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Safer Alternatives in the Garment Cleaning Industry


As of 2019, there may have been as many as 21,000 dry cleaning operations in the U.S.  (EPA, 2019), however with onset of COVID-19, the number of operations has declined.

Three chemicals, trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PERC), and n-propyl bromide (nPB), pose significant health and environmental concerns.  All three have been used in paint, oil, and grease (POG) and organic stain removal, and two of these, PERC and nPB, remain in use as some dry cleaning processes in garment cleaning facilities.   

These three chemicals are among U.S. EPA’s first 10 priority listed chemicals in the amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to undergo risk evaluation.  

In an analysis of currently available spotting removal products, a few POG spotting agents were found to still contain TCE or PERC.  No spotting agents were found containing nPB. This analysis and report was made possible through a grant from U.S. EPA’s Source Reduction Assistance Program.

In the report, Alternative Spotting Chemicals for the Garment Cleaning Industry, Dr. Katy Wolf analyzed currently available POG spotting formulations for health and environmental characteristics, and provides guidance for safer alternative ingredients for some problem ingredients, relating to these chemical categories:  

  • Some glycol ethers and glycol ether acetates
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Surfactants

In March 2020, PPRC hosted a webinar, Safer Alternatives in the Garment Cleaning Industry,  presenting the U.S. EPA Safer Choice Program’s Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL), the safer spotting chemical analysis by Dr. Katy Wolf, the King County Hazardous Waste Management Program and the Washington State financial incentives and technical assistance to transition dry cleaners from PERC to safer processes. Since then, the King County program has transitioned to Washington State Department of Ecology management, statewide, of financial incentives under the Product Replacement Program (PRP).  

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