NIOSH logo and tagline

Engineering Controls Database

Control of Exposure to Perchloroethylene in Commercial Dry Cleaning Through Work Practices

Perchloroethylene (PERC) is the most commonly used dry cleaning solvent. PERC can enter the body through respiratory and dermal exposure.
Symptoms associated with PERC exposure include: depression of the central nervous system; damage to the liver and kidneys; impaired memory; confusion; dizziness; headache; drowsiness; and eye, nose and throat irritation. Repeated dermal exposure may result in dry, scaly and fissured dermatitis.

Exposure to PERC can be reduced by proper work practices. Good work practices are more important in reducing exposures near more traditional, less automated drycleaning machines than near more modern drycleaning machines. Many of the modern machines have design features that will compensate for poor work practices, which may cause high exposures. For example, operators should not exceed the machine's rated capacity, shorten the drying cycle, or open machine doors while the machine is operating because each of these activities will increase worker exposure. Modern "fifth generation" machines are designed so that the dry cycle cannot be shortened and if the machine is overloaded, the dry cycle will run longer to compensate. Furthermore, many of the machine doors are locked and cannot be opened while the machine is in operation. The following is a list of recommendations related to proper work practices:

• Solvents or hazardous waste should never be left standing in an open container.
• Drycleaning machines should never be loaded beyond the manufacturer's capacity rating. Drying times and temperatures should be regularly monitored.
• All ventilation systems within the drycleaning room should be operating when the drycleaning machine is in operation.
• All forms of machine maintenance should be performed when the machine and solvent are under cold conditions. Machine maintenance, such as cleaning the button/lint trap, should never be performed when the machine is in operation.
• Machine maintenance should be performed on a routine basis, in accordance with machine manufacturer's guidelines.
• All doors on drycleaning machines should be opened for a minimal amount of time.
• Leak checks should be regularly performed, and any leak that is identified should be immediately repaired.
• Operators should not open the door of the dry cleaning machine while it is running. The drying period should not be cut short.
• The operator should keep his or her head out of the machine and should stay as far away from the door during loading and unloading as possible. A tool with a long handle could be used to retrieve clothes at the back of the drum.
201-11A; 201-12A; 201-13A; 201-13B; 201-14A; 201-15A; 201-16A; 201-17A; 201-18A; 201-19A; 240-11; 240-12; 240-13; 240-14; 240-15; 256-16B; 256-17B; 256-18B; 256-19B;
NIOSH [1997]. NIOSH Report: Control of health and safety hazards in commercial drycleaners: chemical exposures, fire hazards, and ergonomic risk factors. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-150.
dry cleaning