In Search of An Industry Standard

Everett Childers |

I recently received a letter from a third-generation, 30-year veteran of the industry. Unfortunately, it is not the only letter, e-mail or phone call I have received that says basically the same thing, with the same amount of concern.
“I’ve been frustrated since I got back into the processing side of the business; 90% of what I spot flushes out with steam,” the letter says. “Then you get the garbage from the dirty cleaners in my market where the ‘flush-out’ becomes a major project of restoration. It’s sad how our industry doesn’t follow a set of standards that protect the customer.”
It is indeed a sad state of affairs. The industry has no standards except those that are self-imposed. Everybody is doing his or her “thing” — whatever that is. Did we ever really have any standards in the industry? The answer is, “kinda... sorta... well, sometimes... maybe.”
In the old days, cleaners learned everything they could about the art and science of cleaning textiles. Chemical reps would come on a regular basis and teach cleaners how to do a good job of cleaning, filtration, distillation and solvent maintenance. They would spend time helping spotters remove difficult stains and bleaching garments.
Most of these warriors are gone. Salespeople today stop in with a computer printout and ask, “How’s yer this-or-that?” There’s a reason — individual operators once had more buying power. Today, cleaners are smaller and tend to buy only on price. There is little loyalty in the industry, so chemical companies can’t afford to spend too much time in any plant. From machinery to sales to training, efforts toward efficiency like this actually undercut quality.
So where are the standards? There are many that have been tried and proven, but we don’t think they apply today. They do. For instance, solvent must be kept clean and have the proper detergent charge or injection in each load. When I visit plants, there is usually either way too much detergent used, or none at all.
If no detergent is used, you don’t get good penetration of solvent or the soil-suspending abilities needed to prevent redeposition and produce sharp, crisp colors. There also needs to be a slight amount of moisture in the solvent in order to remove water-soluble soils. If it is not there, you'll get a lot of unnecessary spotting.
Independent, credible standards are not being produced for the industry. If we had an independent entity spelling out how cutting corners produces unwanted results, we wouldn’t have as many people hunting for a professional, high-quality drycleaner.
Once all drycleaning is the same, it will be a commodity to be bought at the lowest possible price. When bad cleaning, dull colors, spots, odors and surly counterpeople all come together, the customer is simply going to vanish and avoid going to the cleaners at all costs.Set Your Own Standard. Begin by hiring a knowledgeable technical consultant to come into your plant for a few days. Make sure they have actually worked in a drycleaning plant and have production experience. This person will probably tell you a few things you don’t want to hear, but listen and give the suggestions a try.
Once you get your plant in good working order, you’ll notice a lot of changes. Cleaner clothes with fewer leftover spots. Professional wetcleaning, stain-removal and bleaching skills. Garments that are easier to finish, without shine or damage. You’ll also notice fewer “stragglers” and more accurate assembly.
Once the proper standards are followed, employees will know exactly what to do and how to do it. They’ll know what the results of their work should be, and they will begin to work as a team. Teamwork results in efficiency; efficiency results in lower payroll. When you have this, you have it all.

About the author

Everett Childers

Childers & Associates

Industry Consultant and Educator

Longtime industry consultant and educator Everett Childers is the author of the Master Drycleaners Notebook.


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