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Alternative Solvents: Which is Best for You? (Part 2)

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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 dry cleaning 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 is the average solvent mileage? (Pounds of clothes cleaned per gallon consumed)

GenX – Caled: It depends on the machine. We are seeing as high as 1,400 pounds per gallon and as low as 800 pounds per gallon. On an average, with a new machine, the dry cleaner can expect 1,100 pounds per gallon.

GreenEarth – GreenEarth Cleaning: Usage rates vary depending on factor such as maintenance and configuration of equipment being used. Our best estimate from reports by Affiliates would be approximately 1,500 pounds per gallon.

Hydrocarbon – R.R. Street & Co.: 1,500 to 1,800 lb./gal. - standard Class IIIA machine; 4,000+ lb./gal. - K Series Class IIIA machine.

Perc – Dow Chemical Co.: Dry cleaners using perc can probably expect solvent mileage levels between 750 to more than 1,000 pounds (of) clothes cleaned per gallon of perc, with the highest values likely achieved using the latest machine technology and solvent management principals. Solvent mileage can be greatly affected by the size of the loads, the types of clothes cleaned, size and type of machine technology used, and the cleaner’s practices to purify and recycle their solvent. DOWPER™ solvent is engineered to accommodate extremely high levels of recycle and reuse.

Rynex – Adco: 3,000 plus.

SolvonK4 – Kreussler Inc.: 4,500 pounds per gallon, minimum of .5% weight of the load.

Q: What is recommended for waste disposal?

GenX – Caled: Non-hazardous municipal waste.

GreenEarth – GreenEarth Cleaning: GreenEarth recommends that Affiliates adhere to municipal, state and local regulations. The silicone product licensed for use in the GreenEarth System is not regulated by the U.S. EPA. Many Affiliates have reported receiving dispensation from local and state regulators for solid residue from the system to be treated as standard refuse. Where that dispensation has not been granted, GreenEarth’s recommendation is to have waste removed by a licensed waste disposal company.

Hydrocarbon – R.R. Street & Co.: Process waste disposal must be in accordance with federal, state and local regulations through an appropriate licensed waste hauler. In any event, DO NOT dispose in sewers.

Perc – Dow Chemical Co.: The waste removed from perchloroethylene drycleaning machines must be handled and disposed of as a hazardous waste in compliance with all federal, state and local regulations. Licensed hazardous waste-handling companies are available to provide this service to perc users.

Rynex – Adco: Regular waste hauler.

SolvonK4 – Kreussler Inc.: Waste collection by a licensed hauler.

Q: How many machines are currently using the solvent in the U.S.?

GenX – Caled: 800-1,000.

GreenEarth – GreenEarth Cleaning: There are more than 900 machines operating in the United States. There are approximately 1,700 GreenEarth machines licensed in 44 countries around the world.

Hydrocarbon – R.R. Street & Co.: 10,000-plus machines in over 8,000 plants in the United States.

Perc – Dow Chemical Co.: The commercial drycleaning industry in the United States consists of approximately 36,000 shops. Approximately 85% of drycleaning shops in the U.S. use perchloroethylene as their primary solvent. (Source: NIOSH)

Rynex – Adco: Ten in USA, three in Canada plus Europe.

SolvonK4 – Kreussler Inc.: 200 U.S., 450 global.

Q: What are some of the major legitimate issues concerning the use of the solvent?

GenX – Caled: GenX is combustible, rated as a Class IIIA fluid.

GreenEarth – GreenEarth Cleaning: There are no major issues associated with the use of GreenEarth Cleaning System. GreenEarth silicone has no odor, and is not regulated by the U.S. EPA. It is not a HAP, TAC, or VOC. It has the highest flashpoint (170 F/76 C) of the Class IIIA solvent options and can be used in co-locations.

Hydrocarbon – R.R. Street & Co.: While not considered “major” issues, there are items that must be addressed with respect to using high flash hydrocarbon solvents:

• Fire Codes — Over the last several years, the standard for Class IIIA drycleaning plants, both NFPA 32 and IFC, have been relaxed due to improvements in Class IIA drycleaning machines and the safety technologies involved.

• Permits — The “authority having jurisdiction” i.e. fire marshal must approve the construction and/or operation of a hydrocarbon drycleaning facility in most areas. Note this is true for all drycleaning plants. Air emission permits may be required in certain locations.

• Safety Handling Practices — Safe handling practices must be employed and adhered to, specific to the solvent in use. Note this is true for any chemical.

Perc – Dow Chemical Co.: Since perc has been studied extensively, the potential issues associated with perc in dry cleaning are well understood. These may include restrictions on location (which may vary depending on your state and local areas), and special reporting or permitting. Due to the inherent toxicological properties of the solvent, proper handling and disposal are essential. Employees should be trained on the proper use, operation and maintenance of the equipment.

Rynex – Adco: After drying, the solvent leaves a residual solvent signature.

SolvonK4 – Kreussler Inc.: There are no major issues with using SystemK4. It is a Class IIIA solvent and local and federal codes must be followed for use.

Check back Monday for the conclusion!

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