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Keep Clothes and the Environment Cleaner

Dec 31, 2010 ● By Gail Goldberger

Many people have abandoned their traditional dry-cleaning habits in search of greener methods. But how can a consumer know if a “green” cleaner is really green?

Most owners of Chicago-area cleaners consider three cleaning methods “safe”: wet-cleaning, which uses water and detergent; CO2, which uses liquid carbon dioxide and detergent; and SolvAir, a process that combines wet- and CO2-cleaning. All three avoid the use of petroleum-based products and PERC, proven to be harmful to human health.

Several area cleaners have adopted the more eco-friendly cleaning choices. Lake City Cleaners in Highland Park (1740 1st Street), Lake Forest (702 North McKinley Road) and Evanston (831 Emerson) offer all three green methods. Owner Victor Seyedin says his SolvAir process also eliminates heat, and floats garments instead of tumbling them.

The Cleaner Cleaner in Niles has offered only wet cleaning for the last three years, and is primarily a pick-up and delivery service for the entire North Shore and northwest suburbs. Although his business has a storefront, owner Brian Borowski said, “Pick-up and delivery is a green benefit.” It cuts down on the carbon footprint and fuel costs of individual vehicles dropping off and picking up their items at the store.

Skokie’s Armen’s Cleaners, exclusively wet for eight years, also sells eco-friendly, non-toxic household cleaning products. The Greener Cleaner, exclusively wet for 15 years, has several Chicago locations, and will pick up and deliver to Rogers Park and Evanston.

Several cleaners caution that although considered safer, these methods do have potential downsides. Wet-cleaning may shrink clothes, and operators need stretching machines to compensate. CO2 is good at removing odors, but is not thought to be as effective for stains. Both CO2 and SolvAir require costly, bulky equipment, which increases their eco-footprint.

However, many people feel that the downsides are worth the upsides and nonetheless seek out these green options for keeping their clothes, and the environment, clean.

Gail Goldberger is a communications professional and writer living in Chicago. Her work spans health care, human services, ecology, nature and the environment.


Lake City Cleaners, 831 Emerson St., Evanston, 847-864-6200; 1740 1st St., Highland Park, 847-420-1700; 702 N. McKinley Rd., Lake Forest, 847-283-9999.

The Cleaner Cleaner, 9347 N. Milwaukee, Niles, 847-965-3567,

Armen’s Cleaners, 4419 Oakton, Skokie, 847-674-7180.

The Greener Cleaner, multiple locations, 773-661-0391,

Help Ban PERC in Illinois
Want to join the movement to ban PERC? Illinois could become the second state in the nation (behind California) to limit the use of PERC in dry cleaning. If passed, the Toxic Drycleaning Solvent Ban , ILHB 6115, introduced by former state Rep. Julie Hamos (D) of Evanston, would ban installation of new PERC equipment on Jan. 1, 2011; eliminate its use in facilities co-located with residences on Jan. 1, 2013; and outlaw its use completely by 2026. As of this writing, this bill was in committee.