Hints for Health re: Dry Cleaning

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Everybody knows the importance of using the right methods to keep clothing both clean and in tip-top shape.  That’s why we often run to the dry cleaners’ with our suits and other professional or delicate garments. 
 
But with the continued proliferation of volatile toxic chemicals (VOCs) in our current environment, there is increased awareness of the need to change dry cleaning methods – particularly the use of perchloroethylene (PERC) for the purpose.  This chemical has been pointed out by the EPA as cancer-causing to humans.  It can also cause damage to the kidneys, liver, and nervous system.
 
So what solutions have come up?  Well, there is good news and bad news.  Let’s do the bad news first:
 
“Organic” dry cleaning – unfortunately, this is not guaranteed to be free of toxic chemicals.  Any cleaning substance that contains carbon can be labeled organic – even PERC! – because there are no rules regulating this practice.  If you want to use an organic dry cleaning establishment, ask them for a complete list of the chemicals they use before you decide.
 
Now for the good news!  There are several tips we can follow to reduce our exposure to toxic dry cleaning chemicals:
 
1) Some garments that say “Dry Clean Only” –  including many wool, silk, and rayon products – can actually be hand-washed gently in lukewarm water with a very mild soap. There are online articles to help you with the details of how to dry, whether to iron, etc.  
 
2) There are “Wet Cleaning” places that are worth looking up as an alternative.  Inquire about your specific garments when you call them.
 
3) For those items that simply MUST be dry-cleaned, when they are cleaned, immediately hang them outdoors in a sheltered, well-ventilated area.  Remove the plastic bag and allow them to air out completely for at least 24 hours, but preferably several days.
 
4) As often as possible, purchase clothing that doesn’t require dry cleaning.  Try to avoid flame-retardant fabrics as well.  If you do purchase these, give them the “hanging out” treatment before washing and then wearing them.
 
Closets can attract moths, so many people use mothballs to chase away the moths.  But mothballs are made of paradichlorobenzene, which is a strong carcinogen linked to leukemia and lymphoma in children.  It doesn’t remain in the closet, either – this powerful chemical will spread throughout the house.
 
But there is a much better way to control moths! Cedar wood is a natural moth repellent. A cedar chest can be purchased – wonderful for wool blankets. For clean clothes, if you don’t have a cedar closet, store them in sealed bags with cedar blocks or balls.  
 
Thropay Health Center always appreciates your feedback!  Call us anytime at (562) 861-3896.

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