Dry Cleaner Goes Green

By: Philip Stewart Email
By: Philip Stewart Email

October 5, 2007

When you step inside, it may look like a traditional dry cleaning business, but Countryside Cleaners is the first in the Charlottesville area to switch to an environmentally friendly cleaning method.

"We wanted to stay head of the curve in the industry, as well as we wanted to do something great for the environment," explained Mark Seale, the owner of Countryside Cleaning.

The new cleaner being used is also much safer for people. And, unlike traditional dry cleaning, there's no hazardous bi-product.

"Everything that's used to make up this solution is a natural, and it is an aqua-based solution," said Seale.

Other cleaners nationwide are starting to do the same, but about 85% of dry cleaners still use traditional ways of cleaning clothes.

The problem is that many of the chemicals used in the process can lead to serious health problems. One of those chemicals is known as 'Perc.' It's widely used, but is a potential carcinogen, can cause damage to the central nervous system and has been linked to liver and kidney damage.

Customers at Countryside are pleased with the change.

"I realized that they used a chemical to do it rather than water and detergent, but I didn't realize it could be potentially harmful," said Sue Woodson, who was dropping of several pieces of clothing Friday afternoon. "I'm glad to know that they're taking a proactive stance and doing what we can to help keep the environment safe for everyone."

The cleaner is misted onto the clothing inside, but leather, suede and even fur can be cleaned.

But going green comes at a cost. This machine, called the Green Jet, runs about $25,000 dollars. But for now there's no plan to increase prices for customers.

"The clothes that are going out our door are clothes that are completely 100% safe for the environment and the consumer,"
said Seale. And that he added is well worth any cost.

The Green Jet was installed about two weeks ago and so far, so good. Sealed said he's gotten calls from Harrisonburg and even Northern Virginia from people who are willing to ship their clothes to him to have them cleaned using the new green cleaner.

According to some statistics, about 70% of all 'Perc,' the hazardous chemical used in traditional dry cleaning, ends up in the environment, contaminating ground and drinking water. Most 'Perc' is used by the dry cleaning industry.

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