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National Clothesline
The search for solvent solutions
Since the dawn of high-flash hydrocarbon solvents nearly 20 years ago and with increasing regulatory pressure on perchloroethylene over those years, cleaners been asking which cleaning solvent is the right one.
For almost as many years, trade associations have tried to help cleaners find the answer by sponsoring panel discussions on solvents at numerous conventions. The Pennsylvania and Delaware Cleaners Association offered yet another such discussion at its Drycleaning and Laundry Expo trade show in Atlantic City, NJ, last month.
And the answer to the long-running question at this point in time seems to be, “Take your pick.”
“All of the solvents out there are fine solvents,” said Jon Meijer of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, who led off the discussion with an overview of those solvents. “These solvents have been tested and do work. The big thing is quality cleaning. Does it work for the type of cleaning you do and the equipment you have or want to buy?”
Perc is a “great cleaner,” he said, still the solvent used by most cleaners in the U.S. and the standard to which other solvents are compared.
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Perhaps the biggest difference between perc and most of the newer solvents is the cycle time. A load that takes 35 to 40 minutes in perc may need an hour or more in another solvent and many in the industry are locked in to the notion that it should take no more than an hour, Meijer said, adding that he wishes that weren’t the case.
 “You need enough time to remove soil and then dry the clothes,” he said. “If you use enough time, proper detergent, and proper loading, these solvents will work fine.”
Problems occur when cleaners try to cut corners — reducing cycle times, overloading the machine, cheating on detergent, he said. That corner-cutting will reduce cleaning quality no matter what solvent is used. DLI sees as many bad results on its Cleaning Performance Test from perc users as any other solvent. And it also sees very good CPT results from cleaners using alternative solvents.
So if it comes down to a matter of personal choice, what are those choices?
For about 30 percent of the industry, Meijer said, that choice is hydrocarbon solvent, either the older low-flash variety or the more recently developed high-flash solvents.
GreenEarth has made inroads since being introduced 13 years ago and is now in use in about 800 plants in the U.S., according to Tim Maxwell, one of the panelists and president of GreenEarth.
Meijer said it is the alternative that DLI has had the most experience with and it has been found to perform very well in cleaning performance tests.
A more recent entry has been Kreussler’s K4. It’s a good solvent, Meijer said, adding that issues with residual odor have been addressed with newer equipment and better programs.
Newer machines have also helped Rynex with improved drying times, Meijer said, noting that the solvent itself has a new formulation.
Another choice is GenX, a glycol-based concentrate that is added to hydrocarbon systems to lift the KB value. Meijer said there was little data to evaluate its cleaning performance yet.
NPB, sold in the industry as DrySolv, has limited use at this time, Meijer said, noting that it is no longer offered as a “drop-in replacement” for perc due to problems with some converted perc machines.
Regardless of which solvent cleaners choose, all should embrace wetcleaning as an adjunct to drycleaning, Meijer said. New equipment and chemistry have improved the ability to process garments in water. The percentage that can be so processed in a given plant depends a lot on operator skill and knowledge.
An audience member asked if using one the alternatives makes a cleaner “green” or “environmentally friendly.”
That drew an emphatic response from Nora Nealis, executive director of the National Cleaners Association.
“Everybody uses chemicals,” she said. “Drycleaning is not chemical free. It’s not organic in the way the consumer is perceiving it.”
Cleaners who tout themselves as organic or green are inviting the critical attention of environmentalists and government regulators, not just for themselves but for the entire industry.
“There are many things you can do beyond the solvent you use to establish yourself as environmentally friendly,” she said.
“Be responsible in your advertising so you’re not in a spotlight that will draw new laws,” she urged.Since the dawn of high-flash hydrocarbon solvents nearly 20 years ago and with increasing regulatory pressure on perchloroethylene over those years, cleaners been asking which cleaning solvent is the right one.
For almost as many years, trade associations have tried to help cleaners find the answer by sponsoring panel discussions on solvents at numerous conventions. The Pennsylvania and Delaware Cleaners Association offered yet another such discussion at its Drycleaning and Laundry Expo trade show in Atlantic City, NJ, last month.
And the answer to the long-running question at this point in time seems to be, “Take your pick.”
“All of the solvents out there are fine solvents,” said Jon Meijer of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, who led off the discussion with an overview of those solvents. “These solvents have been tested and do work. The big thing is quality cleaning. Does it work for the type of cleaning you do and the equipment you have or want to buy?”
Perc is a “great cleaner,” he said, still the solvent used by most cleaners in the U.S. and the standard to which other solvents are compared.
Perhaps the biggest difference between perc and most of the newer solvents is the cycle time. A load that takes 35 to 40 minutes in perc may need an hour or more in another solvent and many in the industry are locked in to the notion that it should take no more than an hour, Meijer said, adding that he wishes that weren’t the case.
 “You need enough time to remove soil and then dry the clothes,” he said. “If you use enough time, proper detergent, and proper loading, these solvents will work fine.”
Problems occur when cleaners try to cut corners — reducing cycle times, overloading the machine, cheating on detergent, he said. That corner-cutting will reduce cleaning quality no matter what solvent is used. DLI sees as many bad results on its Cleaning Performance Test from perc users as any other solvent. And it also sees very good CPT results from cleaners using alternative solvents.
So if it comes down to a matter of personal choice, what are those choices?
For about 30 percent of the industry, Meijer said, that choice is hydrocarbon solvent, either the older low-flash variety or the more recently developed high-flash solvents.
GreenEarth has made inroads since being introduced 13 years ago and is now in use in about 800 plants in the U.S., according to Tim Maxwell, one of the panelists and president of GreenEarth.
Meijer said it is the alternative that DLI has had the most experience with and it has been found to perform very well in cleaning performance tests.
A more recent entry has been Kreussler’s K4. It’s a good solvent, Meijer said, adding that issues with residual odor have been addressed with newer equipment and better programs.
Newer machines have also helped Rynex with improved drying times, Meijer said, noting that the solvent itself has a new formulation.
Another choice is GenX, a glycol-based concentrate that is added to hydrocarbon systems to lift the KB value. Meijer said there was little data to evaluate its cleaning performance yet.
NPB, sold in the industry as DrySolv, has limited use at this time, Meijer said, noting that it is no longer offered as a “drop-in replacement” for perc due to problems with some converted perc machines.
Regardless of which solvent cleaners choose, all should embrace wetcleaning as an adjunct to drycleaning, Meijer said. New equipment and chemistry have improved the ability to process garments in water. The percentage that can be so processed in a given plant depends a lot on operator skill and knowledge.
An audience member asked if using one the alternatives makes a cleaner “green” or “environmentally friendly.”
That drew an emphatic response from Nora Nealis, executive director of the National Cleaners Association.
“Everybody uses chemicals,” she said. “Drycleaning is not chemical free. It’s not organic in the way the consumer is perceiving it.”
Cleaners who tout themselves as organic or green are inviting the critical attention of environmentalists and government regulators, not just for themselves but for the entire industry.
“There are many things you can do beyond the solvent you use to establish yourself as environmentally friendly,” she said.
“Be responsible in your advertising so you’re not in a spotlight that will draw new laws,” she urged.

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