GreenEarth Affiliate Makes The Wall Street Journal

SUMMIT, N.J.—Procter & Gamble Co. started a dry-cleaning chain a decade ago to market detergent and learn more about how consumers like their laundry. That experiment has evolved into the sector’s second-largest U.S. player as mom-and-pop rivals struggle.

Tide Dry Cleaners was an unusual move for the world’s biggest maker of household staples. It remained a low-priority project, limited to a couple dozen locations scattered about the U.S.

The venture took on heightened importance a few years ago when P&G ,PG +0.72% stung by the consumer shift away from big brands and competition from leaner startups and online rivals, started seeking new ways to reach customers. The cleaning business, while still small within P&G, is gaining revenue as it adds locations and offerings, from campus delivery to wash-and-fold service…

…Operators face regulatory mandates to swap out machines that use chemicals common to the dry-cleaning process in favor of safer solvents.

Perchloroethylene, known as perc or PCE, has long been the most commonly used dry-cleaning solvent. In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified the substance as a “likely human carcinogen,” and state and federal regulators have pushed to phase out the substance, requiring dry cleaners to make costly updates to equipment.

Tide Dry Cleaners, like many in the industry, uses a silicone-based alternative chemical dubbed Green Earth that is used in many cosmetics.

Alan Spielvogel, director of technical services for the National Dry Cleaners Association trade group, has watched the Tide chain grow. Its offerings, he said, are packaged differently but are basically similar to services offered by a typical dry cleaner. “They are relying on brand recognition,” he said, “but they’re really not processing the garment any differently than anyone else is.”

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