Dry Cleaning Chemicals

Do you know what chemical your Dry Cleaner uses?


If your Dry Cleaner uses Wet Cleaning (different from Laundering):

Wet cleaning uses environmentally-friendly, 100 per cent biodegradable soaps and conditioners to remove tough stains and treat "dry clean only" items without harmful solvents. State-of-the-art machines allow for flexibility and precision in the water temperature, agitation, and amount of detergent—the best options for stain removal and fabric care. Gentle detergents, a process that measures the humidity during the drying process, and finishing machines for pressing means less stress on garments, reduced energy and water use, and no toxic ingredients.1 2


If your Dry Cleaner uses DF-2000:

DF-2000, or Naphtha (Petroleum), an Isoparaffinic Hydrocarbon, is a fluid sometimes used in dry cleaning.

Why be concerned?

  • According to regulatory guidelines, it is considered to be hazardous.
  • It is combustible. Material can release vapours that readily form flammable mixtures. Vapour accumulation could flash and/or explode if ignited.  Matter can accumulate static charges which may can an ignition.
  • Repeated exposure may cause skin dryness or cracking.  If swallowed, may be aspirated and cause lung damage; may be irritating to the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.
  • If inhaled, it can cause respiratory irritation, dizziness, nausea or unconsciousness.
  • Vapour/aerosol concentrations above recommended exposure levels are irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract, may cause headaches, dizziness, anaesthesia, drowsiness, unconsciousness and other central nervous system effects including death.3

What Can You Do?

For workers using DF-2000:

  • Wear a respirator if engineering controls do not maintain adequate airborne concentrations of the chemical to protect worker health.
  • Wear chemical-resistant gloves and clothing if there is prolonged or repeated contact with DF-2000, and use protective safety glasses with side shields.
  • Observe good personal hygiene after handling the material and before eating. Routinely wash work clothing and protective equipment to remove contaminants.

For the Public:

  • Dry cleaned clothes can contain residue of the chemical used.  Remove the plastic wrapping and air out the article(s) outside before you bring it inside.

The Wet Cleaning process (not laundering) is the best option. 


If your Dry Cleaner uses PERC:

Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene, or perc, is the predominant solvent used for dry cleaning.

Why be concerned?

  • Perc has cancer causing and toxic effects on the central nervous system, kidneys, liver, respiratory system, eyes and skin, and on reproduction and development. 4, 5
  • Short term inhalation of tetrachloroethylene at very high levels can lead to irritation of the nose and throat and depression of the central nervous system with symptoms such as drowsiness, dizziness, giddiness, headache, nausea, loss of coordination, confusion and unconsciousness. 4, 5
  • Chronic inhalation exposure to perc is associated with headaches, impaired cognitive and motor neurobehavioral functioning, color vision impairment, cardiac arrhythmia, liver damage and adverse effects on the kidneys. 4, 5
  • Occupational exposure to perc is associated with adverse reproductive effects such as menstrual disorders, miscarriages, and reduced fertility. Perc in the maternal bloodstream crosses the placental barrier to reach the fetal bloodstream and concentrates in breast milk. Breastfeeding infants therefore may be exposed to perc in mother’s milk. 5
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies perc as a probable human carcinogen found evidence for consistently positive associations between exposure to perc and the risks for esophageal and cervical cancers, and for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in its evaluation of the human cancer studies. Higher rates of mortality due to cancer of the esophagus and cervix were found among workers at dry cleaning establishments. 5

What Can You Do?

  • If you use a dry cleaning business that does use Perc, remember that dry cleaned clothes contain perc residue that release (or “off-gas”) small amounts of perc to the air inside households.  Therefore, remove the plastic wrapping and air out the article(s) outside before you bring them inside.
  • Ask your dry cleaning business to not use Perc on your items if at all possible.
  • Switch to a dry cleaning business that does not use Perc.  The Wet Cleaning process (not laundering) is the best option. 





1  "Dry cleaning dirties the planet—switch to wet cleaning." David Suzuki Foundation (DSF): January 5, 2012 current as of Jan. 27, 2017 http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2012/01/dry-cleaning-dirties-the-planet--switch-to-wet-cleaning

2  "Advantages of Wet Cleaning" Toronto Environmental Alliance (tea), Toronto, Ontario http://www.torontoenvironment.org/wetclean_advantages

3  "DF-2000 SOLVENT Material Safety Data Sheet" (MSDS), provided by ESSO Imperial Oil: current as of January 27, 2017 http://www.apcoindustries.com/DF-2000%20Solvent.pdf

4  (USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) current as of January 27, 2017 at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/tetrachloroethylene.pdf

5  Toronto Public Health, Reducing Health Impacts of Perchloroethylene from Dry Cleaning in Toronto. Toronto, Ontario: April 2007 current as of Jan. 27, 2017 at http://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/Toronto%20Public%20Health/Healthy%20Public%20Policy/PDF%20Reports%20Repository/boh_perchloroethylene_technical_2007.pdf

Page Last Updated: 03/01/2019