The Life of the Lowly Dry Cleaning Hanger

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist Green LivingComments: 18
Lost & Found - Wired
Wire Hangers Make Unsightly Litter

“No wire hangers, ever!”   Faye Dunaway once screeched in her now infamous role as the monstrous Joan Crawford in the movie Mommy Dearest.

While dry cleaning businesses are a critical part of any community, particularly in urban areas, the amount of waste generated by all those cheap, wire hangers is clearly a disposal problem.  O. A. North of Connecticut is credited with creating the first metal hanger back in 1869.   Since then, the metal hanger’s popularity has slowly grown into an indispensible part of the dry cleaning industry although some plastic hangers are used as well.

In line with Ms. Crawford’s less than cordial recommendation, most consumers are quick to get their precious garments off those shoulder destroying wires as soon as they get home and onto hangers made of wood, sturdy plastic or cloth!

Considering that the average woman spends $1500 per year on average on dry cleaning according to Procter & Gamble, that adds up to one huge pile of discarded metal hangers on an annual basis!   Think of it this way, if the typical garment costs $3-5 to dry clean, each woman in the United States would discard approximately 375 cheap metal hangers each year into the trash!

Approximately 90% of metal hangers fail to get recycled likely because most municipal waste programs do not accept them as part of the community recycling program.    The track record for recycling cheap plastic hangers is not much better as the typical plastic hanger is made with a mix of plastic resins which make recycling very difficult.

So what to do if one wants to make the dry cleaning experience completely green from the chemicals used to the recycling of the hangers at home?

The easiest way to deal with the pile of dry cleaning hangers is to simply return them to your dry cleaner.  Every single dry cleaner I’ve ever asked has gladly accepted them for reuse (they are cleaned first!) though some businesses I’ve asked over the years were clearly shocked at the question indicating how few folks seem to consider this important aspect of reducing waste.  I typically recycle my hangers with a dry cleaner I don’t even do business with just because he has a drive through window which makes drop off of the pile of hangers especially easy!

Metal hangers can also be recycled as scrap metal, so taking your hanger stash directly to the local recycler works fine too even if they aren’t accepted with your recycled trash.

Since plastic hangers can’t be recycled at all, it is best to make the effort to return them to a dry cleaning business when you are out and about doing other errands.

Little efforts can really add up over the long term!    How about your home?   Do you make a practice of recycling your dry cleaning hangers?



Earth911, Clothes Hanger Recycling, 2008

Picture Credit

Comments (18)

  • Jo at Jo’s Health Corner

    I remember seeing these hangers for the first time when I was an exchange student in the 80’s. We very seldom dry clean clothes nowadays, luckily my husband’s work doesn’t require that kind of clothes anymore. I live in the country so I couldn’t imagine finding a green dry cleaner, it’s great that they exist.
    I home school so we find many uses for all kinds of things, you can make many great things with metal hangers.

    February 22nd, 2011 9:30 am Reply
  • peachie

    What we don’t use, I take to the cleaners. Or, they do have many uses, as Jo mentioned. Whenever I need baling wire (from hay bales) but don’t have any, or it’s too rusty, I’ll use a hanger instead! Works great around the house, in the garage, garden, etc. A pair of pliers is helpful to unwind them & when using, of course. :)
    Hubby gets clothes laundered & starched (thank goodness, one thing off my plate!) and I have maybe one item I get dry cleaned maybe once a year (black wool pants).

    February 22nd, 2011 12:47 pm Reply
  • Becky

    I donated the ones I had to a thrift store. (One that was just opening). They used them to hang clothes for sale. But, we haven’t used dry cleaning services in ages!

    February 22nd, 2011 12:49 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Great idea!!!!

      February 22nd, 2011 1:08 pm Reply
  • Lisa Marie Lindenschmidt

    I stopped using a dry cleaners years ago when I learned about their horrific environmental impact. We only buy clothes that can be hand-washed or go through the washing machine.

    If you did need to go to the dry cleaners, I wonder if you could bring the hangers you’d want your clothes finished on, thereby alleviating the need for them to give you another one…? Kind of like the idea of bringing bags to the grocery store.

    Love your articles! Keep up the amazing work!

