For owners and operators of dry cleaning equipment:
It is important for you to know the hazards associated with the use of liquid perchloroethylene (perc), and the kinds and sources of perc wastes that are produced by the dry cleaning process. Although perc is the most common cleaning solvent used in the dry cleaning industry, it is also suspected of causing cancer and has been found to be moderately toxic to people. It is classified as a pollutant in both air and water regulations. Its disposal is regulated as a hazardous waste.
The two largest potential sources of air emissions from the dry cleaning industry are the release of perc vapors into the atmosphere during transfer of clothes from the washer to the dryer and the venting of the dryer exhaust airstream. The concentrations of perc in the outside air is of concern to neighbors of dry cleaners! To eliminate these sources of air pollution, EPA regulations are phasing out the use of transfer machines and phasing in requirements on the installation of control devices for dryer exhaust airstreams.
Dry cleaning facilities typically generate wastes in the form of cooked powder residues, still bottom residues, spent cartridges, and button/lint trap wastes. These wastes are perc-based and have an EPA Hazardous Waste Number of F002. Dry cleaners may also occasionally dispose of unused perc and these wastes have a Hazardous Waste Number of U210. The EPA Hazardous Waste Number is needed when filling out the Notification of Hazardous Waste Activity form (Figure II-1, page II-24) when obtaining an EPA Identification Number for generating hazardous waste. It is also needed when filling out the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest (Figure II-6, page II-41). This Manifest must accompany each hazardous waste shipment to ensure the hazardous waste arrives at its final destination. Of course, most of the perc wastes are recycled instead of being disposed. In this case, they are not subject to the hazardous waste regulations.
The only source of process wastewater that would be of general concern to a dry cleaner is separater water, since it contains perc. Separator water can be disposed of as a hazardous waste or treated in a mister or an evaporator. Disposal of untreated separator water into on-site disposal systems such as dry wells, cesspools, and septic tanks is prohibited. Disposal into a municipal sewer system is subject to state and local Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) requirements.
Complying with the law
In September, 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued national regulations to control air emissions of perchloroethylene (perc) from dry cleaners. The rule, in the form of a national emission standard for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) for perc dry cleaning facilities, was published in the September 22, 1993 edition of the Federal Register(volume 58, page. 49354). The regulation affects all dry cleaners that use perc. There are also regulations that control the water that leaves your facility (via a drain, sewer, surface or the ground! There are regulations that control any pollution you put on the ground or soil. There are regulations for any waste that you put in the dumpster, trash, or take away from you facility, or have taken away.
these are serious laws with criminal penalties. You MUST understand them and how to comply - jail is the alternative!
Hazards such as chemical, fire, and
ergonomic-related are associated with dry cleaning
processes. Exposure to hazardous chemicals commonly used in
dry cleaning shops may occur through skin absorption, eye
contact, or inhalation of the vapors. Perchloroethylene
(PERC), a potential human carcinogen, is the most commonly
used dry cleaning solvent. Symptoms associated with exposure
include: depression of the central nervous system; damage to
the liver and kidneys; impaired memory; confusion;
dizziness; headache; drowsiness; and eye, nose, and throat
irritation. Repeated dermal exposure may result in
The following questions link to safety
and health information relevant to dry cleaning.
Garment and Textile Care: An Eye to the Future, 1998 Conference Proceedings [Image file] (EPA/744-R-98-006) October 1998, 360
pages This proceedings document is a record of "an Eye on the
Future..." conference held in March 1998. The conference showcased
the latest and most effective garment cleaning methods. It was
organized to develop a multiyear plan to evaluate ways garments can
be cleaned using new technologies that are friendly to the
environment. These proceedings include transcribed presentations,
copies of visual aids presented during the conference, and a summary
of discussion sessions.
Profile of the Dry Cleaning Industry (EPA/310-R-95-001)
September 1995, 84 pages This document provides information
on all aspects of the garment care industry, including general
industry information, industrial processes used, pollution
prevention techniques, pollutant release data, regulatory
requirements, and examples of current EPA initiatives geared toward
the garment care industry.
Training Curriculum for Alternative Clothes Cleaning Vol. 1: Curriculum (PDF)
(487KB) and Vol. 2: Instructor's Manual and Presentation
Materials (EPA/744-R-97-004a) May 1997, 115 pages
(EPA/744-R-97-004b) May 1997, 192 pages This training
course teaches garment care professionals and staff about
wetcleaning. Developed by the University of Massachusetts Toxics Use
Reduction Institute, this course explains how wetcleaning works and
how to operate a wetcleaning facility. The course also explains how
to convert a dry cleaning facility to a wetcleaning facility.
Considerations for Partnership [Web Only]
(EPA/744-F-98-009) January 1999 DfE's Considerations
paper discusses the program's approach to forming partnerships and
ways to improve the environmental profile of laundry products and
Invitation to Partner and Worksheet to Evaluate Alternative
Ingredients: A Note to Industrial and Institutional Laundry
Formulators [Web Only] (EPA/744-F-02-017)
1999; Updated November 2002 To obtain an initial
environmental profile of a detergent's ingredients, DfE encourages
potential formulator partners to fill out the Ingredient Worksheet.
DfE will use a completed worksheet-handled strictly as proprietary
business information-to prepare a preliminary health and
environmental assessment of a formulation's ingredients. This
initial profile can serve as a baseline for considering safer
alternatives and as a discussion piece for developing a partnership
Industrial and Institutional Laundry Ingredients Worksheet
[Web Only] August 12, 2002 A worksheet to help the company to
begin developing an environmental and human health profile of the
ingredients the company uses. With it, DfE prepares a preliminary
assessment profile of the company's ingredients as a baseline for
considering safer alternatives. DfE will consider all information
provided as proprietary and will handle it in a strictly
Technical Fact Sheet on Key Characteristics of Laundry Detergent Ingredients [Web Only] (EPA/744-F-99-009) May 1999, 2 pages The Ingredient Fact Sheet summarizes
some of the key environmental and human health characteristics -
positive and negative - that DfE has identified in laundry detergent
ingredients and systems. This document provides an overview of the
characteristics and the project itself.
Key Characteristics of Laundry Detergent Ingredients
[Web Only] (EPA/744-F-99-008) May 1999, 3 pages This
fact sheet summarizes some of the key environmental and human health
characteristics - positive and negative - that DfE has identified in
laundry detergent ingredients and systems.