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Drycleaning Options in New Zealand

Our wool duvet inners and quilted wool mattress covers can be dry cleaned, but they cannot be machine washed because it causes the wool fibres to entangle or ‘felt’, leading to shrinkage. We do not recommend hand washing either for the same reason.

We sometimes get asked for safe and environmentally friendly dry clean services so we’ve researched the NZ market and can make the following summary and recommendations:

Hydrocarbon Dry Cleaning - the best option in NZ so far

Dry cleaners that use ‘heavy hydrocarbons’ are rare but can be found in New Zealand. Although not perfect, we believe that this is the best dry cleaning method available in New Zealand at this time. Hydrocarbons not classified as carcinogens and are non-toxic in residual (post cleaning) quantities.

Some dry cleaners advertise hydrocarbon cleaning as ‘organic’. This is misleading because although they are usually derived from a natural resource, petroleum, the dry cleaning hydrocarbons are heavily processed or are artificially synthesized.

The following dry cleaners claim to use a hydrocarbon method:

Liquid carbon dioxide would be the best option, but it’s not available in NZ

Unfortunately carbon dioxide dry cleaning requires very expensive machinery and is not available in New Zealand as far as we can find out. Carbon dioxide, liquidised under pressure, is the most environmentally friendly dry cleaning method. It is non-toxic, does not ‘off-gas’, and the dry clean machinery recovers the C02 so the effects on climate change are negligible.

“Siloxane”, Silicon based dry cleaning - Not available in NZ

We are not aware of dry cleaners in NZ who use this method. The agent is non-toxic and environmentally safe. Our research suggests that the process to make liquid silicon may require chlorine which can create dioxin, although there may be other methods.

PERC Dry Cleaning - Best Avoided

Most dry clean shops in New Zealand use a chemical solution of tetrachloroethylene (also known as tetrachloroethene) or Perchloroethylene (also known as ‘perc’). If the dry cleaning shop calls their cleaning agent “Dry cleaning fluid” or something equally ambiguous it’s a good bet it’s based on tetrachloroethylene.

This chemical is classified as a “Group 2A carcinogen” which means it probably causes cancer in humans. This is definitely more of an issue for those people processing the dry cleaning, but we suggest this process is best avoided on your clothes or bedding.

Other environmentally friendly cleaning methods

Hydrogen peroxide is a cleaning and bleaching agent, perhaps best known for hair lightening, but also effective at removing some types of stains such as red wine and blood. Hydrogen peroxide can bleach or stain some fabrics, and is therefore not commonly used on clothes.

While hydrogen peroxide based cleaning products are available at supermarkets, Natural Beds has not yet tested them on our products. If you are looking to remove a localised stain using hydrogen peroxide based solution, then we suggest you try a little bit on the inside hem of the zip to see if it will result in fabric discolouration first.

There are also professional “Wet Cleaning” methods, some of which are good environmentally friendly alternatives to dry cleaning, but if they use agitation with a fluid then they will probably still cause wool shrinkage.

Resources:

New Zealand guide to removing stains: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/stain-removal

Wikipedia entry on dry cleaning: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_cleaning