The Truth About Dry Cleaning

Posted by Sarah Evans on

Note from the Author: "I worked at a dry cleaner's right out of high school. Now, as a Sales Associate at Idlewild, I've realized how little people know about the industry, and how unsure they sometimes feel caring for their own garments. Today's blog is meant to give you a peak behind the curtain, and help you realize it's worth taking the extra time to care for your investment pieces at home!" - Sarah Evans

As warm weather approaches many of us will phase out our cool weather clothing and reintroduce our favorite spring and summer pieces. Though dry cleaning may be a convenient way to handle this chore, we think there is a better way to care for our beloved pieces before packing them away until next season.
Fresh out of high school, my best friend helped me get a job at the local dry cleaners. A day in the life would consist of greeting customers and carefully handling and sorting their clothing, while a constant stream of fashion podcasts played in the background. My interest in the intersection of Fashion and Sustainability was growing, and I took my hours alone at the cleaners to learn as much as I could. Although there would seem to be some cognitive dissonance - a sustainable fashion newbie working full time at a dry cleaners - I learned so much about the processes my customers were subjecting their most precious garments to. The way we treat our clothing is intertwined with the politics of sustainable and ethical fashion.

I spent 4 years working at the dry cleaners and learned about each step in the process. The most surprising realisation was that every item that entered the dry cleaners was not in fact “dry cleaned”. Dry cleaning refers to any cleaning process for clothing and textiles that uses chemical solvents instead of water. As it turns out, an equal number of garments were "wet cleaned" like one would do at home! Cotton and blended fabrics were almost always wet cleaned in industrial washing machines along with other customers' garments. If it could not be wet cleaned it would be categorized for dry cleaning.

The harm caused by dry cleaning chemicals is often left out of the conversation. The most commonly used solvent in dry cleaning is Perchloroethylene, or PERC, which is currently identified as a neurotoxin. Perc has also been classified as a Group 2A carcinogen, meaning that it is likely to be carcinogenic in humans through all routes of exposure. The potential for harm greatly outweighs the convenience that dry cleaning offers.

If we are to carry out a lifestyle that supports sustainability and ethics we are to evaluate things, like dry cleaning our clothing, in the same ways we evaluate the clothing we purchase. It is difficult to find the time to treat our garments with the care they need to extend their life, but a necessary step to maintain the integrity of the garments we’ve invested in.

See our Idlewild Care Guide to streamline the process of caring for your garments and take the frustrating guesswork out of laundry day! Idlewild stocks The Laundress products, a Woman-owned line of products designed with you and the environment in mind! Taking the time to properly wash our garments can be made into an intimate ritual that strengthens the love we have for the clothing we’ve so carefully acquired.

Stop in to the store (or give us a call!) if you ever have questions about how to care for your Idlewild garments!

- Sarah Evans
Sales Associate

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