Commercialization of Professional Wet Cleaning
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This report, “Commercialization of Professional Wet Cleaning,” is one in a series of reports by the Pollution Prevention Education and Research Center evaluating the prospects for pollution prevention in the garment care industry in order to address the significant environmental and health impacts associated with the use of perchloroethylene (PCE), the chemical cleaning solvent used by 85% of all dry cleaners. This report is the first study to evaluate the transition from PCE-based dry cleaning to professional wet cleaning by multiple cleaners. The report analyzed the operations of five privately owned and operated dry cleaners who had switched from PCE-based dry cleaning to professional wet cleaning during the past fifteen months. Each of the five had received an equipment and training grant as part of the Professional Wet Cleaning Commercialization Project. The Commercialization Project, administered by the Pollution Prevention Education and Research Center at Occidental College, was designed to provide grants to cleaners switching from dry cleaning to professional wet cleaning and to evaluate the outcomes associated with that transition. By increasing the number of dedicated professional wet cleaners in the region, the Project sought to identify whether the establishment of a critical mass of professional wet clean facilities could provide demonstration sites as positive models for the garment care industry as well as create the infrastructure necessary to begin a larger transition towards non-PCE based cleaning methods, including professional wet cleaning. The study identified several criteria it employed to evaluate the success of each cleaner’s conversion to professional wet cleaning. It also analyzed the factors that facilitate an effective transition to professional wet cleaning. Study results indicate that cleaners switching from PCE dry cleaning to professional wet cleaning can maintain their level of service, reduce their operating costs, and avoid having to comply with complex and potentially onerous PCE regulations and liability concerns. In addition, significant energy benefits were identified. The study also pointed to training, proper installation of equipment and machine programming, as well as the availability of demonstration facilities for new cleaners to observe the cleaning process as the primary factors that can facilitate a transition to this new technology.