What is GreenEarth?
GreenEarth Cleaning is the world’s largest brand of environmentally friendly dry cleaning. The GreenEarth brand name refers to an exclusive dry cleaning process that replaces the petrochemical solvents traditionally used in dry cleaning with liquid silicone. Liquid silicone is an odorless, colorless solution that is an excellent carrier for detergents, has ideal properties for fabric care and is better for the environment. The GreenEarth Cleaning process is patented, and its name and logo are trademarked (there are no “generic” forms of GreenEarth).
Why is it better for the earth?
Seventy to eighty percent of dry cleaners use a solvent known as perc, short for perchloroethylene, a chlorinated hydrocarbon classified by the EPA as a Toxic Air Contaminant. Use of perc is highly regulated because indiscriminate disposal of perc can seriously contaminate soil and groundwater, and exposure can irritate eyes, nose and throat, as well as cause headaches, dizziness or fatigue. Perc is also classified by the EPA as as a likely carcinogen. In contrast, GreenEarth’s silicone is so safe the EPA does not regulate its use in dry cleaning or any of its many other applications. It is recognized as safe for the air, water and soil. When released to the environment, liquid silicone safely degrades back into its three natural components: sand (SiO2), water and carbon dioxide. What’s more, the GreenEarth solution is not a volatile organic compound (VOC) and it is environmentally non-toxic and non-hazardous. If you wanted to, you could safely rub it on your skin. In fact, you probably already do. That’s because GreenEarth’s solution is pure liquid silicone-essentially liquefied sand. It’s the same base ingredient found in everyday shampoos, soaps and lotions.
Why is it better for clothes?
Cleaning in GreenEarth silicone solution is different in two important ways. First, it has very low surface tension and is very light in weight. Surface tension is what causes water to “bead up” on fabric. GreenEarth’s low surface tension allows it to more effectively penetrate the fabric fibers and lubricate away the dirt particles. And because it weighs a lot less than perc, silicone cleans and rinses more gently, reducing wear and tear on fabrics. Second, liquid silicone is chemically inert, meaning it does not chemically react with textile fabric or dyes during the cleaning process. This minimizes abrasion to and/or swelling of fabric fibers, eliminates traditional issues with dye removal and dye bleed, helps maintain the soft hand of garments, and prevents shrinkage. Result? A wider variety of clothes can be safely cleaned with GreenEarth. Delicate silks, suede and leather trims, beads, sequins, painted garments, specialty buttons and trims, couture garments, heirloom fabrics and other “problem” items are no problem at all. And, unlike petroleum based solvents, liquid silicone is odorless, so there is no lingering chemical “dry cleaned” smell on your clothes.
GreenEarth is the solution that the fashion industry has been looking for . With the huge influx of delicately embroidered and highly embellished styles, “problem items” damaged by both washing and traditional dry cleaning methods, more and more textile and garment manufacturers are specifically requesting the GreenEarth Cleaning method. Traditionally, garment manufacturers and dry cleaners have been in conflict with each other, each side predisposed to viewing the other as the party deserving of blame in cleaning damage claims. Manufacturers can trust that a GreenEarth licensed dry cleaner is using a gentle process that does not pose risk of damage, so they can work as a team on behalf of the consumer.
Why is it better for people?
Traditional dry cleaning leaves a telltale chemical odor on clothes, but clothes cleaned in GreenEarth have absolutely no odor. Clothes are fresh and clean right out of the bag. Most people find petrochemical residue distasteful, but some people with asthma and skin sensitivities find it can make them sick. GreenEarth solution is both non-allergenic and non-irritating; it is so safe you could rub it on your skin. In fact, you probably already do. That’s because GreenEarth solution is pure liquid silicone, the same base ingredient found in everyday shampoos, conditioners, skin lotions and antiperspirants. GreenEarth is also beneficial to people who work in or live near dry cleaning stores, because they no longer have to worry about the dangers of exposure to perc (short for percholoroethylene, the petrochemical used by most cleaners). According to the EPA, over-exposure to perc can lead to headaches, dizziness, skin and eye irritation and other health effects, including an increased risk of cancer. Seniors, young children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. People who live in or work near a GreenEarth dry cleaning store have absolutely nothing to worry about. GreenEarth’s Cleaning system is safe to work with, safe to dispose of and safe to breathe. Employees especially love working in an odorless dry cleaning shop.
