I-Team: Dry cleaners go "green" - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

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>>

  • Patient: Hospice company failed me too

    Patient: Hospice company failed me too

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 10:37 PM EDT2014-08-28 02:37:56 GMT
    The state is now looking into a defunct hospice provider originally investigated by the Fox 5 I-Team.
    The state is now looking into a defunct hospice provider originally investigated by the Fox 5 I-Team.
  • Hidden fees in checking accounts: Who's transparent, who's not

    Hidden fees in checking accounts: Who's transparent, who's not

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 8:10 AM EDT2014-08-27 12:10:06 GMT
    We already know about some of the fees our banks charge -- the monthly fee, the overdraft charge, out-of-network and minimum balance fees. That's standard stuff. But did you know that the average checking account has 30 fees attached?
    We already know about some of the fees our banks charge -- the monthly fee, the overdraft charge, out-of-network and minimum balance fees. That's standard stuff. But did you know that the average checking account has 30 fees attached?
  • Judge mulling sanctions related to ethics trial

    Judge mulling sanctions related to ethics trial

    Monday, August 25 2014 6:29 PM EDT2014-08-25 22:29:27 GMT
    A judge is deciding whether to sanction the Georgia attorney general's office, the state ethics commission and the commission's director for not releasing certain documents in a whistleblower trial.
    A judge is deciding whether to sanction the Georgia attorney general's office, the state ethics commission and the commission's director for not releasing certain documents in a whistleblower trial.
  • 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>>

  • Back to School Jamboree with Hosea Feed The Hungry

    Back to School Jamboree with Hosea Feed The Hungry

    Hosea Feed the Hungry will host their annual Back to School Jamboree on Sunday, July 13, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at Turner Field. Children will receive a backpack filled with school supplies.

    Hosea Feed the Hungry will host their annual Back to School Jamboree on Sunday, July 13, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at Turner Field. Children will receive a backpack filled with school supplies.

  • Outlet Mall shopping secrets

    Outlet Mall shopping secrets

    Friday, August 29 2014 10:43 AM EDT2014-08-29 14:43:26 GMT
    I think this is what many of us assume about outlet mall shopping -- we get rock bottom prices on everything from clothes to housewares on brand names that are either leftovers from last year or this year's overstock. Well, it's not quite like that.
    I think this is what many of us assume about outlet mall shopping -- we get rock bottom prices on everything from clothes to housewares on brand names that are either leftovers from last year or this year's overstock. Well, it's not quite like that.
  • Good Day Atlanta

    Pike Nurseries: Labor Day entertaining and planting

    Pike Nurseries: Labor Day entertaining and planting

    Friday, August 29 2014 9:08 AM EDT2014-08-29 13:08:02 GMT
     Did you know that Pike Nurseries has a Pinterest Board that is chock-full of great entertaining ideas for the Holiday Weekend?
     Did you know that Pike Nurseries has a Pinterest Board that is chock-full of great entertaining ideas for the Holiday Weekend?
Powered by WorldNow
Untitled

WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
5151 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
Main Number: (202) 244-5151
Newsroom: (202) 895-3000
fox5tips@wttg.com

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