Most dry cleaners are still using a toxic substance called "perc" (perchloroethylene) that causes harm to both people and the environment. Governments are taking actions to promote safer alternatives to dry cleaning. California, Massachusetts and New York City have begun the shift to go perc-free.
The state of California is the first state to ban the use of perc in dry cleaning. The regulations state:
• January 1, 2008: No new sale or lease of perc machines;
• July 1, 2010: All perc machines at co-residential facilities must be removed;
• July 1, 2010: Perc machines 15 years and older may no longer be used;
• January 1, 2023: Perc machines may no longer be used.
To ensure dry cleaners move to inherently safe alternatives, California has a Non Toxic Dry Cleaning Program and gives grants to promote Wet Cleaning and other non-toxic and non-smog forming technologies. Only Wet Cleaning and Carbon Dioxide cleaning technologies are eligible.
Check out a one page summary of the grants offered by 3 different California regulatory bodies including the city of Los Angeles.
Read more about why California is concerned about dry cleaning solvents and why they promote wet cleaning.
New York City
New York City recently passed a Public Right to Know Bill effective February 2014, that requires all dry cleaners to post the type of chemicals they use. The intention of the sign is to permit consumers to gain information about the composition and potential risks associated with their use.
The State of Massachusetts is following the City of New York’s example for public right to know. Their Act requiring disclosure of solvents used in dry cleaning currently in the 2015 legislature, would require dry cleaners to post the type of chemical they use to clean garments.
The Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) has an extensive programme to help the dry cleaning sector in Massachusetts move to Wet Cleaning. The website offers videos, fact sheets and reports documenting the financial, health and environmental benefits of wet cleaning. To date TURI has supported nine Massachusetts dry cleaners switch from perc use to dedicated professional wet cleaning (meaning it is the only technology they use to clean clothes). View this fact sheet to learn about each cleaner's experiences, and how their workplace and their bottom line have improved.
TURI offers grants of $15,000 to help dry cleaners transition to wet cleaning while providing technical and community support.
Learn more about perc in Toronto here.