Dry cleaning your clothes is known to extend their lifecycle and help protect their colour and vibrance – a major win given our growing concern and awareness around the impact of fast fashion and textile waste. However, the chemicals used in the process can have a significant impact on waterways and surrounding nature. And as we're beginning to understand more, the environmental impact of clothing doesn't end in the production stages, with the products used while cleaning garments also a concern.
It's part of the reason why Sydney brand Noble Label has taken matters into its own hands, launching the Eco Dry Cleaners Directory, a nation-wide comprehensive guide to eco dry cleaners for your garments. Inspired by concerns of customers, co-founder and creative director Courtney Noble decided to simplify the process, providing people with a resource to eco dry cleaners.
We caught up with Noble to understand the new directory and what motivated the launch.
What inspired the Eco Dry Cleaners initiative?
Being a Sydney brand through and through, we would often receive messages from customers asking us if we favoured a particular dry cleaner in our area. As a few of our pieces are dry clean only, we feel a responsibility to direct our customers to the best dry cleaners near them.
Dry cleaning is particularly great as it extends the lifecycle of products by protecting your garment’s colour, brightness and softness, as well as being gentler than other cleaning methods. The downside is, many dry cleaners still use chemicals such as Perchlorethylene (PERC) that are hazardous to the environment and to our health.
So, what is eco dry cleaning and how does it differ to regular dry cleaning?
Eco dry cleaning offers an alternative to traditional dry cleaning. Instead of using chemicals such as PERC, dry cleaners use methods such as professional wet cleaning, which actually uses water rather than chemicals, along with other specialised detergents and conditioners through a computer-controlled washing machine. The washed fabrics are then placed in a specialised dryer equipped with moisture sensors to ensure fibres are protected, dye bleeding is prevented and fabrics do not shrink.
Why is eco dry cleaning something we should be engaging in?
There are many benefits to using eco dry cleaners without the risk of chemical exposure. Toxic chemicals like PERC have many adverse health effects from even low dose exposures. It is also a persistent pollutant that can contaminate air, water and soil which poses many environmental risks.
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How do you hope to see the industry adapt to changing attitudes towards the environment?
Many countries are working to phase out the use of PERC and other harmful chemicals used in traditional dry cleaning, however there is still a long way to go. We found that in Australia and New Zealand alone, there was a very small amount of dry cleaners using eco dry cleaning techniques. Some claim to be using more environmentally friendly methods, but still use toxic chemicals such as PERC.
The dry cleaning industry is a very important part of the fashion industry and there is so much dialogue in sustainable fashion about fabrics and where products are made. Dry cleaning is often left out and not talked about.
Finally, where to next for the Eco Dry Cleaners directory?
The purpose of our directory was to open up the conversation around eco dry cleaning and where to find one near you. We will continue to grow our directory based on our research and customer recommendations. It's a small stepping stone to spreading more awareness on the harmful effects of traditional dry cleaning, and how we can push for an industry-wide change.
For a comprehensive rundown on the initiative, you can scroll through the Eco Dry Cleaner Directory featuring cleaners from across Australia and the globe. As a starting point, we've included a selection of cleaners to get you started on your search for eco friendly dry cleaning.
Best eco-friendly dry cleaners in Australia