Dry cleaners may use a variety of cleaning methods, all of which are subject to environmental regulations. Many dry cleaners use a solvent called perchloroethylene (perc). Perc is a hazardous air pollutant, or HAP. Perc, like other dry cleaning methods, can cause health problems. Alternatives to perc include silicone-based solvents, petroleum-based solvents, wet cleaning and the use of carbon dioxide in the cleaning process. The following table provides information on these alternatives.

Alternatives to Perchloroethylene
  Damage or wear on garments Environmental characteristics Safety characteristics
Silicone-based solvent Light to moderate wear Appears environmentally safe Has not been tested for health effects over long time span
Petroleum-based solvent Light to moderate wear Less toxic than perc May be a fire hazard
Wet cleaning Moderate to severe wear Large amounts of contaminated water Comes with fewer safety hazards than perc
Carbon dioxide Light wear Non-toxic Requires high-pressure operation

Perc dry cleaners are regulated to ensure proper disposal of waste and to minimize the amount of solvent released into the air. If a dry cleaner uses enough solvent, petroleum-based dry cleaners may be regulated for air emissions and for proper disposal of waste. Wet cleaning may be regulated because of the large quantity of water used and disposed. All processes may be regulated if pollutants go down the drain.

Air Pollution Regulations

Perc dry cleaners must have certain types of equipment, check for leaks, keep the equipment running properly and record their maintenance activities. Though it is rare, a perc dry cleaner may need a permit if it generates enough air pollution. Various groups have written publications and provided ways to document the requirements.

Notice! There is a proposed Federal rule change that includes a ban for many uses of perchloroethylene, including as a solvent for the dry cleaning industry. Older dry cleaning machines may have to stop using using perchloroethylene or switch to alternate solvents within three years, once proposed Federal rule is finalized. Newer machines with more emission control equipment may have up to ten years, as proposed, to stop using perchloroethylene. A link to the proposed rule, as published in the Federal Register, is provided below. Please note that this proposed rule is not yet final as of January 2024. It is expected that the final rule will be published in the Federal Register sometime during the 2024 calendar year.  

Helpful Links

Petroleum Based Solvents Used for Dry Cleaning

Air Pollution

Federal regulation 40 C.F.R. Part 60 Subpart JJJ regulates facilities with total dryer capacity greater than 84 pounds where the equipment was constructed or modified after Dec. 14, 1982.

Small Quantity Generators

Dry cleaners that are registered with the department as a small quantity generator of hazardous waste are required to file the Generator’s Hazardous Waste Summary Report MO 780-1097 each year by Aug. 14. The report covers July 1 through the following June 30.

Brownfields/ Voluntary Cleanup Program

If you have a release from a drycleaner that impacts the environment and you wish to address/cleanup the contamination, the department's Brownfields/ Voluntary Cleanup Program can provide oversight on the investigation and cleanup. For more information, visit Brownfields/ Voluntary Cleanup