What’s it all about?
Wet cleaning is a professional cleaning method that, in contrast to traditional dry cleaning, avoids the use of chemical solvents, the most common of which is Perchloroethylene or “PERC” used in most dry-cleaning shops in the UK. Environmental groups and the Environmental Protection Agency have indicated that such alternative “wet cleaning” methods are better for the environment than PERC, and proponents of wet cleaning state that these methods can be used without shrinking or otherwise damaging garments that typically require dry cleaning.
It’s not the use of water that makes wet-cleaning the safest method for cleaning clothes. Computer-controlled wet cleaning washing machines, special dryers, safe detergents and non-toxic spot removers are what make wet cleaning an environmentally sound method. Wet cleaning machines have controls that allow them to safely and efficiently clean a wide variety of garments in water. Detergents and spot removers are made of ingredients that are safer for workers and the environment, yet are as safe and effective at removing soils, stains and odours as dry cleaning solvents. Equipment, detergents and skill all contribute to successful wet cleaning.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wet cleaning is the most environmentally sensitive professional method of garment cleaning. It does not use hazardous chemicals, it does not generate hazardous waste, nor does the process create air pollution and it reduces the potential for water and soil contamination. The specialised detergents and conditioner used in the wet clean process are milder than home laundry products. All of the products are disposed of down the drain and easily handled by the local wastewater treatment facility. For professional cleaners, wet-cleaning is argued to offer several advantages, such as lower costs for start-up capital, supplies, equipment and hazardous waste disposal, as well as less reliance on skilled labour. 74.7% of dry cleaners use wet cleaning when cleaning casual clothing and sportswear; speciality items, like softly tailored clothing. Some clothing manufacturers may mislabel their clothing “Dry Clean Only”, even though there is no “reasonable basis” for making the claim that the garment will be harmed if it is not dry cleaned. During the next few month, we will find that this will change and garment labels will display the wet-cleaning symbol.