Alternatives to Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning a garment is—plain and simple—not good for the environment and not good for the heath of those exposed to it's traditional cleaning solvents. (Including you, when you bring your garment home and it is still off-gassing chemicals—see the tip below).

The dry cleaning process involves washing the garment in a closed system with a solvent, usually perchloroethylene, or perc for short. The benefits: perc quickly evaporates off the garment leaving it less wrinkled after the “washing” process, it doesn’t usually cause colors to fade or bleed, and can often get out stains that soap/detergents and water can’t, and it doesn’t cause garments to shrink.

These are all great reasons for it’s use, but they don’t justify it in the bigger picture.

Another benefit of “dry cleaning” is when you take a garment to the cleaners you also get a professional press job on the just cleaned garment which is more than half of what makes your just “cleaned” garment look great when you go to pick it up. (See the tip below.)

So, how to avoid the nasty chemicals? And why do most garments (including ours) have “Dry Clean Only” labels on them?

To answer the second question first, labeling laws and lawsuits! It is difficult for a manufacturer to control how an individual might clean their garment at home—it is really unpredictable! Manufacturers are required by law to put certain information about the care of the garment that will lead to a predictable result. Hence the labeling of many garments with a “Dry Clean Only” label that could realistically be cleaned at home or with alternatives to using perc at a professional cleaners.

Answering the first question, avoiding the nasty chemical—perc, is more involved. Below we have provided lots of links to where you can read more about the issues and options available. Olivia Luca is in the process of testing it’s garments and fabrics using these alternative methods. We will post the results here as they come in; and as labeling laws change and allow, we will be changing our labeling to the meet the most environmentally conscious options.

If you chose to use an alternative method of cleaning an Olivia Luca garment, let us know first and we will be glad to provide you with samples of the fabric that your Olivia Luca dress is made from to test before you subject the dress to the process. Just send us an email! (And realize that we can’t be responsible for any problems that arise, you are, unfortunately at your own risk in deviating from the label on the garment.)

This goes for any garment that you choose to clean at home, take it to the cleaners after you have cleaned it for a professional press job. You will be amazed at what they can do with a wrinkled garment.

If you do have a garment cleaned using perc, as soon as you bring it home remove it from the plastic bag and let it air out for a day or two—preferably outside or in the garage or near an open door or window. Don’t put it back in the bag. If you want the garment protected, use a cloth bag. (See our blog entry about storing your wedding dress.)

When washing most “washable” garments, the less agitation the better, the garment will last longer and will look better after washing and be easier to press. If you are washing it by machine use a gentle cycle, particularly in the spin cycle. This is especially true if you are flat or line drying the garment. (If you are drying it in the dryer, it can take longer and possibly use more energy, so there are trade-offs to a gentle spin cycle.) If you are washing by hand, use a sink or container large enough to handle the garment easily and simply push the garment up and down in the water and cleaning agent as opposed to ringing and squeezing it.

The temperature of the water is critical in reducing possible shrinkage and color fading or bleeding. Cold is best, and avoiding temperature changes is critical. Most garments that shrink do so because you have washed it in warm or hot and then rinsed it in cold and then stuck it in a hot dryer. It is the temperature change more than anything that causes the shrinkage. (Don’t put anything you don’t want to shrink in the dryer, always flat dry or line dry!)

Cleaning Methods:
Perchloroethylene (Perc) (Standard Dry cleaning)
Carbon Dioxide (New professional method)
Silicone-based (New professional method)
Wet-cleaning (New professional method)
Soap/detergents and Water (Home method)

Sources for more information and alternatives to perc-based dry cleaning:
Follow these links to read more about dry cleanng and it's alternative options; and where you can find a greener cleaner in a city near you.

Thanks for considering alternatives to dry cleaning.
Our earth and it's future generations will appreciate it!