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AB Cleaners of Westwood Eliminates Use of Toxic Chemical, Saves Money

Dec. 7, 2012, Lowell, Mass. – Joon Han, owner of AB Cleaners in Westwood, knew for a long time that using perchloroethylene (perc) to clean clothes was not healthy but was unsure of his options. The impetus for change came when his wife, who works daily in the shop, became pregnant.

“We knew that perc was not good for us,” he says. “I was concerned for the health of my pregnant wife and baby and also for my employees. You know perc is in the air especially when you see the dust build up and smell the air when you first come in the shop. I always had a bad feeling about it.”

About three years ago, he read articles about how professional wet cleaning is an effective and safer replacement to perc, a toxic chemical characterized by the Environmental Protection Agency as a “likely human carcinogen.”

“We made the switch to wet cleaning and are very happy with the results,” says Han. “There has been a huge improvement in the way the air smells and the clothes come out cleaner without any shrinkage or the feel of chemicals.”

The Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell awarded AB Cleaners a demonstration grant to show other dry cleaners how professional wet cleaning technology allows for “dry-clean-only” clothes to be effectively washed with water and detergents in computer-controlled machines and finished with tensioning and pressing equipment.

Dry cleaners are invited to attend one of the demonstrations, either on December 11, 10 a.m. to Noon, or December 13, 1 to 3 p.m., to learn from Mr. Han as he shows how the detergents and technology work together to clean clothes without shrinkage or loss of quality. Both demonstrations are free of charge and space is limited. To reserve a spot, contact Maria Scholl, maria_s@turi.org, 978-934-4964.

Staying Safe and Cutting Costs

Fresh-smelling air and high-quality clean clothes are not the only benefits. Han says that switching from perc to wet cleaning has saved him money by dramatically reducing the shop’s utility costs.

“I thought that I would be spending more because of the detergents but I am actually spending less,” he says. “All of my utilities have gone down by a lot – my water and sewer bill has been reduced by about 30 percent and electricity is down by 50 percent. In the end, I am making more money because of wet cleaning.”

His advice to other dry cleaners: “Don’t worry. Wet cleaning works.”

Photos of the Wet Cleaning Demo

We made the switch to wet cleaning and are very happy with the results. There has been a huge improvement in the way the air smells and the clothes come out cleaner without any shrinkage or the feel of chemicals.
- Joon Han, owner of AB Cleaners, Westwood