CO2 Cleaning A Good Alternative
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is what makes the bubbles in champagne, and it can also clean your luxury fabrics. CO2 cleaning is a new, environmentally friendly dry cleaning process that is highly effective in removing stains. It’s also far less harmful to human health than perchloroethylene, the solvent used by about 80% of dry cleaners (see perchloroethylene study).
There are new cleaning facilities around the country using carbon dioxide. The process works by taking the gas form of CO2 and pressurizing it into a clear liquid. Then, soap and clothing are added to the pressurized liquid as in a traditional dry cleaning machine.
Because the liquid form of carbon dioxide is nontoxic and nonflammable, it does not pose the health risk of petrochemical solvents. And since it’s a byproduct of other industrial operations, there is considered no added contribution to global warming.
CO2 Cleaning Outperforms Other Cleaning Methods
A 2003 Consumer Reports comparison showed that CO2 cleaning gave the best results, outperforming both the more controversial GreenEarth silicone method and wet cleaning. According to their report: “The clothing (cleaned by carbon dioxide) didn’t change shape, shrink or stretch.” It also showed that carbon dioxide outperformed perchloroethylene. Although the article found that one silk shirt had slightly faded after the third cleaning, it concluded: there was little or no change in the color or the texture of the fabrics.
Although the investment of the carbon dioxide technology can be three to five times the cost of traditional dry cleaning machines, the operating costs may be as little as one-fifth the cost of operating with perchloroethylene. Because of the equipment expense, wet cleaning is often more affordable for small businesses. Often government grant money is available for small businesses making the switch to greener cleaning. In the meantime, carbon dioxide machines may become less expensive as demand and production grows. The day carbon dioxide cleaning becomes common will be a great day to make a care-free toast no matter what you are wearing.