This month we’re going to delve into identifying drying problems in drycleaning machines.
How can you tell if you have a drying problem?
The following is a list of common symptoms associated with problems in the dry
1. Abrupt change in solvent
consumption. Solvent consumption
is often measured in the pounds
cleaned per gallon or per “drum” (50
gallons) of solvent and is referred to
as solvent mileage.
If you notice a spike in solvent
purchases, or you are amongst the
few who actually track your solvent
consumption and notice a sharp
decrease in solvent mileage, drying problems should always be suspect. (For more
on how to calculate solvent mileage visit our web site at www.eztimers.com.)
2. Strong solvent odor in the environment. Before the stricter environmental regulations,
there was almost always a strong solvent odor inside the drycleaning plant.
With the advent of modern machinery the solvent odor should only be detectable
removing the garments after drying (I’ll probably get an argument on this, but I’m being
3. Strong solvent odor on garments after being removed from machine. There will
almost always be a slight odor on the garments after removal at the end of the
Please keep in mind that the following testing is totally subjective.
Similar to political commentary, the sense of smell is desensitized by
overstimulation. If you
want to do a sniff test, grab a sports jacket and hold the garment at an arm’s length for about
five seconds. Then shake it for three seconds and sniff the surface (not a
For perc systems if there is any odor at all it should be very slight; with
DF2000 or its
derivatives and for Green Earth, a slight odor is OK; for K4 (Solvon) there will
be a slightly
sweet odor which will dissipate rapidly.
There are numerous causes for this condition which will be dealt with in detail
4. Poor garment “hand” or feel. I’m not sure if the term “hand” is used much anymore,
but for us old-timers it means the texture or feel and appearance of the
If the surface of the fabric feels stiff or scratchy and the zippers are sticky,
this is could be an
indication of either over-drying (drying too long or at too high a temperature)
or a lack of
detergent and/or sizing dissolved in the solvent during the wash cycle.
5. Pilling and/or shrinking. Pilling is the accumulation of compact clusters (balls, to most of
us) of fabric or lint on the surface of the garment. Shrinking is the reduction
in size or distortion
of the shape of a garment.
Both of these disasters are usually caused by a combination of factors. For
excessive friction and overheating of the garment; for shrinking, it’s excessive heat during
drying. For both, the presence of excessive moisture during the dry cycle will
these destructive processes.
6. Wrinkling. At least four of the many causes of wrinkling are directly related to the dry
First, there may be a lack of volume in the basket to enable the garments to
through the air flow. This is caused by overloading, pure and simple.
The volume of a garment is not always directly proportional to its weight. For
pounds of silk garments take up far less volume than ten pounds of comforters.
Since weight is a far easier measure to work with, machinery manufacturers
limits in weight. This requires the drycleaner to inject judgment into machine
Second, temperature of the air stream is very important. If the garments are
wrinkles will be set in the fabric. That’s why a cool down (see last month’s article for questions
about cool down) while the basket is rotating is critical to avoiding wrinkles.
Third, moisture plays a critical role in wrinkling. Excessive moisture during
drying will enhance
the production of wrinkles, especially on cotton and cotton blends. This is why
the cotton pocket
liners and waistbands in trousers are the first to be effected before shrinkage
on woolens will
If you notice wrinkling in these areas beware, it’s likely shrinkage of woolens will not be far
down the line.
Fourth, although this has nothing to do with the machine itself, after the
drying cycle is
complete, allowing garments to remain in the basket of the drycleaning machine
basket rotating as well as leaving the garments in a clothes basket without
hanging will allow
wrinkles to set.
7. Drying time is too long. How long is to too long when it comes to the dry cycle? It’s
really, really hard to say.
Back when men where men and cars had fins, the machinery was of transfer type
washer/extractor and dryer). The dryers (also called reclaimers) had enormous
weight ratios. Because of this, dry times then were short and didn’t require devices to adjust the
Current fifth-generation dry-to-dry machinery’s dry cycle time depends on several factors,
including machine design (air flow and internal drying monitoring methods),
garment mix and loading.
All that having been said, the drycleaner should be able to develop a baseline
experience for the average length of cycle time by incorporating the previous
variables I listed.
As a rule of thumb, there is about a 45- to 50-minute total cycle time for perc
and a 60- to
80-minute cycle time for the lighter-than-water solvents. I’m sure there will be exceptions cited
from these stated time frames.
8. Garments are too hot or cold at the end of the dry cycle. Garment temperature is
usually one of the best barometers of dry cycle efficiency. If the fabric and/or
metal of the
zippers or clasps are hot to the touch, or the converse, it’s likely there’s trouble in some
component of the dry cycle apparatus.
Here comes another rule of thumb. Garments should feel slightly warm to the
touch (let’s say
90° to 100° F).
I intended this article to be “short, sweet and to the point” (not unlike myself) and now it’s
taken on a life all its own requiring at least another issue to further explore
the causes of these
conditions and their remedies. I promise we’ll get to the juicier mechanical stuff next issue.