We recently heard of an alternative to the toxic dry-cleaning process: wetcleaning.
The name doesn't make a whole lotta sense to us-- after all, that thing we all do at home or at the Laundromat, that old-fashioned process that involves friction and water and soap-- that's wetcleaning. But we are intrigued by the promise of a way to clean silks, woolens, linens, suede, and leather, as well as household textiles like drapes without the use of harsh solvents like perchloroethylene. These traditional dry cleaning chemicals are not so good for the people handling them, or for the environment.
According to the EPA, wetcleaning is "an environmentally-preferable, high volume method of professionally cleaning clothes using state-of-the-art technologies." The key is computer-controlled machines that allow a wash cycle to be tailored for a specific garment or fabric. The process also prescribes special cleaners, fabric softerners and finishers that are more mild than what we use at home. Some wetcleaners also use non-mechanical (ultrasonic) agitation, reducing wear and tear to delicate fabrics.
THE EPA says that "all cleaners have the capacity to wetclean some items with their existing equipment and skills." We haven't had much luck finding one such equipped cleaner here in SF, but our web search did produce Norge Cleaners, which recently opened in Albany. Anyone know of any others?