There is a lot of debate on its “likely human carcinogen” status, meaning that prolonged exposure to the chemical has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Since it is a volatile chemical, it enters the body through respiration or skin and is a central nervous system depressant. Thus, the personnel working in such conditions are most prone to adverse effects. To add, as per a study conducted by Georgetown University, PERC stays in the clothes even after the dry-cleaning process is over, which means that you may come in contact with this chemical too. Exposure to hazardous chemicals commonly used in dry cleaning shops may occur through skin absorption, eye contact, or inhalation of the vapours.
WHAT IS DRY CLEANING IN INDIA?
Dry Cleaning in India (commonly called Petrol wash in India) as we all know is a process of using chemical solvents to clean clothes, rather than water. Contrary to the popular dry-cleaning advertisements in India, which say, dry-cleaning saves water, it has a higher carbon footprint. The narration makes you believe, it’s useful for delicate fabrics that would not withstand being tossed around in a washing machine, or fabrics that bleed dyes. It is a common practice in India to dry clean expensive silk saree for preventing any damage to the delicate thread work. However, it is also common to get clothes dry cleaned to get rid of any minor stains (although this is more of a myth). Unfortunately, for Dry Cleaning in India, few people somehow consider it as a privilege and take pride in maintaining clothes that have a “Dry Clean Only” tag. But do you know what is happening to your garments when you get them ‘petrol washed’? Before we get into the facts of how it affects the environment, let’s understand what it is and what it does to you!
WHAT IS DRY-CLEANING IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
In many developed countries, real estate around the dry-cleaning facilities is the cheapest, owing to the chemical, fire, and ergonomic-related hazards it will have on the nearby community. Special areas are allocated for these facilities. In India, all our dry-cleaning facilitators simply outsource clothes to a central facility in the locality. Not every facilitator has his setup and hence, it is highly fragmented and unstructured, with very few players adopting modern methods. There are other hydrocarbon chemical alternatives to PERC but are more expensive. Thus, they are not used by a vast majority of dry cleaners across the country. Thus, it is not commonly known to a layman that the dry cleaning process is extremely harmful to the environment and to the personnel handling the process too.
Why do you dry clean clothes?
Though cleaning clothes at home is the best, there are situations when you have to give your clothes to be dry-cleaned. Shrinkage of fabric is one of the main reasons why clothes are given to be dry-cleaned. In the manufacturing process, fabric is stretched to save yardage. When you wash clothes the fabric are immersed in water; they stretch and then when dry, shrink back to their original size. You will sometimes find that the garment has shrunk one size small.
There are other reasons as well, like colour bleed, damage to the texture of the fabric surface, etc. Here are 5 Things about Dry Cleaning in India You Have to Experience It Yourself:-
- Certain fabrics
Woollen clothes shrink if they are washed at home. Some delicate silk, velvet, leather, suede, etc. can be damaged with improper washing at home. Knits and open-weave fabrics may stretch out of shape with washing. Rayon also benefits from dry cleaning, though it is not necessary to do it.
- Very discoloured white clothes
White clothes which have faded to a dull yellow or grey come out pristine white from the dry cleaner. An expert dry cleaner will use fresh solvents/fluids to clean (not recycled ones) so that white remains white and even whiter.
- Garments with embroidery
Some embroidery floss bleeds discolouring the garment. So dry-cleaning heavily embroidered garments at least the first one or two washes least is a good idea. Metallic thread mostly loses its sheen in the wash.
- Garments with ornamentations
Most clothes have embellishments like trims and gathers/ shirring which can come undone with washing. Shirring is usually damaged with washing especially machine washing. Extra fittings like shoulder pads, folded sashes, rushing, smocking, fabric flower decorations can be easily damaged by washing.
- Expensive / Formal clothes
Suits, sports jackets, uniforms, etc. retain their crispiness when dry cleaned, whatever be the fabric.
PRECAUTIONS TO BE SAFE FROM CHEMICAL EXPOSURE IN DRY-CLEANING BUSINESS
Before opting for any new step in Dry Cleaning in India, you need to understand its contraries as well. So, it is always better to take precautions at every step of your business. You should opt for a laundry business, if you want, but, SMARTLY! You can take the help of a laundry app for your dry-cleaning business in India.
- There is a health hazard inherent to dry cleaning – because chemicals are used in the cleaning process. The solvent used in dry cleaning can prove to be damaging to human health if exposed for a long time. You will have to be aware of this while enjoying the convenience of dry cleaning. Slow-release of the chemical for a prolonged time are said to be even the cause of cancer and other problems like kidney failings.
- Use dry cleaning of clothes only when you know you absolutely cannot wash the same garment at home. E.g. most woollen clothes lose their shape in the wash but can be stretched back to shape. Hand wash/ machine wash at home should be considered before giving any garment to be dry-cleaned.
- Use a quality dry cleaner. They will know their job and use quality cleaning agents and will be thorough in removing all traces of cleaning agents from the clothes. If you find that your dry-cleaned clothes have a chemical odour it means that the dry cleaner has not been as thorough as you need.
- Use dry cleaned clothes only after a few days; not straight from the cleaners- this is so that the chemicals will have dissipated from the clothes as much as possible.
- Do not store dry cleaned clothes for a long time in rooms where you will be spending a lot of time like bedrooms. The clothes are especially not to be stored in rooms where kids sleep.