Dry Cleaning Solvents and Alternative Cleaning Solutions
What is Perchloroethylene?
Perchloroethylene, also called perc, is a toxic chemical that is classified as a hazardous air and ground water contaminant; and must be handled as a hazardous waste. Further, it has been shown to be a potential carcinogen, as well as posing other health risks. It can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some people, and often leaves an unpleasant smell in fabrics. Unfortunately, it is also the most common chemical used by dry cleaners and laundry services for their dry cleaning process. Statistics reveal that over 65% of the dry cleaning establishments in the Chicago area still use perc. However, there are safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible alternatives to perc; namely; alternative hydrocarbon based dry cleaning solvents.
What are hydrocarbon dry cleaning solvents?
The early hydrocarbon solvents, from the 1940’s, were derived from petroleum or gasoline feedstock. The flash points of the early hydrocarbons were very low, meaning that the solvents did not have to be heated much before explosive vapors would form. Early hydrocarbons contained aromatics like benzene and toluene that we now know are hazardous and unpleasant to humans.
Today’s hydrocarbon dry cleaning solvents are vastly improved from the primitive ones years ago. Today’s alternative modifications are a synthetically manufactured product, which means that their high purity can be guaranteed. Further, their physical properties can also be carefully controlled, so they can be sold under tight specifications. They have a much higher flash point than those of the 1940’s, which translates into increased safety; since the chances that the solvent will form explosive vapors are virtually eliminated. Combined with the safety systems engineered into today’s more environmentally responsible dry cleaning machines, modern hydrocarbons (such as the DF 2000) are a safe choice as a dry cleaning solvent.
Are hydrocarbon solvents safe for the environment?
The hydrocarbon solvents used today, with their high purity, are completely safe for the environment, as well as for laundry service employees and customers. Bacteria in the soil will naturally degrade the hydrocarbons, and exposure tests in aquatic systems show no fish kills when hydrocarbon solvents are introduced.
The same hydrocarbons that are sold today for use in dry cleaning are also sold in the personal care market. They are used in makeup, hand cleaners, lotions, and dozens of other cosmetic products. In addition, they are approved for use in direct food contact applications, such as beet sugar manufacture and vegetable cleaning.
Why choose a dry cleaning service that uses hydrocarbons?
As stated above, hydrocarbon solvents have a clear advantage over perchloroethylene when it comes to being safe for the environment; as well as for your personal health and the health of your family. By choosing a dry cleaner or laundry service that uses hydrocarbon solvents, you are helping to reduce environmental pollution and are providing your family with clothes that are cleaned with a process that you can be certain will cause no health problems. In addition, your clothes will have a fresh, clean scent rather than the unpleasant chemical smell of clothing cleaned with perc or Stoddard C-class petroleum used by some major market names.