dioxide as a cleaning agent, which is a non-toxic and non-flammable solvent, which means there’s no air pollution since pressurized liquid carbon dioxide is a natural gas.

In liquid carbon dioxide cleaning, the pressurized liquid is used together with other gentle cleaning solvents. Still, a piece of specialized machinery is needed to remove all air from the chamber, which some dry cleaners offer.

In this machine, the carbon dioxide becomes liquid as it undergoes high pressure, and the clothes are then rotated for the duration of the cleaning cycle. In this cleaning process, dirt, oil, fats, or other stains are effectively removed, and if there is any liquid, the remaining carbon dioxide will go back to the storage tank for use in the next washing cycle. Any leftover is released back into the air once the process is complete.

Although wet cleaning and carbon dioxide cleaning are environmentally friendly, your dry cleaners might not offer the pieces of machinery needed for these processes. In this case, you could look for other greener alternatives. For example, check if your dry cleaners use DF-2000™ fluid (Isoparaffinic Hydrocarbon), which is a much better alternative solvent than PERC. 

Although DF-2000™ fluid can be hazardous if protection gear isn’t worn, there are no significant environmental hazards. In fact, DF-2000™ fluid is more than 1,000 times less hazardous than PERC, which makes it one of the more sustainable dry-cleaning solvents out there.

Written by Megan Taylor
Megan is a beauty expert who is passionate about all things makeup and glam! Her love for makeup has brought her to become a beauty pro at Glamour Garden Cosmetics.