Dry Cleaning

Hazard Recognition

Dry cleaning shops contain all elements necessary for uncontrolled fires: fuels, ignition sources, and oxygen. Potential combustible materials include furniture, garments, lint, and portions of the building. The greatest risk of fire and explosion exists if the dry cleaning shop uses a petroleum-based solvent in dry cleaning machines.

Ergonomic risks occur during garment transfer, pressing, and bagging. These activities, combined with a high work rate and frequency, may cause physical discomfort and musculoskeletal problems for workers. Disorders may include damage to tendons, muscles, nerves, and ligaments of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, neck, and back. The following references aid in recognizing hazards associated with dry cleaning.

  • OSHA Occupational Chemical Database. OSHA's premier one-stop shop for occupational chemical information. It compiles information from several government agencies and organizations. Information available on the pages includes chemical identification and physical properties, exposure limits, sampling information, and additional resources.
  • Drycleaning. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety and Health Topic. Provides links to all NIOSH dry cleaning publications and related articles.
  • Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethylene). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 76-185, (July 1976). Presents the recommended standard based thereon which were prepared to meet the need for preventing occupational diseases arising from exposure to tetrachloroethylene.
  • Perchloroethylene. Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance (HSIA), Inc., (November 2008). Discusses the use of perchloroethylene or perc in drycleaning processes and includes information about its health effects and regulation.
  • Ford, E.S., et al. "Deaths from acute exposure to trichloroethylene." Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine 37.6 (June 1995): 749-754. Advises employers to ensure that their employees are adequately trained in the dangers of working with trichloroethylene (TCE), that adequate ventilation of the working environment is provided, that the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is available to their workers, and that workers should not work alone or unobserved when using TCE in confined spaces.
  • Goldenhar, Linda, et al. "Concerns of the dry-cleaning industry: a qualitative investigation of labor and management." American Journal of Industrial Medicine 35.2 (February 1999): 112-123. Describes dry cleaning owners' and workers' concerns regarding health and safety and whether certain health and safety practices might or might not be followed. This information could be used to determine what motivational techniques might be useful for influencing employer and employee safety and health behaviors.
  • Ruder, Avima, Elizabeth Ward, and David Brown. "Mortality in dry-cleaning workers: an update." American Journal of Industrial Medicine 39.2 (February 2001): 121-132. Discusses the excess cancer mortality found in dry cleaning workers exposed to perchloroethylene (PCE), a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen. Many of these workers also had exposure to Stoddard solvent, a petroleum-based dry cleaning solvent.