Dry Cleaning

The dry-cleaning sector includes establishments engaged in providing laundry services as well as industrial launderers. Both fall under the NAICS 812320 or SIC 7216. 

Dry-cleaning facilities use various solvents in specialized machinery to dry clean clothing. Depending on the type of solvent used, air emissions and hazardous waste generated as a result of dry cleaning, these businesses may be regulated by the state or EPA. Nearly all states provide compliance-assistance calendars for dry cleaners. Examples of these calendars are posted, but to find your state-specific calendar contact your state SBEAP

The resources below provide air-emission regulatory detail based on the type of solvent used at a facility. Additional details related to hazardous waste management and less-toxic solvent alternatives are also provided. 

Perchloroethylene (Perc) dry-cleaning facilities 

Dry-cleaning facilities using perc have been strictly regulated for air emissions, hazardous waste and spills. Perc is a hazardous air pollutant and known carcinogen toxic to humans and the environment. The perc NESHAP was implemented in the early 1990s, and has been amended or updated by EPA to reduce perc emissions and protect worker health and the environment. As a result, EPA estimates its most recent rule reduced perc emissions by an estimated 5,700 tons per year. Today most dry cleaners are moving away from perc and using less-toxic alternatives. At a minimum, perc dry cleaners must comply with the following: 

  • File an initial notification for the perc NESHAP. 

  • Use modern dry-to-dry machines equipped with a refrigerated condenser or equivalent control device. 

  • Inspect the system weekly for perc leaks, using a perc gas analyzer for this inspection at least once each month. 

  • Maintain records of perc purchases and monthly perc purchase running totals. 

  • Repair or address any air leaks within 24 hours. 

  • Manage all separator-water issues. 

  • Maintain records for at least five years. 

Two special update: On Dec. 1, 2021, EPA proposed a minor amendment to the PERC NESHAP. Read more here. In early 2021, EPA published the Final Risk Evaluation for perc and found that most uses of it, including dry cleaning, present an unreasonable risk to users or workers. This means EPA may establish additional restrictions on use of perc in dry cleaning. Feedback to EPA on the evaluation can be directed to summers.kelly@epa.gov.

Most state SBEAPs have developed compliance-assistance calendars that help perc dry cleaners maintain these strict recordkeeping requirements based on year of machine installation and the amount of perc used annually. Contact your state SBEAP for a state-specific compliance calendar. 

Petroleum dry cleaners 

Dry-cleaning facilities that use petroleum-based solvents known under various names may or may not be subject to air quality regulations. Only older-model, large petroleum dry cleaners with dryer capacity equal to 84 pounds or greater are subject to the NSPS. A letter published by the EPA explaining applicability can be found here. Petroleum dry cleaners with questions about these air quality standards should contact their state SBEAP. 

Alternative non-perc solvents 

  • DF-2000™ fluid 

  • SENSENE, a modified alcohol 

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) 

  • Petroleum (see above) 

  • In the past two decades, manufacturers have developed various perc solvent alternatives. Some of these are listed below, but additional information can be found in the Toxics Use-Reduction Institute (TURI) report titled “Assessment of Alternatives to Perchloroethylene for the Dry-Cleaning Industry.” 

Hazardous waste 

In addition to air quality standards, many dry cleaners generate hazardous waste and must follow regulations issued by the EPA under a law called the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). It regulates facilities that generate, transport, treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste. All dry cleaners must first make a hazardous waste determination to document whether or not the facility generates hazardous waste.  

Most compliance calendars featured above also contain hazardous waste compliance checklists. Additional hazardous waste or RCRA compliance resources for dry cleaners are listed below. 

Additional state-specific SBEAP resources for dry cleaners 

Foreign language resources for dry cleaners