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Dry Cleaning: Background and Overview
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Background and Overview
Regulatory Review
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The dry cleaning industry provides garment cleaning and related services including pressing and finishing. Most dry cleaning facilities are small-scale commercial facilities (SIC 7216) that are independently owned and operated. These facilities are commonly located at shopping areas in densely populated areas. Industrial dry cleaning operations (SIC 7218) provide cleaning services for garment or towel rental companies. Industrial facilities are fewer in number; however, industrial facilities are generally larger and have a greater annual cleaning output. Two additional types of dry cleaning facilities include coin operated (similar to a self-serve Laundromat, SIC 7215) and institutional (secondary operations of large scale hospitals, theaters, hotels, etc.) operations. Increased environmental regulations have made coin operated and institutional dry cleaning operations rare in the United States.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the dry cleaning and laundry service industry was comprised of approximately 43,000 establishments employing, nearly 390,000 people with an annual payroll of about $6,700,000. The vast majority of these businesses - approximately 91 percent - were relatively small businesses, employing fewer than 20 persons each.

Perchloroethylene (also called perc) is the most common cleaning solvent used in the dry cleaning industry. Perc is a colorless, nonflammable liquid that accounts for 80% to 85% of all dry cleaning fluid used. Hydrocarbon/petroleum solvents make up a majority of the remaining 15-20%. In recent years, increased awareness of environmental health risks and regulations have resulted in increasing portions of the industry moving away from Perc and returning to the use of petroleum solvents. In addition, new cleaning methods have developed including wet cleaning and carbon dioxide cleaning. These methods are estimated to hold industry-wide usage rates of one percent.

A complete glossary of dry cleaning terms, Material Safety Data Sheets and additional information can be located at


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Dry Cleaning Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center
Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center
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Hub Last Updated: 2/26/2013