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dubone

"Green" Dry Cleaners in Charlotte

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By 2019, all California dry cleaners must eliminate their use of "perc", the toxic dry cleaning solvent used by everybody, and is probably in the clothes in your closet right now. There are 'superfund' sites around Charlotte that used to be dry cleaning shops, where the solvent leaked into the soil, creating very toxic brownfields that the federal government has to help buy and clean up.

As part of the news recently of the California ban, I read of a new process of using liquid CO2 to clean clothes, based on a process invented in NC by a professor at Chapel Hill. He started a company that built the machines to use liquid CO2.

A few months ago, after reading about it, I looked all over to try to find a cleaner in Charlotte that used this process. For whatever reason, today I googled it again, and followed a chain of articles from other cities' papers (apparently, this hasn't been enough of a hot button for the O to pick up on it) on the process. I finally figured out that the professor's company that made the CO2 cleaners has bought out the Hangers brand.

That means that at any of the Hangers dry cleaners, including the one uptown next to Harris Teeter, will send your dry cleaning to a central place where they now have the new eco-friendly dry cleaning machines.

After thinking for months that no one in this city or state had even heard of this stuff, while California was meanwhile banning the practice, I am so relieved that we not only have this technology, but apparently we invented it! :)

As with most things, most people don't even know about how their daily lives hurt their health or nature. Hopefully, this can help spread the word that are newer ways to do things that won't leave the city permanently riddled with toxic sites all over with the chemicals leaching into our drinking supply. (In a related matter, I heard recently that Charlotte's drinking water was rated among the worst in the nation, but I haven't seen the source yet).

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Thanks for the info. I was clueless to all of this, drycleaning is toxic....who knew.

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Yeah I've known about the very toxic mess that are used at these places for some time. I've taken the solution to only wear clothes that don't need to be dry cleaned.

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Thanks for the info. I was clueless to all of this, drycleaning is toxic....who knew.

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Dr. DeSimone, in the mid 90's, discovered by accident, that certain CO2 based compounds had a similar solvent effect.

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Coincidentally, five minutes ago, my wife took out her dry cleaning out of the bag from the other day. The buttons from one of her jackets were all melted away. We would have had no clue about this, but from reading about it all this morning, I happen to have just found out that "perc" melts certain types of buttons. Apparently, the new CO2 process doesn't do that either.

http://www.co2olclean.com/

Incidentally, here is another article on the subject that I found. I'm pretty impressed that Dr. DeSimone is only 36. http://www.fastcompany.com/online/36/greenclean.html

All in all, this seems like a no-brainer to me.

I agree with metro about avoid the need for cleaners altogether, but there is also the environmental trade-off of the embodied energy of the clothing itself. For example, a lot of energy went into the agricultural process of creating the cotton, processing it, dying it, constructing it into the article of clothing, transporting it, displaying it for retail, etc. That is called embodied energy, and is part of the overall environmental picture. If dry cleaning causes the clothing to last twice as long, due to not suffering through the fiber eroding process of laundering, then you have depreciated the embodied energy over time, and reduced the total number of clothing articles that need to be grown, processed, created, and sold to you over your lifetime. Granted, you can offset that in other ways, and this also might be a loose argument since clothing isn't really much of the energy use in society.

I try to avoid laundry and dry cleaning as much as possible, but good luck telling my wife she can't buy dry-cleaning only clothing. :) At this point, given that this is an NC company, I would hope that NC would put regulations in place like the more advanced states to phase out the toxic stuff.

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As you just noticed with your torn up clothes, it's not clear to me that sending stuff to the dry cleaners does make clothes last longer. If you have a decent washing machine and line dry your clothes, they will last a very long time. As you said earlier, being good to the environment means making choices that lead to it. One has to decide if purchasing clothes that require toxic processes to clean is worth the any benefits of wearing said clothes.

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I'm a regular at the Hangers in the Fifth & Poplar building uptown. I have never had a problem with them and would recommend them to anyone. If you are a first-time customer, they usually take a few minutes to describe their process and about all the toxic chemicals that the other dry cleaners use. Nothing is done onsite, of course, but they have never been late getting my clothes back.

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I am not sure that cleaning clothes in CO2 is such a good choice either. It is, afterall, a greenhouse gas since it is a byproduct of the fossil fuel combustion process. It doesn't seem to me to be such a good idea to put forth an industry that is dumping even more of it in the air to clean clothes. I would thing that old fashioned water and bio-degradable soap is much better for the environment.

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I am not sure that cleaning clothes in CO2 is such a good choice either. It is, afterall, a greenhouse gas since it is a byproduct of the fossil fuel combustion process. It doesn't seem to me to be such a good idea to put forth an industry that is dumping even more of it in the air to clean clothes. I would thing that old fashioned water and bio-degradable soap is much better for the environment.

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It uses CO2, not create it, except for the typical CO2 from the electricity production and the human work (although those are also produced with washing at home, although it may or may not be more efficient - I don't know).

There will be a need for dry cleaning for many textiles, including natural fibers like wool. Now that there is a nontoxic alternative, then there isn't the trade off described about typical dry cleaning. This process doesn't use water, which is also a factor in reviewing the environmental impact.

I had a puppy puke on my couch cushion. It is true that I could have flipped it, but, um, I chose to get it cleaned :). I'm just glad that in the rare cases that I do need to get something cleaned that I can use the new technology that has significantly lower environmental and health impact.

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Dub, I went through the same exact exercise in Dec. It was tough finding the local Hangers listed in any directory or on Google. They do a great job with both drycleaning and wash/iron. For the latter, they seem to be doing a lot less damage to my buttons than other cleaners. My only pet peeve is that they staple their tags to my shirt tails with both plastic and metal staples. It sure is nice not to have that drycleaners smell on my clothes.

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Also, carbon dioxide is not a problem in small quantities, as it is absorbed by trees and converted to carbohydrates with oxygen as an emission. They could very easily plant a tree in the yard and make up for any CO2 that possibly escapes. Also, this is a process with CO2 as an input, and that CO2 is simply taken from existing atmospheric CO2, so even if all if it 'leaks', it is not new to the atmosphere as CO2 from prehistoric coal or oil.

I am of the McDonough school, where technology and design is sought to remove externalities from economic processes, that is a reduction in toxicity, inefficiency, and pollution. I'm for reasonable change in lifestyle, but otherwise think that the same things that most of us do naturally, in the course of our lives, could simply be made to have significantly lower impact by function of high order design. In an extreme example, I wouldn't be for living in a straw hut just because our housing materials and equipment are horrible for the environment. Rather, I'm for our existing housing demands, but to have better design and technology applied to make the materials, production, and operations good for the environment. Natural wood from sustainable forests, heating by passive solar, electricity from renewables like biofuel and on and on.

So anyway, back to dry cleaning. Certainly reasonable reduction in the need for cleaning is called for, as many times you can re-wear clothing for multiple times without need for cleaning. Beyond that, you can reduce the need for cleaning by putting them in a steamer. I do both of those things. However, when it comes time for dry cleaning, having a non-toxic process that is 90% better than ones that are all over the country is a really great thing. In a democracy, we can never dream of a situation where dry cleaning is banned, and the majority of the population that couldn't give a rip about the environment or their long term health will always need dry cleaning for some of their clothes. That is where this thread comes in: there is now a very cool technology that uses non-toxic CO2, which retains its ability to not ruin certain types of clothing, that very few people know about. I'm really excited about this, even though, I use a dry cleaning only a couple times a quarter.

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