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Dry Clean Your Fall Wardrobe the Green Way

10/03/2013 08:05 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Fall and cooler temps have arrived, so it's time to start pulling out our fall wardrobes from our closets. Some items may be in need of some freshening up, and depending on what they're made of, this might mean taking them to the good ol' dry cleaner.

Most traditional dry cleaning methods use perchloroethylene (also known as "PERC"), a chemical linked to bladder, esophageal, and cervical cancer, eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, and reduced fertility, and other health problems. PERC has been designated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act as a persistent, bio-accumulative chemical that is toxic to the environment. Despite these issues, it is still used by 80 per cent of the Canadian dry cleaning industry.

BUT, it's not impossible to keep toxic chemicals away from you and your clothes. Here are some tips to keep your dry-clean-only clothes smelling clean and fresh, while protecting your health and the environment at the same time.

1. Hand wash it -- Yes, indeed! Just because a tag reads "dry clean only," it does not mean your item can't be hand washed in cold water with eco-friendly detergent, especially if the garment is unlined and made of natural fibres such as cotton, silk or linen. Note: before washing dark colours, be sure to test a small, not easily seen area by putting several drops of water and pressing with a white cloth. If the colour bleeds, it's best to take it to a professional cleaner.

2. Steam it -- Steaming is a great way to clean dry clean-only clothes at home. If your washer and dryer have a steam option, you can clean your clothes with a simple press of a button. Alternatively, you can place your delicates in the dryer with a damp washcloth for 10-15 minutes. This will also help to remove wrinkles!

3. Spray it -- You can tackle odours by using inexpensive vodka. Fill a spray bottle and spray the underarms of a jacket or blazer. The vodka will kill the bacteria which causes the smell. Be sure the fabric is soaked through. Again, just be sure to test a small, unnoticeable area first before you spray the whole garment, to make sure the colour doesn't bleed.

4. Choose green dry cleaners -- If you don't have time to try these DIY tips, more dry cleaners are providing environmentally-friendly services. One site, the GreenEarth Cleaning Canada website, has a store locator tool.

The best way to avoid chemicals while dry cleaning is to avoid dry clean-only clothes all together. While looking for new clothes for your fall wardrobe choose garments made of natural fabrics that can be easily washed.

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