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Alternative Solvents: Which is Best for You? (Conclusion)

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(Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

Clean Show attendees fill seminar room to hear solvent comparisons

NEW ORLEANS — As new cleaning technologies develop, so do the questions, comments and rumors. Thus, the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) invited several solvent manufacturers to answer some of these questions and dispel common misconceptions.

The result was a well-attended Clean Show educational session that compared and contrasted six solvents in use in the drycleaning industry today.

Panelists for the Alternative Solvents: Which is Best for You? session were:

  • Jack Belluscio, president of Caled, representing GenX

  • Tim Maxwell, president of GreenEarth Cleaning, representing GreenEarth

  • Robert Blacker, director of technical services for RR Street & Co., representing hydrocarbon

  • Sherry Emmrich, technical manager for Dow Chemical Co., representing Dowper perchloroethylene

  • Greg Rinehardt, national sales manager for Adco, representing Rynex

  • Dr. Manfred Seiter, technical director for Kreussler’s Textile Chemistry division, representing SolvonK4

Each company was given several minutes to comment on their solvent and its benefits, then the floor was opened to questions. Some dealt with decomposition, the potential costs of converting from one solvent to another, and if the solvents being discussed were considered “organic.”

Each of the companies had submitted answers to a prepared list of questions, which touched on cycle lengths, average costs, average solvent mileage, the number of machines using their solvent, disposal recommendations, and rumors or misconceptions about their solvent, among others. Their responses follow:

Q: What are the biggest rumors or misconceptions about the solvent?

GenX – Caled: Rumor: “GenX cleans so good it doesn’t need detergent.”

GreenEarth – GreenEarth Cleaning: Rumor: GreenEarth doesn’t clean.

Despite the fact that more than 1,700 machines are in operation with dry cleaners around the world, there remain operators of other solvent systems who maintain that GreenEarth doesn’t clean due to the relatively low KB Value of the silicone fluid used in the GreenEarth Cleaning System. The scientific data supporting the role of low surface tension in relation to excellent cleaning performance (as reported in the 2002 IFI Fellowship) seems, at times, to fall on deaf ears.

Rumor: Canada is going to ban GreenEarth.

Canada is definitely not going to ban the GreenEarth silicone fluid. As a matter of fact, Environment Canada announced over a year ago that “D5 silicone does not pose a danger to the environment or its biological diversity” and furthermore, that “the projected future use of Siloxane D5 will not pose a danger.”

Hydrocarbon – R.R. Street & Co.: The biggest misconception surrounding high flash hydrocarbon solvents is that they do not clean garments as effectively as other solvents in the marketplace.

This misconception is directly related to insufficient wash times and little to no use of additives (detergent). For the record, this is true of all the drycleaning solvents in use today. Without sufficient wash time and proper use of additives, none of the solvents, including water, will clean garments effectively. High flash hydrocarbon solvents have proven to be as effective, and in some cases more effective, than other solvents in use in the industry today when run properly: 18 to 20 minutes of wash time, and the proper use of additives.

The recent use of heated high flash hydrocarbons (110 F/43 C maximum) has demonstrated even better cleaning performance.

Perc – Dow Chemical Co.: Rumor 1: “Perc will be banned for use in dry cleaning.”

The use of modern equipment and safe handling and disposal practices have shown that this solvent can be used safely and successfully for the long term.We encourage perc users to join with industry alliances to educate and advocate for its continued use at the local and state level.

Rumor 2: “Perc will no longer be produced for dry cleaning.”

U.S. perchloroethylene suppliers have publicly stated their commitments to providing long-term supply and support to the drycleaning industry, as long as there is a market for perc into dry cleaning. They will also continue to work with the HSIA (Halogenated Solvents Industry Association) to promote the safe use, handling and disposal of perchloroethylene.

Over 800 million pounds per year of perc are produced and consumed on a global basis. The vast majority of that perc is used as a “feedstock” to make refrigerants that are used in homes, cars, etc. However, perc is also used around the world for numerous “solvent” uses, and one of the main solvent uses is in dry cleaning.

Rumor 3: “The stabilizer in perc disappears when it gets distilled.”

Perc products are differentiated by their stabilizer packages. We can only comment on the product we manufacture, which is DOWPER™ Solvent. Dow has chosen a stabilizer package that distills along with the solvent and remains with the product in either liquid or vapor form to maintain the alkalinity of the solvent. This same stabilizer is included in perchloroethylene products for metal cleaning/vapor degreasing applications, which are typically much harsher on the solvent than drycleaning applications.

Rynex – Adco: None that we know of.

SolvonK4 – Kreussler Inc.: Rumor: The odor of the solvent will be a problem for the staff and clients.

No one using SystemK4 has found the odor of the solvent to be a problem for their staff or clients. The cleaned garments, after unloading, have a very faint smell and after finishing the textiles have a neutral smell. Kreussler GmbH installed air quality control measuring in our own plant and in several production plants operating with SystemK4. The concentration of SolvonK4 as a non-hazardous solvent was measured within an eight-hour shift concentration with less than 5 mg/m3 in the air.

Q: What are the top three benefits of using the solvent?

GenX – Caled: 1. Better – Performance for oil and water stain removal. 2. Cheaper – Spotting labor and chemical additive cost. 3. Faster – Cleaning with no harsh smell, with cycle times under 55 minutes.

GreenEarth – GreenEarth Cleaning: 1. Favorable Regulatory Profile – International regulators (including Canada and the UK) have conducted recent exhaustive scientific studies and have concluded that the GreenEarth silicone solvent is environmentally non-toxic. 2. Garment Manufacturers’ Recommendations – Given its low aggressivity, garment manufacturers recognize that a wide range of garments (including sequins, beads, vinyl, trims, etc.) can be cleaned safely, with no odor, a soft hand, and easy finishing. Care labels recommending GreenEarth are sewn into garments on retail racks around the world. 3. Landlord-Specified Locations – Given its safety and elimination of environmental liability, more and more landlords are insisting that the GreenEarth Cleaning System be used by their drycleaning tenants.

Hydrocarbon – R.R. Street & Co.: 1. Cost-effective. 2. Virtually odorless cleaning. 3. Ease of transition and ongoing operation.

Perc – Dow Chemical Co.: 1. Safety – Perc is not flammable or combustible, and has no flash point or flammability limits. There are little to no emissions with modern equipment and safe handling practices. 2. Proven performance – Efficient cleaning for multiple soils and fabrics. 3. Economical – Easily separated from water and recyclable. Delivers high performance at a reasonable cost.

Rynex – Adco: 1. Testing done in Europe shows Rynex cleans better than perc in some areas and is second to perc in all the rest. 2. Less reruns. 3. Great solvent mileage.

SolvonK4 – Kreussler Inc.: 1. Exceptional cleaning performance. 2. Unmatched solvent mileage. 3. Environmental and occupational safety for the clients, staff, landlords and, last but not least, the dry cleaners themselves.

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