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SAFEGUARDS| Softlines NO. 094/15

SafeGuardS chemical structure (D5 silicone)

Dry cleaning is a process for removing soils and stains from fabric and garments which uses special equipment and a non-aqueous organic solvent with detergent added. Dry cleaning is popular for cleaning natural fibers, such as linen, wool or delicate materials or tailor-made garments. It provides good cleaning without the garment shrinkage and damage experienced with aqueous cleaning. Dry cleaning also is popular because of its convenience, providing garment care using equipment not available to the typical consumer.        


The Greening Trend

Traditionally, perchloroethylene (also known as “perc’), is a chemical solvent that is widely used in the textile industry for dry cleaning. However, it has been classified as a hazardous substance. In California, perchloroethylene is listed as a chemical known to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity. Reproductive effects such as reduced fertility and spontaneous abortions have been reported from occupational exposure to “perc”. Long-term exposure may result in neurological effects, such as dizziness and diminished cognitive ability, as well as damage to the liver and kidneys. Research reports indicate that the use of “perc” may result in an unacceptable level of risk to human health, safety and the environment. It could be released to and detected in ambient air in and near dry cleaning facilities as well as in adjacent residences. There are some studies showing that if “perc” is discharged from factories and dry-cleaners there is the risk of it contaminating groundwater and even drinking water [1].

Owing to the above reasons, some government bodies are starting to phase out the use of “perc” in the dry cleaning process. In 2006, California Air Resources Board voted to phase out “perc” dry cleaning by 2023 [2]. Also the US EPA announced that all existing “perc” dry cleaning machines in co-residential facilities are prohibited in the US after Dec 21, 2020 [3]

In 2012, the French Ministry of Environment and French Health & Labour Ministry decided that no new dry-cleaning shops using the “perc” process will be permitted to be located adjacent to residential properties [4].

Silicone Solvent – An Alternative Solvent for Dry Cleaning

The health risks of perchloroethylene as a dry cleaning solvent has spurred the demand of alternative solvents to replace the use of “perc’. One the potential alternatives developed is based on a silicone –based solvent called decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (D5).

This silicone –based dry cleaning solvent is a clear, odorless, non-toxic solvent used in a closed loop system. It will degrade into silica and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide within days if spilled or disposed. 

D5 also is commonly used in cosmetics such as deodorants, sunscreen, hair sprays and skin care products.  According to research, its cleaning ability is comparable with “perc”.

Currently the Air Resource Board of California and Department of Environmental Conservation of New York State approve D5 and other solvents including hydrocarbons to replace “perc’ solvent in dry cleaning [5, 6]. Worldwide, there are now more than 1,600 drycleaners using D5. Some retailers and brands have adopted a dry cleaning process based on D5 solvent for their garment consumers.

To cope with the greening trend of using safer alternative dry cleaning solvent, SGS is pleased to announce that our Guangzhou Softlines laboratory has the ability to carry out the dry cleaning process using silicone-based solvent, by using state-of-the art dry cleaning technologies.  We are able to provide appearance and dimensional stability to dryclean tests based on silicone-based solvent. We also offer consultancy service to assess the suitability of this new dry cleaning process on garments and textile products.

SGS Global Softlines has an extensive network of over 40 laboratories worldwide, with a strong team of committed professionals from multi-disciplinary backgrounds. Our internationally accredited state-of-the-art testing laboratories offer a comprehensive range of physical, chemical and functional testing services for components, materials and finished products. We help your company ensure quality, performance and compliance with international, industrial and regulatory standards worldwide. Discover more at www.sgs.com/softlines.

Louann Spirito
Director Technical Support, Softlines

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