Beware of Dry Cleaning Chemicals on Your Clothes

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Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 03/22/2014

Beware of Dry Cleaning Chemicals on Your Clothes

The other day, I had an interesting experience. I ran into a couple I know at our local shopping mall. They were telling me how they’ve followed my advice to the letter, eating all the right foods, taking nutritional supplements and exercising. Yet, over my friend’s wife’s arm was a bundle of clothes—straight from the dry cleaners.

Although our homes should be our “safe place” free of chemical exposure every day—keeping harmful chemicals out of our homes can be challenging. Dry cleaning chemicals are one of the toxins my wife Jan and I have been actively battling for years.

We’ve done our best to reduce our trips to the dry cleaners by wearing all-cotton, clothing and doing our laundry with biodegradable, nontoxic soaps.  But with our busy travel schedules, our dress shirts do go out to be laundered. Simple soap, water and pressing at the cleaners are not the problem. But, occasionally dry cleaning jackets and slacks at the same establishment can mean trouble. Plus, even those soap-cleaned and pressed cotton shirts hang in the same dry cleaning chemical fumes as the heavy dry cleaning items.

The problem is that 85 percent of dry cleaners use perchloroethylene (“Perc”) as a primary solvent, a dry cleaning chemical noted to be "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The people most at risk are those who work with dry cleaning chemicals all day, and it’s suggested that the amount we get with dry cleaning clothes is most likely not problematic. Nonetheless, we always err on the side of caution at our house.

How We Avoid Dry Cleaning Chemicals

  1. We dry clean as little as possible—wearing wash and wear clothes as often as possible.

  2. When picking up dry cleaning, we do it on a dry day so car windows and sunroof can be left open for ventilation during transportation. 

  3. We make the dry cleaners our last stop before heading home, in order to limit our close quarter exposure to possible out-gassing.  

  4. Once home, we remove the plastic from the cleaned articles and air them out for a day or two in the garage or porch, with the doors left open. 

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