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New, environmentally friendly alternatives to the solvent!

Published On: Jun 20 2012 02:58:06 PM CDT

SAN FRANCISCO -- In what is becoming a growing trend, hundreds of dry-cleaners throughout the country have switched to new, environmentally friendly alternatives to the solvent now used to dry-clean clothes.

So Consumer Reports put three of these new methods of dry-cleaning to the test.

From mere appearances, there is no visible difference between cleaners using perchloroethylene or perc, which is bad for the environment and can leave a telltale odor on clothes, and those using a new method of dry-cleaning called GreenEarth. But just ask the people who worked there.

"It's good for the clothes, it's good for our employees, and it's good for the earth," said Marie Danna, the cleaner's owner.

GreenEarth is a method that uses a silicone-based solvent. Consumer Reports just tested this cleaning method and two other alternatives to perc.

"Another (new) method uses liquid carbon dioxide in high-pressure equipment," said Pat Slaven of Consumer Reports. "And then there's professional wet-cleaning which uses water and special detergents in computer controlled machines."

Consumer Reports chose fabrics that would challenge the cleaners: a lamb's wool jacket, a silk blouse, and a rayon/linen blend skirt with pleats. Three sets were sent to each type of cleaner and one set went to a regular dry-cleaner.

Several articles of clothes didn't do well with the wet-cleaning method. One skirt shrank ten percent, that's almost two sizes. And the jackets, several of them fuzzed up.

Surprisingly, the results from the regular dry-cleaner were almost as disappointing.

The jacket was fuzzy, looking like a cat scratched it, and had little pills all over it. The blouse faded and had white lines on it.

Clothes treated by the silicone-based GreenEarth method did much better, with only slight shrinkage on a skirt, and less pilling on the jacket.

The best method, Consumer Reports found, turned out to be the one that uses carbon dioxide. The clothes didn't shrink or stretch, and the colors remained true.

So if you're looking for an environmentally friendly way to clean your clothes, both carbon dioxide and silicone cleaning are good choices.

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