National Clothesline
National Clothesline
DLI solvent panel receives a ‘newcomer’
Panel discussions on solvents have become a staple of drycleaning conventions in recent years with representatives speaking on the various options — hydrocarbon, GreenEarth, Rynex, GenX, SolvonK4 and others that have made the scene at one time or another bidding for drycleaners’ attention.
But the panel discussion at Clean ’13, put together by the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, included one solvent that hasn’t appeared on previous panels. And although it was a newcomer to the panel discussion scene, it was a solvent that is very familiar to the industry. In fact, it is the solvent most widely used by drycleaners in the United States.
That solvent, of course, is perchloroethylene. Speaking on behalf of perc at the Clean Show was Sherry Emmrich for Dow Chemical. She was joined on the panel by several faces familiar from similar assemblages in the past: Tim Maxwell of GreenEarth, Bob Blacker of R. R. Street & Co. Inc., speaking for hydrocarbon, Jack Belluscio of Caled speaking for GenX, Manfred Seiter of Kreussler for SolvonK4, and Greg Reinhardt of Adco for Rynex.
Prior to the Clean Show, DLI presented each of the companies with a set of questions pertaining to factors such as cycle time, required machinery, special products or supplies needed, cost of the solvent and its mileage, waste disposal and other regulatory issues, and the number of machines in the U.S. using the solvent. Each was also asked to list the major benefits of their solvent along with any rumors or misconceptions about the product.
Detailed answers to those questions were compiled into a handout for attendees along with a chart that summarized their answers. That chart can be found at the bottom of this page.
When Emmrich’s turn to speak came, she wasted no time in pointing out that perc remains the industry standard.
“Perc has been the standard in the industry for a long time,” she said. “The machines that you use for perc are also a standard machine. Perc really has set the bar that the other solvents are trying to beat the cleaning capabilities of perc,” she said.
She also addressed two misconceptions about perc — that it is going to be banned for use in drycleaning or that it will no longer be produced for drycleaners. Modern equipment and safe handling and disposal practices have shown that perc can be used safely for the long term, she said. She also said that U.S. perc suppliers are committed to providing long-term supply and support for drycleaners as long as there is a market for perc in drycleaning.
More than 800 million pounds of perc are produced annually worldwide with most of it used as a feedstock to make refrigerants, she said, but it’s also widely used a solvent as in drycleaning.
Other solvents, too, are the subject of rumors and misconceptions that their panel representatives addressed.
Speaking for GreenEarth, Tim Maxwell noted that some have said GreenEarth doesn’t clean.
“We have been hearing this for the past 12 years despite the fact that in 2002 we put a machine in at DLI and had a 14-month fellowship comparing GreenEarth to perc. It was found to be a viable solvent. There wasn’t any article we couldn’t clean.”
Also, he said, there is no truth to the rumor that Canada is banning GreenEarth. On the contrary, he said, Environment Canada has decided that D5 silicone used in GreenEarth is not toxic to the environment.
The “doesn’t clean” complaint has also been applied to hydrocarbon solvents, said Bob Blacker of Streets.
“Most of this misconception comes from the fact that a lot of us were perc drycleaners for a very long time. When we shifted from perc to hydrocarbon, we tried to retain the short wash times of perc,” he said.
“High-flash hydrocarbons do not remove all the soils in eight to ten minutes,” he said. “But given 18 to 20 minutes with proper additives, you’ll get excellent cleaning.”
Cleaning performance may also be improved by heating the solvent to a maximum of 110°F, Blacker said.
“We’re still studying this, but we are seeing significantly better results both with the solvent-soluble soils and with water-soluble soil.”
The solvent does not become more aggressive when heated, he said, thus dye bleeding is not an issue. Cleaning is increased because the temperature is closer to the melting point of solvent-soluble soils.
Blacker said that 110°F is the upper limit for heating high-flash hydrocarbons, partly for fire code reasons and also because water-soluble soil removal begins to decrease if the solvent is heated beyond that point.
Machinery manufacturers sell solvent heaters that can be integrated directly into the machine, he said, but a cleaner could experiment with the concept by adjusting the limit on the solvent cooler, raising it to 95° or 100°.
He stressed that with heated solvent it’s important to use the recommended amount of detergent to control moisture. Users should not cut corners on detergent use when heating hydrocarbon solvents.
A misconception of SolvonK4 is that it leaves an odor that could be a problem for clients and staff. But Manfred Seiter of Kreussler said this is not a problem.
Garments may have a faint smell after being unloaded, he said, but after finishing there is no odor.
The other two solvents represented on the panel seem less the subject of rumors or misconception. Jack Belluscio of Caled said that GenX is rumored to clean so well that it does not need detergent.
“That’s not exactly true,” said Belluscio. “People using GenX say that because it has an ability do things that other solvents can’t.” As an example, he said, GenX carries moisture, which is unusual for a cleaning solvent.
“You still need detergent,” he said.
As for Rynex, there are no rumors or misconceptions “that we actually know of,” said Greg Reinhardt of Adco.
He did allow that there can be a problem with residual odor in heavy garments.
“It’s still an issue that we continue to work on. We don’t hide or try to create any misconceptions from that,” he said.
Comparing the solvents, point by point Information from a chart