Dry cleaning remains one store service that could, itself, use some spiffing up. As consumers adopt more sustainable practices in their personal lives, they're looking for the businesses they patronize to do the same.
Such expectations may explain the appearance of “wet cleaning,” a laundering process for fine garments that eliminates dangerous chemicals like perchloroethylene in favor of simple water and biodegradable detergents.
“The cleaning processes are very similar,” noted Brian Johnson, director of training and technical services at the International Fabricare Institute, Silver Spring, Md. “But wet cleaning is different in that the agitation is precisely controlled, and the detergents and chemistry used are different from those used in home laundry machines.”
The IFI estimates that there are only several hundred dedicated wet cleaners currently operating in the United States. Most of those are in California, which in 2007 became the first state to mandate the phasing out of “perc.” In other parts of the country, higher prices can be a barrier. However, as other states tighten their environmental regulations, Johnson anticipates that more of the 30 thousand-plus dry cleaners operating in the country will switch over to less-toxic processes.
“Even regular dry cleaners have increased the number of garments they're processing in water,” he said. “The trend is more towards water and that will continue to grow.”