I-Team: Dry cleaners go "green" - Fox 2 News Headlines

I-Team: Dry cleaners go "green"

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTA -

Wherever you go, you can see businesses these days going "green." We carry recycled grocery bags, buy organic food and wear eco-friendly clothes.

Even the dry cleaning industry, known for using hazardous chemicals, has started going green. But is it as advertised?

Good old-fashioned soap and water doesn't always do the job. Sometimes the only way to get certain fabrics clean is a chemical bath at the dry cleaner. For a long time the industry dipped your shirts and slacks in "perchloroethylene" better known as "perc."

"It's a known carcinogen. It's a ground water contaminant," said Peter Sinsheimer, UCLA Green Products Expert.

It's just not good for us, says Peter Sinsheimer, a UCLA professor who studies dry cleaning chemicals and their environmental impact. The industry is moving away from perc and now advertises more "green methods."

You see it all over metro Atlanta. A perfect example is in the city's Morningside neighborhood. The FOX 5 I-Team found in a three-block stretch, three dry cleaners. Two of them advertise they're "non-toxic" cleaners. On hidden camera, they even take it further.

Two shops told us they got rid of perc and now use another cleaning method. It's a hydrocarbon process, but is it "eco-friendly?"

Cindy Liebus at the Federal Trade Commission says that phrase doesn't actually mean anything.

"So, when you see the term green in an advertisement or on someone's shop it doesn't really mean that they are safer or less toxic," said Cindy Liebus, Atlanta FTC.

But she says "organic" and "non-toxic" do mean something. And Peter Sinsheimer says those words don't fit with hydrocarbon, a petroleum-based solvent.

He says the chemical is actually a "toxin" and "flammable." The EPA labels it an "air pollutant."

So what's wrong with calling hydrocarbon cleaning organic? Well, if you were in chemistry class, then sure, carbon is an organic compound. But most consumers think of organic to mean chemical-free, which it's not.

"If you're looking for something organic that is environmentally-friendly, then hydrocarbon is not what you're going to be looking for," said Sinsheimer.

Greenwashing, making green claims that don't hold up, is a nationwide issue. Environmental officials in Santa Monica, California sanctioned dry cleaners for making green claims they couldn't prove.

Then the industry jumped in. A trade newsletter warned dry cleaners against using phrases like "organic" and "non-toxic." "Be careful," it says "...of the advertising you use and the message you are sending."

"We want to be providing accurate information to consumer so they can make the best choice possible for themselves," said Sinsheimer.

Watch FOX 5 I-Team Dana Fowle's full report by clicking on the video above

Additional resources:

- US Environmental Protection Agency
- Green America
- The Reclaimer: Dry Cleaners Who Care

  • I-Team Story ArchiveMore>>

  • Get Financially Fit: A Step-By-Step Plan

    Get Financially Fit: A Step-By-Step Plan

    Monday, April 14 2014 9:15 AM EDT2014-04-14 13:15:13 GMT
    April is Financial Literacy Month, so it's time to think about getting financially fit.  Let's start with two questions. Do you know how much you spend each month?  How much of your check should you save?
    April is Financial Literacy Month, so it's time to think about getting financially fit.  Let's start with two questions:  Do you know how much you spend each month?  How much of your check should you save?
  • FOX 5 I-Team

    DON'T MISS: Tax Deductions and Credits

    DON'T MISS: Tax Deductions and Credits

    Friday, April 11 2014 8:48 AM EDT2014-04-11 12:48:55 GMT
    Let's finish up our tax time filing tips that we've offered this season with a quick look at deductions and credits too many folks forget.
    Let's finish up our tax time filing tips that we've offered this season with a quick look at deductions and credits too many folks forget.
  • FOX 5 I-Team

    IRS: Two Scam Warnings

    IRS: Two Scam Warnings

    Monday, April 7 2014 10:44 AM EDT2014-04-07 14:44:51 GMT
    We have two warnings coming from the IRS.  The first one is what investigators call the "largest ever" phone fraud scam targeting taxpayers.
    We have two warnings coming from the IRS.  The first one is what investigators call the "largest ever" phone fraud scam targeting taxpayers.
  • Contact the FOX 5 I-Team

    * denotes required fields

    We're sorry, but only one entry is allowed per person.
    Thank you for your continued interest.

    Thanks for contacting FOX 5.  To reach our newsroom by phone, please call (404) 898-0100.

  • Good Day ArchiveMore>>

  • What's Happening: 2014 Atlanta Steeplechase

    What's Happening: 2014 Atlanta Steeplechase

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 10:03 AM EDT2014-04-16 14:03:02 GMT
    Photos by Mike Soto Photos by Mike Soto
    One of the most exciting horse races in Georgia happens this Saturday at Kingston Downs.
    One of the most exciting horse races in Georgia happens this Saturday at Kingston Downs.
  • Good Day Atlanta

    Stress-Free Travel

    Stress-Free Travel

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 9:44 AM EDT2014-04-16 13:44:27 GMT
    After a particularly long and nasty winter, spring has finally sprung and folks are planning and taking long-awaited vacations. How do you breeze through the terminal and to your gate stress-free?
    After a particularly long and nasty winter, spring has finally sprung and folks are planning and taking long-awaited vacations. How do you breeze through the terminal and to your gate stress-free?
  • Good Day Atlanta

    Back Home with The Neelys

    Back Home with The Neelys

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 9:40 AM EDT2014-04-16 13:40:13 GMT
    The third cookbook from Food Network superstars Pat and Gina Neely brings us back to the basics of good ol' southern family cooking
    The third cookbook from Food Network superstars Pat and Gina Neely brings us back to the basics of good ol' southern family cooking
Powered by WorldNow

WJBK-TV | Fox 2
16550 West Nine Mile Rd.
Southfield, MI 48075

Main Station: (248) 557-2000
Newsroom: (248) 552-5103

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices