#TipTuesday: Stop Dry Cleaning to Avoid Harsh Chemicals & Save Money


This #TipTuesday, we shed light on the harmful dry cleaning process. In particular, we outline the toxic chemicals that go into dry cleaning and what alternative methods you can use for delicate garments.

Why is dry cleaning harmful?

According to Environmental Defence, “It’s called dry cleaning because chemicals are used instead of water as the cleaning agent. The most popular chemical solvent is called PERC (short for perchloroethylene). PERC creates hazardous waste, pollutes soil and air, contaminates water, and poses serious health risks to all the people who handle it – including the workers, consumers, and even people who live near dry cleaners. Despite being labelled toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in 1997, more than 80 per cent of dry cleaners in Canada still use PERC.

Percholorethylene has also been classified as a substance of high concern, qualified as “likely a human carcinogen” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

After WW2 ended, most businesses would not hire anyone with Japanese heritage so in order to make a living, my father’s family decided to run their own dry cleaning operation. My father often came home with terrible burns on his hands and arms from the chemicals used in the dry cleaning process and I would ask him about the marks. He knew it wasn’t safe or healthy but there weren’t other options at the time. Out of 6 siblings on my father’s side, 4 died from cancer. We now know how toxic those chemicals are to inhale and to handle. It’s too late for my dad and for his siblings but we can start to make a change for the better, to create a safer working environment for those who work in the dry cleaning business by switching to wet cleaning.” – Susan Langdon, Executive Director, Toronto Fashion Incubator


S0, what alternatives can you use for garments that are “dry clean only”?

1. Wash the garment at home

We are big fans of The Laundress, a company that produces an eco-friendly line of detergent, fabric care, and home cleaning products. The company’s products allows you to wash your silks, cashmeres and wools at home. Read their posts on how to wash wool & cashmere, how to wash silks & how to remove wine stains. You can buy their products on their website, or if you’re in Vancouver, visit Nordstrom or a Hills store.


If you have any wool sweaters (that could be from Aritzia or not), try the machine washing tips that Lisa Wei outlines in her YouTube video below.


2. Wet Cleaning

If you still prefer to take it to the professionals, search for a wet cleaner in your area. Wet cleaning is an environmentally friendly, and toxic-free alternative to conventional dry cleaning. It uses small amounts of water and biodegradable soap in computer-controlled machines to clean delicate fabrics. If you’re in the Vancouver, we like Helping Hand Cleaners.