The greening of cleaning in Summit |

The greening of cleaning in Summit

Summit Daily/Reid WilliamsThomas Rowland, left, and Dave Mattson have teamed up to bring Summit County a green dry-cleaning option. The machines at Silverthorne's Summitex Cleaners will use an environmentally friendly solvent rather than perchloroethylene - a suspected carcinogen used by traditional dry cleaning operations. Rowland and his partners hope to open by the weekend.

SILVERTHORNE – Summit County resident Tom Rowland never really considered himself to be an environmentalist. But a new business venture in Silverthorne has painted his world green.

Rowland and his wife, Heather, are opening Summitex Cleaners, an environmentally friendly dry cleaning store and cleaning plant in Silverthorne – the only one of its kind in Summit County.

“Did we recycle at our house all the time? No,” Rowland said. “We became more aware after living in New Zealand. There, everything’s green. Also, it’s right under the ozone hole, so you don’t want to be outside for more than 10 or 15 minutes without a hat on.

“It just seemed like a good idea to add an environmental component to an industry that’s not known for being environmentally friendly.

“Doing this is a great opportunity to have a safe, quality product, to protect my employees and to have a solid economic strategy. That’s pretty exciting.”

About 90 percent of dry cleaners in the U.S. use perchloroethylene, or perc, to clean garments. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified perc as an air and water pollutant and suspect carcinogen.

“Because the business has been very ma and pa,” Rowland said, “a lot of people just threw it out back. Perc will “perk’ through concrete and into the ground water. My experience in the real estate finance business told me, “Don’t go there.’

“When I first went to the town of Silverthorne, they said, “You’re not going to use perc, are you?’ We decided we didn’t want to start a new business using old technology,” Rowland added.

Existing local dry cleaners do not use perc in Summit County, because they transport clothes to cleaning plants in the Front Range or Eagle County.

Instead of perc, Summitex will use a solvent called GreenEarth, a silicon-based liquid similar to the base ingredients used in underarm deodorants and shaving lotions.

Upon decomposing, GreenEarth breaks down into sand, water and carbon dioxide. One gallon of the solvent cleans 1,000-1,600 pounds of clothes.

The product’s manufacturer claims GreenEarth’s use results in significantly fewer damaged garments and significantly decreased disposal costs, compared with traditional dry cleaning.

According to Rowland, his customers won’t have to trade high quality for environmental responsibility.

“The result is a remarkably soft and clean product,” he said. “This is so gentle on all your fabrics. Even suede comes out beautifully.”

In addition to dry cleaning, Summitex will offer a by-the-pound laundry service, a VIP after-hours drop-off, hanger and plastic garment bag recycling, alterations and garment restoration.

“With everything we’re doing, we’re trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible,” Rowland said.

Rowland expects Summitex Cleaners to be up and running by the weekend.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998 x203 or

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