True Quality CleaningStraight talk about caring for fine garments & household textiles from an expert who calls it like it is. In plain English.

Why would you consciously choose to dry clean in perc?

Make a choicePerchloroethylene (aka perc or PCE), a chlorinated solvent, is the most common drycleaning solvent in use today. Used by approximately 90% of the 26,000 cleaners in the USA, perc (brand name: Dowper from Dow Chemical and PerSec from Occidental Chemical) is valued for its aggressive cleaning power and its grease-cutting properties.

In recent years, perc has been attacked by governmental agencies, scientific bodies and environmentalists as a potential human carcinogen as well as a ground water and air pollutant. Perc has been scheduled for phase out in California by the year 2023.

But health and environmental safety is not my beef with perc. My concern is that perc is a relatively fabric aggressive, dye stripping solvent. Way too damaging for bespoke, made-to-measure, designer, high fashion, specialty, couture and other fine garments.

If your primary concern is price and not the longevity and integrity of your garments, I can understand if you have to dry clean in perc. After all, the overwhelming majority of value priced and middle of the road cleaners clean in perc.

On the other hand, I have always wondered why anyone would consciously choose to dry clean their fine garments in perc?

This question was recently underlined by a new study conducted under the supervision of Professor Paul Roepe, a professor in Georgetown University's chemistry department and co-director of Georgetown University's Center for Infectious Disease. The study was published on-line in Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry.

Perc study Journal

In this study, samples of 100% wool, polyester, cotton and silk were dry cleaned from one to six times at seven Northern Virginia perc dry cleaners.

Researchers found that perc is retained in dry cleaned clothes made of wool, polyester and cotton. More specifically, researchers found that the levels of perc in dry cleaned garments increased with each successive dry cleaning cycle. Furthermore, the researchers found that cotton and polyester absorption of the perc leveled off after two or three cleaning cycles but that levels in wool increased with each of the six cycles.

Which brings me back to my original question: Why would anyone consciously choose to dry clean their fine garments in perc?

At RAVE FabriCARE, we didn't need Georgetown University to tell us that perc remains in garments after dry cleaning.

You see, back in August 2010, I conducted my own "research".

Here's some background to that research ...

In 2010, I penned a number of posts on this blog (click here, here, and here) in which I called organic dry cleaning a hoax, a scam and a fraud on the public.

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More specifically, I warned you about cleaners who are quick to label perc as "cancer causing', "toxic" and "environmentally hazardous" amongst other things, while promoting their solvent - synthetic petroleum - as "organic", "non-toxic" "environmentally friendly", "green" and/or "natural". I further warned you about cleaners who claim to be organic, non-toxic, environmentally friendly, green and/or natural but who still clean in perc.

These posts resulted in a spate of indignant emails and calls.

In particular, one such "organic dry cleaner" (who cleans in synthetic petroleum at one location and in perc at a second location) strenuously denied that he dry cleans in perc at any of his locations (this, despite the fact that his county-issued operating permit for his second location is for a perc drycleaning machine and his drycleaning machine at his second location is only designed to use perc).

To reinforce this claim, he told me that, yes indeed, that second location has a perc dry cleaning machine, but - and wait for this - that he uses that location exclusively for "restoration dry cleaning" (i.e., fire, smoke, flood and water damaged garments).

This comment sparked my curiosity. In effect, he was telling me that, as a same day and next day service dry cleaner, he trucks his "dry clean only" garments to his first location every morning for cleaning and then trucks them back to his second location every afternoon. Really?

Naturally, I decided to conduct my own "research".

I hired an independent third party (an officer of the court) to purchase a wool trouser at Nordstrom, to spill some oil on the trouser, and to drop it off for dry cleaning at that the cleaner's second location. Three days later, I instructed the officer to pick up the trouser and to deliver it to Test America for chemical analysis.

On August 6, 2010, Test America sent me the report. And the result? The trouser tested positive for perc. Who would have guessed?

Which again, brings me back to my main point: Why would anyone consciously choose to dry clean their fine garments in perc?

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1 comment(s) for “Why would you consciously choose to dry clean in perc?”
  1. Gravatar of Andy Newman
    Andy Newman Says:
    Fantastic blog post, I have worked as an engineer in the UK dry cleaning industry for 25 years and now I hate this aggressive solvent.
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