Why is it better for dry cleaners?
Dry cleaners face a difficult dilemma: it can be very expensive to purchase and operate an environmentally friendly cleaning system. GreenEarth is the one truly “green” system that is affordable for dry cleaners. The cost for a machine capable of using GreenEarth is similar to the perc machines most dry cleaners currently use. And, because it requires less labor to process and finish items cleaned with the GreenEarth
system and machines can be configured to use less energy than traditional systems, dry cleaners using GreenEarth enjoy better operating efficiency. Best of all, GreenEarth produces a noticeable difference that customers can see, touch and smell, helping Affiliates attract and keep loyal customers. The only other recognized “green” alternatives in dry cleaning are CO2 and 100% wet cleaning. The problem for dry cleaners, especially the small “mom and pop” cleaners who are the backbone of the industry, is that it is very difficult to make a living operating exclusively with either of these eco-friendly systems. CO2 machines can cost up to three times as much as traditional dry cleaning machines. Wet cleaning requires more labor to produce and finish garments; thus both options are considerably more expensive to operate. Less than one-third of one percent of dry cleaners operate with CO2 or 100% wet cleaning exclusively.
How many GreenEarth Affiliates are there?
GreenEarth is available in 33 countries around the world. In the United States alone, there are more than 980 locations offering the GreenEarth Cleaning process. Every new Martinizing franchise introduced since 2003 utilizes GreenEarth technology; the Oxxo and Tide Dry Cleaners franchise locations also use GreenEarth exclusively. To find a GreenEarth affiliated cleaner, click on the “Find a Store” locator in upper right corner of this web site.
What is the regulatory outlook for dry cleaning in general and GreenEarth specifically?
Dry cleaning is under increasing regulatory scrutiny. In February 2012, based on new scientific evidence, the EPA reclassified perc as a “likely” human carcinogen and concluded that chronic exposure to perc can cause harm to the nervous system, reproduction and development, kidney and liver disease, immune system and hematologic system at much lower levels than previously estimated. The EPA’s new assessment is a marked change from its previous designation, in place since 1988, of perc as an “intermediate between a probable and a possible human carcinogen” with non carcinogenic health hazard effects likely above a daily oral exposure Reference Dose (RfD) of 0.01 mg/kg-day (the safe level for RfD is now 0.006 mg/kg-day, much lower than previously determined). The EPA’s new assessment will be used to establish tougher standards for drinking water and hazardous air emissions to protect the public and set stricter clean up standards for contaminated sites. The EPA also expects to initiate regulatory efforts to reclassify other VOCs where scientific evidence of carcinogenicity exists. The EPA has already taken several significant actions to reduce exposure to perc. In 2006, it issued new regulations that banned new construction of perc dry cleaners in residential (co-located) buildings and instituted a phase out of perc use at co-located dry cleaners. At the state level, in 2008, California became the first state to ban both the use of perc and the purchase of new perc machines, a move widely regarded as the beginning of the end of perc solvents in the U.S. Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Toronto all have perc bans under consideration. If the industry continues to drag its feet when it comes to adopting “more environment friendly alternatives”, regulators can be expected to grow increasingly concerned and increase legislative pressure. The outlook for GreenEarth is excellent. In 2008, after an exhaustive 18 month review of scientific data around the health and human safety of GreenEarth’s D5 solution, California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) affirmed GreenEarth as an acceptable dry cleaning solvent alternative and based on the available exposure information, the use of D5 in GreenEarth’s patented dry cleaning process will not pose risk to the public living near businesses using D5. GreenEarth meets and exceeds all regulatory requirements and regulations in all states. The outlook for GreenEarth is also excellent in Canada, where routine screening assessments of chemicals are conducted as part of a program to protect human health and the environment. In 2008, Environment Canada officially announced that the D5 silicone used in the GreenEarth Cleaning system is not considered to be harmful to human health. In February 2012, it declared that D5 silicone is not harmful to the environment. This ruling was informed by an expert Board of Review (BOR) of independent scientific experts and renowned toxicologists who were appointed to undertake the review. The Board of Review’s formal assessment concluded that D5 silicone “does not pose a danger to the environment or its biological diversity”. Furthermore, the Board concluded that “based on the information before it, the projected future uses of Siloxane D5 will not pose a danger to the environment or its biological diversity”. To view the final report click here.