    February 22nd, 2011 12:56 pm Reply
  • Colleen

    Living in NY and working in finance dry cleaning is a necessary part of my life. My dry cleaner picks up and delivers my clothes and when I leave the clothes I just always include the extra hangers from last time. I’ve found it’s an easy way not to let the pile get too large and the cleaners gladly take them back.

    February 22nd, 2011 1:10 pm Reply
  • Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    I don’t dry clean clothes at all. :)

    February 22nd, 2011 12:18 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      I hear you on that one! We’ve cut down drastically on our dry cleaning, but some things still have to be done and absolutely cannot be washed such as my husband’s business suits which he fortunately doesn’t have to wear too often, but they still are necessary for his line of work.

      February 22nd, 2011 12:36 pm Reply
      • Stanley Fishman

        Most dry cleaners still use Perchloroethylene, (Perc) which is highly toxic and carcinogenic according to the government. But some dry cleaners use less toxic cleaners, and it is worth looking for one. While the government claims that the amount of Perc residue on dry cleaned clothes is “safe”, I would rather not take the chance.
        By the way, dry cleaning is not dry. The clothes are soaked in a liquid chemical solvent to remove stains and dirt.

        February 22nd, 2011 9:26 pm Reply
        • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

          Would you believe the closest dry cleaner to our house is actually a green dry cleaner! How lucky is that!

          February 22nd, 2011 9:40 pm Reply
          • Stanley Fishman

            Sarah, you deserve it!

            February 22nd, 2011 9:47 pm
  • Lovelyn

    I try to avoid any clothing that requires dry cleaning but it’s good to know that I can take hangers back to my dry cleaners. I have several articles of clothing in my closet now that I never wear because they require dry cleaning. Maybe I’ll pull them out just so I can have the satisfaction of returning the hangers to the local dry cleaner;)

    February 22nd, 2011 1:30 pm Reply
  • Jen Richard

    The ONLY thing we’ve ever dry-cleaned in my whole life (my family now, and growing up as a kid) was a king-size down feather bed simply because it was either that, or throw it away.

    February 22nd, 2011 2:46 pm Reply
  • Adrienne @ Whole New

    HI Sarah!

    I NEVER purchase dry cleaning anymore. So that is one really effective way to avoid the abundance of hangers.

    Two other ideas:
    1) keep them and give them to a scrap metal collector. There are a lot of them around these days.
    2) Put them on This is a great place to get rid of things that you don’t want to end up in a landfill. One tip: when you are asked upon signing up to put in a reason why you would like to join the group, just put in your zip code. :-)

    February 22nd, 2011 3:13 pm Reply
  • Terri Edwards

    I don’t dry clean! I have even found that I have no problems putting clothing that happens to say dry clean only into the washer on the gentle cycle, washing with my homemade detergent. Just hang them up to dry across the back of a chair, or lay them flat!

    February 22nd, 2011 3:31 pm Reply
  • Heather

    The only dry cleaning we ever need is on the rare occasion that we attend a wedding or funeral. Even then I’ve managed to avoid it completely for my clothes (including my wedding dress) leaving only my husband’s one, lonely suit. When I go to pick up the suit I bring in my own hanger and immediately change them out and return the metal one to the dry cleaner.

    February 22nd, 2011 4:28 pm Reply
  • Carla

    I have never in my life dry cleaned anything, even DH’s suits, which make it through the wash ok (and even if they didn’t, they were thrifted cheap; he wears them weekly and they’re good as new. We hang dry everything inside, which also saves on wear and tear and avoids shrinkage). I even hand washed my wedding gown in dental tablets as per the tailor’s suggestions when I got married, lol!

    I just had to say I was agog at the average woman’s yearly dry cleaning bill. Ouch! I probably haven’t spent that much on clothing for my whole family of 4 in the past 10 years! Sometimes I’m glad I’m not average, lol!

    February 22nd, 2011 8:48 pm Reply
  • Kelly

    We just discovered a wonderful new use for them! Last night my husband was getting his seeds started, and usually we just wrap them in plastic, but last night he had an AH-HA moment, collected all the wire hangers, bent them over the seeds and created mini hoop houses! YEAH!

    February 22nd, 2011 9:02 pm Reply

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