Stop Upping Your Downtime (Conclusion)


(Photo: ©iStock/alengo)

Tim Burke |

Wallet-happy tips to keep your machines running and humming

CHICAGO — “What, me worry?”

You’ve heard that expression. It’s especially humorous when used in movies and on television shows.

But in business, it can lead to some trouble. Don’t get caught shrugging your shoulders and putting off regular drycleaning plant and equipment maintenance.

Hoping you can just ignore any potential problem until sometime in the future is a recipe for trouble. Keeping to your scheduled preventative maintenance plan will actually save you money, helping you to avoid expensive “machine-down” situations. And that, it turns out, pleasantly lowers costs and gives more “bottom line” to you.

Do you have a preventative maintenance program in place, one that you follow?

Servicing your equipment regularly is more cost-effective than paying employees to wait while you try to repair a failed piece of equipment. You also risk disappointing your customers when they don’t get their garments back on time.

Allan Cripe, owner of Valet Cleaners, Temple, Texas, has presented preventative maintenance seminars on the responsibility and awareness necessary for business owners to maintain their plants and equipment. Here are some preventative maintenance nuggets from Cripe to keep in mind.

“Only one-quarter inch of scale on your boiler tubes equals up to a 25% increase in your gas bill,” he notes.

If your boiler loses steam, he says, “you look and the sight glass is empty, but the pump is running, then you have pump cavitation. The temperature of the feed pump is too hot.”

A temporary fix is to drip some water on the pump from a hose, which will cool it off enough to break the vapor lock and function properly, he says. The issue is either a bad steam trap(s), failing valve(s) in the feed line, or the pump impeller is worn out due to compound corrosion, according to Cripe.

Avoid excess moisture in your transfer drycleaning machine by putting a couple drops of food coloring in your solvent bucket, he says. You will always be able to see that your separator is working properly.

“Toss a 3-inch stabilized chlorine tablet in your stainless button trap,” he says. “It will help keep any transient bacteria at bay. Do not toss one in the base tank because these are corrosive.”

Beyond these tips, a dry cleaner has to be willing to acknowledge when it’s time to replace older equipment. Cripe reminds drycleaning business owners that preventative maintenance happens “on your schedule, but breakdowns due to neglect usually happen at the worst time.”


So, back to the phrase, “What, me worry?”

The consequences of doing nothing are breakdowns and loss of time and money. But replace the word “worry” with “upkeep,” which can be recognized as treating maintenance seriously.

Today’s business owners and store managers look for ways to save money and get the best bang for their buck in areas such as supply, service and cost. But why not preventative maintenance, too?

We have pointed out not only the scheduling side of maintaining your equipment but also a few tips on the practical side. Can you stop what you are doing and take a look at your preventative maintenance procedures and then — and this is key — make a change, if needed, to how you care for your equipment?

Think of it like you would improving your dental hygiene and doing a better job of flossing and caring for your gums and teeth all the time, not just when you remember to.

“Make sure your equipment is clean,” says Chris Abercrombie, director of technical services at FabriClean Supply. “If you have to dig through 3 inches of lint and dirt to service a machine, you have already lost half the battle.”

Abercrombie recommends cleaning machines weekly, paying attention to problems like steam and air leaks that are easier to detect, and keeping frequently used supplies and parts (such as lubricants, hoses and belts) in stock.

He suggests preparing a maintenance schedule and following machine manufacturer recommendations that can be found in most machine manuals.

“Assign tasks such as: blow down the boiler and add treatment compound daily. Also, blow down the air compressor and check the oil level, and blow down the vacuum,” Abercrombie says.

“For weekly tasks, clean the still, spin the filter and clean lint from the air channel in the drying chamber on drycleaning machines and dryers.”

“Monthly,” he continues, “check drive belts on machines and adjust or replace. Grease machines, and check steam traps.”

“On a semi-annual basis, drain and clean tanks on your drycleaning machine and have an HVAC mechanic check the refrigeration on your drycleaning machine. Annually, clean out the boiler and have it inspected.”

Some tasks should be performed per load on a drycleaning machine, he points out. “Before each load, check solvent levels in working tanks. It should be at least three-quarters full.”

“During each load, monitor how much solvent is used, solvent flow, and check filter pressure,” Abercrombie says. “After each load, clean the lint filter and clean the button trap. Keep records on both preventative and repair maintenance, and a repair log for each machine.”


Maybe you are already following a plan that’s in place and are regularly servicing your machines. If so, it doesn’t hurt to take another look anyway to make sure you’re getting all you can out of your equipment’s performance. It’s money-wise to do so.

Think of smart maintenance as a way to control the speed of your business costs (money flowing outward). Slow it down.

Some industry voices have provided tips here for you to consider. Better care over the lifetime of your machines means better control of your budget and how much you are spending, not wasting, on “headache prevention.”

If you are new to the idea of preventative maintenance, use these ideas and strategies to begin a systematic checklist for charting your drycleaning equipment’s health.

Stop worrying. Use a preventative maintenance program to help limit breakdowns. There are cost savings in taking regular care of your craft, and there’s greater customer satisfaction when your machines run smooth and efficient.

It’s all up to you. “Prevent” means taking action now to avoid costly reaction later. Start lowering your downtime and upping your bottom line!

To read Part One, click HERE.

About the author

Tim Burke

American Drycleaner


Tim Burke is the editor of American Drycleaner. He can be reached at 312-361-1684 or [email protected]


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