The Green Cleaning

‘Organic’ and ‘Green’ Dry Cleaning

“The cleaning industry has a habit of stretching the ‘green thing,’ and the tags ‘Environmentally Friendly’ and ‘Organic,’ so you have to watch for that,” says Steve Boorstein, a former dry cleaner who dispenses clothing care advice on his website, and in a new DVD, Clothing Care: The Clothing Doctor’s Secrets to Taking Control. Among the most common perc replacements is the petroleum-based solvent DF-2000, made by ExxonMobil. Because it’s hydrocarbon-based, to a chemist—and almost no one else—it’s considered an “organic” compound. The EPA cites risk of neurological damage and skin and eye irritation in workers using it, and since it doesn’t clean as well as perc on its own, dry cleaners often end up adding pretreatment chemicals.

Common Cleaning Problems

Sometimes clothes just don’t turn out right. Here are some common problems and the likely solutions to the problems.

Problem #1:

Your clothes come out gray or yellow.

You may need to increase the amount of detergent in the next load, use a detergent booster, or increase the temperature of the wash water. However, the gray could be from dye that has bled from darks to lights, suggesting you need to sort better. Bluing added to the wash load sometimes corrects graying in white fabrics.

Problem #2:

You notice detergent residue on clothes.

Your powdered detergent isn’t dissolving properly. Make sure the loads aren’t too full. Use liquid detergent with cold-water cycles. Try letting the washer fill with water, adding the detergent, and then adding the clothes. If the problem is caused by hard water, try using a water-softening product in the next load. To remove hard-water residue from clothes, soak them in a solution of 1 cup white vinegar per 1 gallon warm water. Rinse and rewash.

Problem #3:

You have a problem with pilling.

This is most common among synthetic fabrics. Try turning synthetic clothing inside out before washing. (Pilling is caused by abrasion of fibers, and this cuts down on abrasion during the wash and dry cycles.) You can also wash your synthetics together in a gentler, shorter cycle. Using a liquid detergent will help. To remove pills, snip them off with a battery-powered pill remover (available at sewing stores and discount retailers) or pull the fabric tight over a curved surface and carefully shave the pills off with a safety razor.

Problem #4:

There’s a lot of lint on your clothes.

You probably need to sort better. Separate lint producers, such as fleece sweat suits, chenille items, new terry cloth towels, and flannel pajamas, from lint attractors, such as corduroys, synthetic blends, and dark fabric. To remove the lint, use a lint roller or pat with the sticky side of masking or packing tape. Check to make sure pockets are empty of tissues and other paper before you wash. Make sure the washer and dryer lint filters are clean.

-from Amazing Cleaning Secrets.

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