Has there been much scientific testing and evaluation done on GreenEarth?
GreenEarth Cleaning is the only alternative solvent to perform and openly report extensive testing on the environmental and safety profile of its cleaning system. Over $30 million worth of independent testing and research has been done on D5 liquid silicone to confirm that there are no risks to public safety resulting from its use in all of its many applications, including dry cleaning. GreenEarth Cleaning also underwrote an independent, comprehensive 2002 IFI Fellowship Study which compared the GreenEarth system to the industry standard perc system. The IFI declared it to be “as effective as perc with no environmental concerns”. Independent waste stream and air exposure testing confirmed that liquid silicone as used in daily dry cleaning operation exceeds all federal, state and local requirements for water and air safety. Regulatory agency reviews of the available scientific data on D5 silicone also offer independent perspective on the health and human safety profile of the GreenEarth Cleaning process. Similar to the Illinois EPA’s 2006 assessment of D5 silicone as an alternative solvent, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which instituted a ban of perc solvent in 2008, conducted an exhaustive 18-month review of all available data on D5 and affirmed that GreenEarth’s D5 silicone is an acceptable dry cleaning solvent alternative and based on the available exposure information, that the use of D5 in GreenEarth’s patented dry cleaning process will not pose a risk to the public living near businesses using D5. In addition, Environment Canada, the governing regulatory agency in Canada, in two separate rulings, declared that the D5 silicone used in the GreenEarth Cleaning system is not considered to be harmful to human health (2008) and that D5 is not considered harmful to the environment (2012). An evaluation by the United Kingdom’s UK Environment Agency also stated that “No risks are identified from the production and all uses of D5 for the air, water and the terrestrial compartments, nor for man exposed via the environment.”
I’ve heard that GreenEarth causes cancer, is that true? Absolutely not. This rumor dates back to 2004-2005 news coverage around the release of a voluntary 2-year bioassay study commissioned by Dow Corning, a manufacturer of D5. News reporters like to create controversy, and a preliminary finding of this study allowed them to do just that. The final report from the study as well as follow-up research both concluded that D5 liquid silicone poses no risk to human health; however these research findings did not receive widespread news coverage—nor did subsequent affirmative scientific reviews by the Illinois EPA, California’s Air Resources Board (CARB), the government of Canada and the UK. Here is what matters:
The EPA does not recognize D5 silicone as a potential carcinogen or toxic air contaminant.
The EPA does not regulate the use of D5 in dry cleaning or any other application.
The California Air Resources Board conducted an extensive 18 month review of the health and safety research and ruled that use of D5 in dry cleaning does not pose an adverse health risk for the public.
The Government of Canada conducted a thorough review of all the available D5 data and determined that D5 is not considered to be harmful to human health or to the environment. United Kingdom’s UK Environment Agency found D5 to be safe for the air, water and soil as well as for humans.
More than 50 different studies on D5 demonstrate there is not a human health concern.
D5 is one of the most extensively studied materials in consumer applications.
D5 has been used safely for more than 40 years in many different applications.
D5 can be shipped D.O.T. without any “hazardous materials handling” requirements.
What are the facts of the bioassay research?
As part of its commitment to the safe use of silicone, Dow Corning commissioned a two year Combined Chronic/Carcinogenicity Study on D5 liquid silicone. What is important to understand is that the bioassay study was designed to test the potential effects of D5 as a chemical, not the safety of its use in GreenEarth’s dry cleaning application. In the GreenEarth Cleaning process, silicone is kept inside the machine and continuously recycled within the machine using a closed loop system. The bioassay research tested the effects of chronic inhalation of D5 at various levels of exposure for varying lengths of time, on male and female lab rats. A small but statistically significant number of female rats exposed at the highest possible exposure level for the longest possible time developed pre-cancerous indicators (they did not develop cancer). The rats affected in the study were the female rats exposed to the highest achievable vapor concentration of D5, 160 parts per million (ppm), six hours a day continuously for two years. By contrast, people who work in a dry cleaning plant are exposed at the lowest measurable vapor concentration of D5, less than 1 ppm on a time-weighted average during an eight-hour workday.
