Dry cleaners

Dry cleaning and garment care generate dangerous waste. Chemicals in the waste can contaminate machinery, water, and be hazardous to workers. We work with local businesses to ensure dangerous waste is handled safely and correctly.

Common types of dangerous waste

Most dry cleaning and garment care facilities have these types of dangerous waste:

  • Aerosol cans
  • Absorbent materials contaminated with dangerous waste (often perchloroethylene, or PERC)
  • Lint (contaminated with PERC or other hazardous products that become waste)
  • Detergents and cleaners
  • Machinery (like machine filters) contaminated with PERC or other dangerous waste
  • Mercury light bulbs and lamps
  • Solvents
    • Spotting agents
    • PERC
    • Trichloroethylene
    • Sludge or “bottoms” from solvent stills that recycle solvents
    • Toluene
    • MEK
    • Glycol ethers liquid silicone
    • Liquid CO2
    • Brominate solvents
    • Other solvents
  • Used shop towels
  • Water (wash water, separator water) and muck, contaminated with PERC

Waste codes for PERC

Perchloroethylene, also known as PERC or tetrachloroethylene, is the most common dry cleaning solvent. Waste PERC, and anything contaminated with PERC, will have the waste code F002. You may have additional waste codes, depending on other chemicals you use in the process. Designate your waste to determine all the waste codes that apply.

We can help you explore alternatives to PERC. Contact your regional office to speak with a Toxics Reduction Specialist.

Machine filters

  • May be contaminated with PERC or halogenated organic compounds (HOCs).
  • Test filters to fully determine their waste code.
  • Common waste code is F002.

For a refrigerated condenser on the dryer vent

Be sure the temperature in the outlet is at or below 45 degrees F.

For an activated carbon adsorber on the dryer vent

The perchloroethylene concentration must be less than 100 parts per million (ppm). Measure the concentration with a:

  • Colorimetric detector tube
  • Hand-held detector

If the concentration is higher than 100 ppm, you must regenerate or replace the adsorber. The activated carbon is a dangerous waste when depleted.

Pollution prevention for dry cleaning and garment care shops

  • Use newer, more efficient equipment (like a closed loop dry-to-dry system) to reduce solvent use and waste.
  • Replace activated carbon adsorber perchloroethylene traps with a refrigerated condenser to reduce PERC-contaminated separator water.
  • Dissolve any additive completely before the solvent goes through the filter.
  • Fill the filter housing completely with solvent when you are not using the equipment.
  • Keep solvent return temperatures at or below 90 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or 32 degrees Centigrade (C) when you run the still. This decreases solvent loss through the storage tank vent.
  • Inspect equipment and piping regularly for leaks, worn parts, proper temperatures, and solvent "mileage." Repair problems quickly.
  • Dispose of separator water as dangerous waste. Do not dispose of it down a drain.