Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

Improving Air Quality in Your Community

Outdoor Air - Industry, Business, and Home: Dry Cleaning Operations

You can help dry cleaners reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) that may affect dry cleaner employees, their families, customers, and the community by encouraging dry cleaners to conduct these activities:


You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the Adobe PDF files on this page. See EPA's PDF page for more information about getting and using the free Acrobat Reader.

Change Technologies

      How?
  • Wet cleaning processes use water and detergent to clean clothes that typically require dry cleaning.
  • Liquid carbon dioxide technology is non-toxic, non-combustible, and does not contribute to hazardous air pollutant (HAP) and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
  • Silicone-based cleaning machines do not contain any HAPs or VOC and are reported to be odorless and affordable.
      Benefits
  • Reduces of perchloroethylene (perc) emissions by changing technologies.
  • Changing dry cleaning processes to upgrade equipment, or switching to alternative garment cleaning processes, can be relatively inexpensive and can result in cost savings and dramatic pollution reduction. Case studies show that replacing transfer equipment, or converting to closed-loop machines, can save up to 70% of perchloroethylene use and pay back the investment in as little as 3 years.
  • A Maine dry cleaner used a petroleum-based dry cleaning machine and reduced its waste by 90%. Solvent consumption decreased from 800 gallons per year to 200 gallons per year. The cleaners saved $10,000 a year in operating costs (Maine Department of Environmental Protection).
      Costs
  • Capital costs for any new equipment and/or building renovations.
  • Capital costs of compliant perc machines (30-50 pound capacity) can range from $32,000 to $47,000 (EPA Design for the Environment [DfE]).
  • Capital cost of a modern wet cleaning machine can range from $12,000 to $37,000 (EPA DfE).
  • Capital cost of a comparable petroleum solvent machine can range from $35,000 to $52,000 (EPA DfE).
  • Capital cost of finishing equipment for alternative technologies can range from $6,000 to $12,000, which is comparable to traditional dry cleaning pressing equipment (EPA DfE).
  • Training employees to use new equipment and procedures.
      More Information

Top of page

Recycle Materials

      How?
  • Install equipment, such as refrigerated condensers, to recover solvent from the dry cleaning process.
      Benefits
  • Reduces solvent purchase costs.
  • Reduces hazardous materials disposal costs.
      Costs
  • Capital costs for any new equipment.
  • Training employees to use new equipment and procedures.

Modify Processes

      How?
  • Reduce process vent emissions by using a closed-loop dry-to-dry machine with a refrigerated condenser. The addition of a carbon adsorber can further recover solvents to reduce solvent emissions.
  • Load the machine properly. Overloading reduces the effectiveness of solvent recovery equipment. Underloading makes less efficient use of the solvent.
  • Recover solvents from filter cartridges by draining the filters for 24 hours in the filter housing to capture additional solvent before disposal to prevent emissions of hazardous air pollutants.
  • Install spill containment structures under and around your dry cleaning machine.
  • Evaluate the investment in a closed-loop dry-to-dry machine or other innovative cleaning technology. Compare it with savings, over time, in lower raw material and hazardous disposal costs.
      Benefits
  • A dry cleaner can reduce perc use by about 70% by converting from transfer equipment to a closed loop dry-to-dry system. For a typical dry cleaner, this would result in a savings of about $1,100 per year as well as a reduction in air pollution (Washington State Department of Ecology).
  • A carbon adsorber on a transfer or dry-to-dry machine can reduce emissions by up to 95% (Hawaii Department of Health).
  • A refrigerated condenser can reduce emissions from transfer machines by 85% and from dry-to-dry machines by 95% (Hawaii Department of Health).
  • Replacing transfer equipment or converting to closed-loop machines can reduce perc use by up to 80% and pay back the investment in as little as 3 years (Hawaii Department of Health).
      Costs
  • Capital costs for any new equipment.
  • Capital costs of changing technologies can range from approximately $7,500 to $47,500 (1997 dollars) depending on the type of retrofit needed (EPA Design for the Environment).
  • Training employees to use new equipment and procedures.
      More Information

Top of page

Reduce Fugitive Emissions

      How?
  • Check hoses, couplings, pumps, valves, and gaskets frequently for leaks. Use a halogenated leak detector to help identify the leaks. These detectors usually cost about $250.
  • Repair the leaks promptly.
  • Allow the drying cycle to complete before opening the door. "Short cycling" reduces the effectiveness of solvent recovery equipment and increases fugitive emissions of solvents from the machine.
  • Replace cartridge filters with spin disk filters that can be cleaned without opening.
  • Cover containers of solvents to reduce solvent loss from evaporation and fugitive emissions of hazardous air pollutants and volatile organic compounds. This reduces worker exposure and release of these pollutants to the outside air.
  • Prevent spills by dispensing materials with spigots and pumps.
      Benefits
  • Fugitive emissions from a dry-to-dry system can be 50% less than from transfer units by eliminating the need for handling the clothes. Solvent and waste disposal costs are also reduced (Pinellas County, Florida Department of Environmental Management).
      Costs
  • Training employees to use new equipment and procedures.

Top of page

Jump to main content.