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Westside

February 07, 1996

WET CLEANING: For people who dread having their silks, rayons and wools dry cleaned because they believe the process is environmentally unsound, "wet cleaning" may be the alternative.

And researchers at UCLA are going to spend the next year trying to find out.

Wet cleaning is a process of washing clothes in water without solvents, using high-tech machinery that controls the heat, moisture, and agitation of the cleaning process. The type of fabric determines how a garment is cleaned.

Dry cleaning has earned a bad name among some environmentalists because it relies heavily on solvents including the chemical perchloroethylene, which is a pollutant.

UCLA's Pollution Prevention Education and Research Center will focus its efforts on Cleaner by Nature, a Santa Monica-based cleaner that offers a nontoxic wet cleaning system. Evaluators from UCLA will tour the site, perform customer satisfaction surveys, analyze profits and determine the impact of wet cleaning on the environment.

The study will also explore ways to gather more support for wet cleaning among Korean residents of Los Angeles, many of whom own dry cleaning shops, said Robert Gottlieb, director of the pollution prevention center.

"The question, if you come up with a new technology that works, how do you address an ethnic group that you want to develop communication with?" Gottlieb asked.

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