Traditionally, dry cleaners have used highly toxic chemicals like “perc” aka perchloroethylene, which can cause cancer and pollute groundwater. In an effort to market “green” cleaning, some have switched to still-toxic solvents like siloxane.
Ask your dry cleaner what they use. According to TEA, the safest means is so-called “wet cleaning,” which uses special detergents and limited water to clean without dangerous chemicals. You can also look for cleaners using liquid CO2, according to the NRDC, but avoid Solvair machines that add toxic solvents like glycol ether. Just make sure to opt out of the plastic bag!
And don’t forget: For most clothes, hand washing in cold water and airing dry is not only better for the environment, it’s less wearing on your favorite fabrics.