In order to better understand the preliminary test finding, follow up research was conducted by the Silicones Environmental, Health and Safety Council (SEHSC), the same group that conducted the original test. This research concluded that the effects observed in the original study were rat-specific and concluded that D5 does not pose a health risk to humans. This is because silicone is “read” by the female rat pituitary as dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical that can upset the balance of progesterone and estrogen and in turn lead to uterine tumors. The biological pathway that causes rats to react this way does not exist in humans, and scientific experts concluded that there is no risk to human health. This conclusion was also supported by a number of scientific experts, including the Society of Toxicologists. The safety of a food or chemical is often a matter of degree. Fluoride, salt and aspirin are all chemicals that can be toxic at high levels, but because their intended applications do not exceed safe limits, and because they provide benefits when used appropriately, we use them every day without concern.
I am seeing a lot of “organic” dry cleaning claims, is GreenEarth organic?
No. And that is a good thing. There is nothing green about organic dry cleaning. “Organic”, as it relates to chemistry, refers to anything with a carbon backbone. Gasoline and asphalt are organic. Dry cleaners who market themselves this way are misleading the consumer.
I have noticed some dry cleaners claims to be biodegradable, is GreenEarth biodegradable?
In describing dry cleaning solvents, the term biodegradable is very similar to “organic”in that it is frequently used in “green washing”. Just because a chemical biodegrades does not mean it biodegrades into non-hazardous substances. GreenEarth is a closed loop system, it is continuously recycled within the machine. If it were to be released to the environment, because of its unique chemical and physical properties, it would rapidly and safely degrade into its three natural components of sand (SiO2), water and carbon dioxide through indirect photolysis. This is true irregardless of where it was deposited into the environment (e.g. air, soil or water) due to its relatively great vapor pressure and volatility, which causes it to migrate mainly into the air.
What other environmentally friendly practices do you support?
We are very committed to sustainability. Not only do we advocate technologies to lower the dry cleaner’s carbon footprint of utility consumption, we also help our Affiliates source eco-friendly packaging. GreenEarth operates in a closed loop system, meaning the dry cleaning solution is continually recycled within the machine. The fluid is kept clean through use of a filtration system. Many of our Affiliates use a new cold-filtration technology that reduces utility demand (steam, electricity, water) for solvent purification by over 85% from typical dry cleaning processes. It works by substituting natural clay as a filtration medium—the impurities are adsorbed by the clay medium—eliminating the requirement for constant distillation and the associated energy needed to boil the fluid and then return the vapor back into a liquid. Plastic bags are a serious environmental concern—they take up space in landfills, threaten wildlife, and can last for hundreds of years. We offer our Affiliates access to oxo-degradable poly bags distributed by First Films in the U.S. The EcoMax degradable bags look and feel just like regular plastic bags but have a special composition that allows them to break down naturally within just two years. To maximize the environmental benefit of all oxo-degradable plastics, they should be recycled instead of thrown away. Wire hangers may not get as much publicity as plastic, but they are also an environmental problem. Every year, Americans throw away 3.5 billion wire hangers and 5 billion plastic hangers. An excellent alternative is the cardboard EcoHanger®, made from 100% recycled paper and plastic. EcoHangers are manufactured in the U.S. in EPA-regulated factories and are 100% recyclable.
How does GreenEarth compare to other alternative green cleaning methods like CO2 and professional wet cleaning.
CO2 and 100% wet cleaning are both recognized as very good choices environmentally, but less than one-third of one percent of dry cleaners clean with them. The problem for dry cleaners is that it is very difficult to make a living operating with either system exclusively. CO2 machines can cost up to three times as much as traditional machines. Wet cleaning requires more labor to produce and finish the garments, thus both are considerably more expensive to operate.
What about hydrocarbon (DF2000) solvent?
Hydrocarbon solvent has, until recently, been popular as an alternative because it is affordable and petroleum-based, so the industry is familiar with it. The concern about hydrocarbon today is that it is not as “green” as some people thought originally. While certainly a big improvement over perc, hydrocarbon is classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC), and is a likely contributor to smog formation. It is not approved as a SNAP material and would likely require a clean up if spilled. Like perc, hydrocarbon is also listed by the EPA as a neurotoxin and skin and eye irritant for workers. On the plus side, most machines designed to use hydrocarbon solvent are also capable of running GreenEarth, so operators can convert from hydrocarbon to GreenEarth without purchasing a new machine.