So perhaps you’re a woman or a man of elegance and style? If so, bully for you. Truth out, nothing mystifies Auntie Ruth more than haute couture. Who are these people who dress so nicely, and when will they notice they aren’t in Paris? What will finally give it away? Is it the way the Sacramento and American rivers are kept like secrets off to the side of town? The way the old Money Store building isn’t, oh, all that turn-of-the-century? Where do all the elegantistas find the time, the money, the closet space? How do they wobble so confidently on spiky heels without blowing out a kneecap or two?
Still, even Auntie Ruth—ever the champion of the frayed edge, the worn pant, the basic color, the comfortable shoes—must one day go to the dry cleaner. Even she needs an occasional crease, and how the sweaters benefit from the annual visit to that little storefront with hangers-on-a-merry-go-round and all the willowy plastic enshroudments.
How green is your dry cleaner? While there are so termed “green cleaners” here in Sacramento, GreenEarth is a process that gets mentioned a lot. However, according to the Air Resources Board, Decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (or D5) is the operative chemical used in GreenEarth, which does cause uterine tumors in rats. And California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is “concerned about the potential non-carcinogenic effects associated with D5 and its apparent persistence in the environment and animal and human tissues.”
D5 is better than using perchloroethylene (perc)—the liquid solvent traditionally associated with dry cleaning that is “known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Perc actually releases 50 percent of the chemical in your closet over a week’s time, according to NPR’s Living on Earth.
Slate Magazine suggests “wet cleaning.” Utilizing computer-controlled washers and dryers—just like home, soap and water—and then the garments are reshaped using specialized equipment. It is, according to a study done by Peter Sinsheimer of Occidental College, the most energy-efficient of all the alternatives, because used wash water goes down the sewer, as compared to the solvents that must be recovered and reused, it might cost a little more.
Indeed: “dry” cleaning, which uses liquid solvents, may best be greened out by “wet” cleaning. Couture this, mon bubba.