When is high carb really good for you?
With spring well and truly sprung its time to do a seasonal clothing swap but before I drag the summer sandals out from under the bed, I need to get my winter coats to the dry-cleaners. I bundled them up in a (very) big bag over the weekend and now I just have to drop them off. Which would be easy if I could stop at one of the SEVEN dry-cleaners on whose stores line the route from my subway stop to the office… but unfortunately all of them are conventional dry cleaners and I’ve committed to using only CO2 cleaning.
Conventional dry cleaning is generally done with perchloroethylene (or perc) – an EPA listed hazardous air pollutant and known carcinogen. The effects on the person wearing the clothes are probably minimal and generally confined to things like skin and nose irritation (though I did find several sites warning that pregnant women should not wear clothes that have been to the dry-cleaner and that the chemical residues are often found in homes long after the clothes are back in the closet). However the effects on the environment and on the dry cleaning staff, are considerable and proven, with prolonged exposure leading to liver and kidney damage as well as cancer.
There are several alternate methods to conventional dry cleaning but I based my choice on a consumer report which listed CO2 as the most effective method (it came out in their testing as better than conventional dry cleaning actually). CO2 cleaning uses liquid carbon dioxide which is safe to handle and non toxic – its the same stuff that is used to create fizz in carbonated beverages. It is also reported to be gentler on your clothing, especially given that the cleaning is done at room temperature rather than at very high heats which can be destructive to certain fibers. Best of all CO2 is a byproduct of many industrial processes and therefore using it here is a sort of recycling. Find CO2 is a website to help you find a CO2 cleaner near you. The cleaner I use is Green Apple Cleaners – they have two branches in Manhattan and one in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
The only thing better than using a green dry-cleaner is not using any at all — I try to cut down on my trips to the dry cleaner by hand-washing clothes whenever possible – I have found that many of my ‘dry clean only’ clothes can be easily hand-washed as long as they are solid colors – but I did ruin a gorgeous patterned dress once while figuring this out. Consumer reports has some information on green dry cleaning in general as well as some tips for hand-washing.