Is This The End of Dry Clean Only Labels?


An environmentally-friendly alternative to dry clean only instructions, wet cleaning, could soon be showing up on our care labels. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in an effort to reduce environmental and social health impacts, will hold a public roundtable discussion on March 28, 2014 about the expansion of clothing care labels to include wet cleaning.

“This suggests that the vast majority of garments currently labeled ‘dry clean’ or ‘dry clean only’ could be labeled with a wet cleaning instruction,” the Coalition for Clean Air says.

What is better about wet cleaning?

Professional wet cleaning services actually use less water than dry clean methods, and save on energy, detergents and soaps. Plus, delicate fabric like wool, silk and leather can still undergo professional wet cleaning processes.

More over, dry cleaning is a dirty businesses full of toxic chemicals. The most dangerous being perchloro ethyele used throughout all dry cleaning businesses.

“Perchloro ethylele, which is sometime called perc, is a very highly toxic substance,” says Mark Myles, Training Manager of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell. “And yet it is the most commonly used substance by dry cleaners.” In fact, the EPA recently approved a ban on the use of perchloro ethylele, in the state of California, effective by 2020.

Currently, professional wet cleaning services do not comply with the Care Labeling Rule due to lack of standardization. But since 2000, when the FTC first denied the expansion, “standards-setting organizations and other interested participants in this proceeding appear to have been working independently to resolve these outstanding issues,” said the FTC in a detailed report.

Now with greater pressures from environmental organizations, and the growing expansion of wet cleaning services as an environmentally friendly alternative to dry cleaning, the FTC will revisit the issue.

Under the Care Labeling Rule, “manufacturers and importers [are required] to attach labels with care instructions for dry cleaning washing, bleaching, drying and ironing of garments and certain piece goods,” says the FTC. If the rule were to change, the FTC would add professional wet cleaning services as an alternative to dry cleaning.

Opening up the conversation

“In our members experience, a dry clean label is interpreted to mean ‘do not wash’ by many, if not all, consumers,” the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute wrote in comments to the FTC.

But just because a label says dry clean only doesn’t mean you can’t get the garment wet. The labeling even deters some customers from purchasing certain clothing so as not to deal with dry cleaning.

“There is a subset of consumers that will not buy anything with a dry clean label. If all methods of care are required to be on the label, this consumer might be willing to purchase the item,” the group said.

Before the FTC moves forth into a decision they want to ensure customers have access to such facilities before changing the labeling.

“We want to know the extent to which professional wet cleaning is available to consumers,” FTC attorney Robert Frisby said.

The discussion on March 28th, 2014 will focus on the economic costs of implementing wet cleaning instructions, what instructions and details need to be on wet cleaning labels, the availability of wet cleaning and consumer awareness around alternative.

Take part in the discussion by filing a comment to the FTC.

Related on Ecosalon

Wet Cleaning Vs. Dry Cleaning

Dry Clean Only? An Eco Expert Tells Us When It’s Safe to Ignore Labels

9 Ways To Wash Your Delicates Without Dry Cleaning

10 Myths About Dry Cleaning


image: Juliette Donatelli

Juliette Donatelli

Working in the field of sustainability for over seven years, Juliette is passionate about its intersection within the fashion industry. Juliette began studying ecological conservation, and led consumer awareness campaigns around the world from water usage in southern California, riparian restoration in South Africa, food distribution in Paris and bison habitat in the Great Plains. She has launched her passion--consumerism and sustainability--into a place where it hits home--fashion. Juliette is the founder and editor-in-chief of, Director of Sustainability at Manufacture NY, and loves to read, dance, swim and enjoy the occasional glass of champagne.