Fashioning a Greener Shade of Clean: Commercialization of Professional Wet Cleaning in the Garment Care Industry
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This report, “Fashioning a Greener Shade Clean: Commercialization of Professional Wet Cleaning in the Garment Care Industry”, is one in a series of reports by the Pollution Prevention Education and Research Center at Occidental College designed to address the significant environmental and health impacts associated with the use of perchloroethylene (PCE), the chemical cleaning solvent used by the vast majority of dry cleaners in the United States. To help jump-start the diffusion of professional wet cleaning, a non-toxic alternative to dry cleaning, study authors administered a grant program to provide financial and technical assistance to 8 cleaners in the greater Los Angeles region interested in switching from dry cleaning to professional wet cleaning, and in serving as demonstration sites. A successful outreach campaign to recruit applicants to the grant program included: 9 information articles in the regional trade press, 6 direct mail flyers sent to cleaners in the region describing the grant program and announcing workshops and seminars, and 11 workshops and seminars hosted by dedicated professional wet cleaners. As consequences of these outreach efforts, 140 cleaners contacted the project staff for information on the grant program, 90 cleaners attended workshops and seminars, and 23 applications to the grant program were received. The 8 cleaners selected to receive professional wet cleaning demonstration site grants were converted over a 22-month period. Technical evaluation of the demonstration cleaners showed that each cleaner was able to maintain their level of service and customer base after switching to professional wet cleaning. Financial analysis revealed lowered operating costs, and the resource evaluation showed lowered electricity use after switching to professional wet cleaning. In regards to owner satisfaction, each of the demonstration site cleaners considered their decision to switch to professional wet cleaning to be a good business decision and would recommend professional wet cleaning to other cleaners needing to replace their existing cleaning equipment. The evaluation also revealed that training, proper installation and programming of equipment, and the availability of demonstration sites as primary factors facilitating a more rapid transition to this new technology. Implementation of the demonstration project resulted in the development of a regional infrastructure that will support further diffusion of professional wet cleaning. The study concludes with a series of recommendations to further promote the diffusion of professional wet cleaning and other potential pollution prevention technologies, including education, stakeholder, and policy and program recommendations for the greater Los Angeles region and beyond.