Ask Alex

Dry Cleaning vs Wet Cleaning vs Laundry

Hi Alex,
I am seeing signs on cleaning businesses in my neighbourhood that say Dry Cleaning, Wet Cleaning AND Laundry. I am lost trying to figure out what is what, can you help?

Laurie from Midtown


Hi Laurie,

Thanks for the great question and I’d be happy to help clear up the confusion!

Let’s start by looking at what dry cleaning really is. Dry cleaning uses no water, but relies on the use of toxic chemical liquid solvents like Perchloroethylene (PERC) or Petroleums. These chemicals are so toxic they require government regulated waste management programs to dispose of them. Not only are the chemicals terrible for the environment, the process that attempts to remove the chemicals from your clothing is very harsh on the garments themselves, using very high-heat. That’s why so many people air-out their dry cleaning when they get it home. Dry cleaning is only used to remove dry-side stains, non-water soluble stains, such as grease and oil from clothing and is ineffective against water soluble stains like body odour, food, etc.

Laundry, on the other hand, uses lots of water and common detergents, combined with the harsh mechanical action of a washing machine, to clean clothing. Its’ for washable items, usually made of cottons and polyesters, and casual wear that requires minimal finishing. This can be done successfully at home with a traditional washer/dryer. Laundry is NOT for your non-washable or dry clean only items, such as wools, silks, rayons, cashmeres etc., and can cause these items to shrink, pill and fade while providing a far less desirable finish.

Wet cleaning is a process using no harsh chemicals or solvents, instead using cleaning products that are safe enough to drink. The process uses a minimal amount of water, in a temperature controlled environment produced using specially calibrated machines. NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH LAUNDRY, wet cleaning is a perfect alternative for your ‘dry-clean only’ garments to the harsh processes of dry cleaning. The wet cleaning process offers far superior cleaning results than dry cleaning, without the impact of harsh chemical solvents. Whites are whiter and colours are brighter. Wet cleaners are part of a growing movement within the garment care industry to provide the customer with a truly hygienic clean and like new finish, without the use of harsh chemical solvents.

Thanks for the question,


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Green-washing in the Cleaning Industry

Hi Alex,
I saw the term 'green-washing' on the news the other day. Can you explain what the deal with 'green-washing' and 'organic' dry cleaning are? Am I getting duped?



Hi Patrick,

Glad to answer that question for you. These days, the cleaning industry can be difficult to navigate while knowing you are making the best choices for your family and the environment. With labels like "eco-friendly," "organic" and "green" being thrown around, it's important to know the difference. So let's look at the major alternatives in the industry. While there is no doubt how harmful the Drysolv/PERC used in traditional dry cleaning is, the merit of the alternatives being used is up for debate.

Green Earth: Green Earth bills itself as eco-friendly and safe. In reality, Green Earth systems use a silicone called D5 to clean your clothes. Over the last few years, there has been growing concern over the use of D5 to clean clothes. While it isn't toxic, it has been found to be "very persistent" in water and "very bio accumulative." That means the stuff hangs around in our environment and oceans for a long time, and that's not good  at all.

EcoSolv: If your dry cleaner has a sign that says organic in the window, it may be relying on petroleum based solvents to clean your clothes. The term "organic" only means the solvent used contains carbon  you know, like petroleum contains carbon  but that doesn't mean they are safe for the environment. In fact the producers of the products have faced court action for misrepresenting the so-called safe nature of their products.

Propylene Glycol: Another "organic" option is ether like Solvair or Rynex. While these cleaners are better alternatives to those listed above  it hasn't been linked to damaging our fish or our reproductive systems  but it has been found to contribute to air pollution and cause possible harm to your nervous system.

As you can see, the only safe choice is Wet Cleaning. Our system uses Mother Nature's favourite solvent: water. The other products we use are so safe they require no special handling or disposal, cause no harm to the environment or to your family's health. Not to mention, how clean can you expect something to be if it is washed without water?!

Hope that clears up some of the questions around the options in the cleaning industry. As always, if you come up with a question about the cleaning industry, Ask Alex.

All my best,


Glenforest News

April 20, 2019 by 

The Supreme Court of Canada recently dismissed a Leave to Appeal from an Ottawa dry cleaner that had been held liable for $1.8 million in clean-up costs from spills of dry cleaning chemicals that occurred approximately 45 years ago.

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April 11, 2019   by Greg Meckbach

An Ottawa dry cleaner is liable for nearly $2 million in environmental clean-up costs resulting from spills that occurred at least 45 years ago, as a result of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling released Thursday.

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Contamination in the Strathcona neighbourhood has prompted Todd Cleaners to move out of its 99 Street location amid a dispute with a nearby tower development and an old gas station site over who’s responsible for the cleanup.

Read More