Kevin Dynan owns Wayzata Home Laundry & Dry Cleaners. His parents started the family business and Kevin recalls being around the shop when he was a young boy. The family began using perchloroethylene or “perc,” a chemical commonly used in dry cleaning, in 1968. These days, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies perc as a “likely carcinogen,” and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has extensive guidance on working with the chemical.
There is growing momentum in the industry to change to a less-toxic cleaning chemical called hydrocarbon. For example, in 2017, Minneapolis became the first U.S. city to go perc-free in drycleaning. Dynan started working at the family business in 1975. Using perc to clean clothes was all he had ever known, and he had no interest in changing. Even after an environmental cleanup at the business due to disposal methods legal in the 1960s, changing processes was not appealing.
But then some dominoes started to fall into place. The laundry added a wet-cleaning process, which uses nontoxic biodegradable soap and water and is said to get clothes cleaner than the perc cleaning process. However, not all garments can be wet-cleaned successfully. The laundry’s older perc machines were using a large amount of fuel, and required expensive repairs. Being a hazardous waste, perc was also expensive to dispose of and is subject to a state tax.
An ad for more-efficient hydrocarbon machines came across Dynan’s desk one day last year. Due to the cost of upkeep on the old machines and the success he was having with the wet-washing process, he decided to replace the perc machines with ones using hydrocarbon.
“We ran the first loads in each machine on Thanksgiving Day, 2017. At that moment, I kicked myself for not making the change 20 years earlier,” Dynan said.
Wayzata Home Laundry & Dry Cleaners used a low-interest loan offered from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to help purchase the new equipment. He credited Hennepin County and the MPCA for being very accommodating. “All I had to do was sign the dotted line and send a check once a month,” he said. A good installation crew and mechanics also helped.
Dynan says he’s happy with the change. “The process is gentle on the clothes, and the customers are happier.” It’s been six months and he has yet to fill a container of waste hydrocarbon solution, which, as a listed industrial waste, is much less expensive to dispose of than hazardous waste.
If you have a dry cleaning business and are thinking of switching away from perc, check out MPCA’s low-interest loans for small businesses.