CONCORD, N.C. — Garment care is a system. And part of what I do is to help cleaners improve the cleaning technology in their operations. Marketing and social media are based on the foundation of an acceptable level of garment care quality.

My travels and e-mails indicate that there are some operations working hard at cheating the system. I am a firm believer in supplemental stain removal, with an emphasis on the word supplemental. But the heart of the cleaning operation is the drycleaning machine.

SPIN-DISK

The popularity of spin-disk filtration is a product of convenience and reduction, or elimination, of the flow of hazardous waste.

Unfortunately, this convenience easily results in complacency, when spinning the disks becomes an after-thought. When you cheat the system, you open the door to a world of potential problems.

Production is slowed down due to re-cleans and the volume of the supplemental stain removal increases, unnecessarily.

If disks are not maintained properly there are several bad things that can happen. The longer an owner neglects to follow maintenance protocols, the more expensive the recovery.

The disks are intended to remove particulate matter from the solvent flow before the solvent is re-introduced to the cleaning wheel. If this particulate matter, such as lint and small soil particles, is allowed to build-up on the disks, the increased resistance to the solvent flow can easily warp the disks and allow the solvent to then “blow-by” the disks.

When the solvent bypasses the disks, there is no filtration of the solvent before it enters the wheel. This results in the garments acting as the only solvent filtration, when the particulate matter is redeposited on the garments.

These warped disks will have to be replaced to ensure a tight fit with the housing. That is unnecessary time and money.

In extreme cases operators have gone to spin the disks, only to find them bridged together and frozen in place. The motor used to spin the disks is then at risk of failure, then the motor will need to be replaced.

FILTER AND SOLVENT MAINTENANCE

The air intake during the drying cycle is critical. Poor air circulation causes streaks and swales. Each and every air filter should be cleaned as routine. In high volume operations, this may require daily cleaning or even hourly.

Less air moving around the garments means slower and uneven drying. Re-running a streaked garment may well only move the streaks to another part of the garment.

Solvent maintenance is a challenge.

Solvent should be crystal clear in a system that injects detergent to each run and solvent should be no darker than a pilsner beer in a system that maintains a constant “charge” of detergent.

I have noticed that an increasing number of operators are choosing to run the drycleaning machine at a reduced capacity in the base tank. It is likely that the pump will pick up air instead of solvent, on occasion.

The risk of reduced solvent flow is high, reducing the number of solvent changes in the cleaning cycle, resulting in poor cleaning.

It is common to find a plant running a “dark tank” of solvent that appears to be the color of coffee. This contamination is slowly transferred to the rinse tank over time.

Dirty solvent is dirty solvent, no matter the label it is given. All base tanks should be clean and at least 70% full.

DETERGENTS

Drycleaning detergent is necessary.

I have been in far too many plants where detergent is the first item eliminated in the name of cost savings. Drycleaning detergents increase the cleaning range of the immersion solution, allowing it to remove a broader range of stains on the first time through the system.

Drycleaning detergents are formulated to help control free moisture in the cleaning system by putting it to work in removing water soluble stains. It also emulsifies excess free moisture to eliminate redeposition.

Drycleaning detergent helps to reduce linting on garments by reducing static in the system.

When detergent is eliminated, it removes the most effective additive in the system. Eliminating the drycleaning detergent either makes more work or makes for poor quality.

Experience has led me to this conclusion: Reduce lint during the cleaning cycle, or have someone de-lint the dark wools before assembly, or send out garments containing excessive lint.

Drycleaning detergent does not cost you, it pays you dividends.

Garment care is a system and is no more effective than the weakest part. Cheating the system is cheating yourself and may just cost you in the long run.