Wet cleaning uses water and specialized detergents that are milder than home laundry products to clean clothes. Wet cleaners have computerized washers and dryers and professional pressing, steaming, and finishing equipment to help your clothes look their best. The EPA considers it one of the safest professional cleaning methods because there is "no hazardous chemical use, no hazardous waste generation, no air pollution, and reduced potential for water and soil contamination." Extra care is taken before and after cleaning to treat stains since no chemical solvent is used.
Liquid Carbon Dioxide Cleaning
Carbon dioxide (CO2) cleaning uses liquid CO2 as the cleaning solvent along with detergent. The liquid CO2 is formed by placing the non-flammable and nontoxic gas under high pressure. Liquid CO2 is non-toxic and is actually used to provide carbonation to soft drinks.
Clothes are placed in what appears to be a traditional dry cleaning machine and the ambient air is sucked out. The cleaning drum is then injected with carbon dioxide in both gas and liquid form. After the clothes are cleaned, the liquid CO2 is pumped back into a holding tank for reuse.
The process is, perhaps, the most environmentally-friendly because the CO2 is captured as a by-product of existing industrial processes. Since less than three percent of the CO2 used is lost into the air with each load of clothing, its impact on global warming is minimal. The process uses less energy than traditional dry cleaning because there is no solvent to heat.
While CO2 is naturally occurring and inexpensive, the dry cleaning machines cost around $40,000 each making them cost prohibitive for many small businesses.
DF-2000 Hydrocarbon Solvent
Some cleaners promote themselves as green by using an "organic" solvent called DF-2000. This solvent is a hydrocarbon that must be made from petroleum. Production of these chemicals raises environmental concerns, in particular, over greenhouse gases.
Some cleaners use the GreenEarth cleaning method to replace perc. GreenEarth is basically liquified sand (SiO2). It functions as a silicone-based solvent called siloxane or D-5. Siloxane is similar to some of the base ingredients used in shaving creams and deodorant. When GreenEarth is discarded, it breaks down into sand, water, and carbon dioxide.
The good news is that no chemicals touch your clothes. However, the manufacture of siloxane uses chlorine, which releases carcinogenic dioxin during the manufacturing process.