Shane Harms
Fred Cho, owner of Bon Ton Cleaners showing off the new machine. The new machine can dry clean up to 45 pounds of clothing.

Toxic chemicals in North Ballard are ‘taken to the cleaners’

Bon Ton Cleaners, in North Ballard at 801 NW 85th St. is cleaning more than your office-wear; they are cleaning up the environment and their workplace by replacing their old dry cleaning machine with a new “green” cleaner.

Bon Ton has taken advantage of the King County Local Hazardous Waste Management Program and received a $15,000 grant to replace their dry cleaning machine that used hazardous chemicals and wasted energy.

Bon Ton was one of four dry cleaners in King County that qualified to receive the grant from the County. The grant helps pay for new machines that are more efficient and do not use harmful chemicals. Older dry cleaning equipment uses a solvent called perchloroethylene (perc), which the EPA declares a probable carcinogen. The fumes are toxic and it should not make direct contact with skin. Moreover, the chemical is a nervous system depressant and long time exposure is thought to be linked to Parkinson Disease.

Fred Cho, owner of Bon Ton Cleaners, is elated with the new machine.

“We got the new machine because the old machine used 'perc' and that smells so strong – very strong. It’s really toxic stuff. It was the best solution for dry cleaning for a long time, but the smell was just so strong, and now there are new, cleaner machines,” said Cho.

Cho is 68 and is originally from San Diego. He has been in the dry cleaning business for over thirty years and operating at this space in North Ballard/Greenwood for 10 years. Cho was a dry cleaner technician before he opened his own shop and knows all too well how inefficient and toxic the older machines are.

Cleaner businesses have strict regulations on managing perchloroethylene, but Cho wanted to fully eliminate the use of the solvent for the benefit of his employees and the environment.

The new machine cost Cho $60,000, and the $15,000 from the County went toward that sum. To Cho, it’s worth it to know they there is no harm from toxins to his employees and it’s safe for the environment.

“It’s oil free and good for the environment. That’s why it’s colored green,” joked Cho.

The green machine arrived two months ago. It can dry clean up to 45 pounds. Now that’s a lot of wedding gowns in a single load.

“I’m very happy with it. The other machine was pretty old. … Now we have happier employees -- no smell, no hazardous waste.”

The Local Hazardous Waste Management Program provids grants and other services through a partnership of more than 40 cities and tribal governments working with King County to reduce threats posed from hazardous materials and wastes. For more information about this program, visit

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