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ALTERNATIVE AQUEOUS CLEANING SYSTEMS FOR DRY CLEANERS
Aqueous or "wet cleaning" holds tremendous promise as an alternative to traditional dry cleaning for the garment-cleaning industry, the consumer and the environment.
As the name implies, wet cleaning uses water and detergents instead of perchloroethylene (perc), a hazardous solvent. Wet cleaning is done in a new line of computer-controlled washing and drying machines. These machines can accommodate most "dry-clean-only" garments because they reduce agitation during washing, increase extraction of water prior to drying, use specifically formulated wet-cleaning soaps and spotting agents, and closely monitor heat and moisture content during the drying process. Wet cleaning may be preceded by spotting, steaming or handwashing.
Uses and Benefits
The wet cleaning system may be a viable alternative to perc dry cleaning in the following situations:
- Multiple cleaning needs and machines.
- Perc not allowed by building or mall owner.
- Store-front building with apartments above.
- New cleaning unit is needed.
The wet-cleaning system may be operated in tandem with a perc cleaning unit to meet cleaning needs and to help operators gain confidence in the wet system's cleaning abilities. A wide range of garments can be run in the wet-cleaning unit, including: wedding gowns, wool suits, silks, cottons, leather and bead-trimmed garments, comforters and some rayon-acetates. Customers and shop owners report good cleaning, brightness and fresh-smelling clothes, with few customer complaints.
Most dry cleaning industry analysts agree that wet cleaning is a key part of the future of professional garment cleaning. It is estimated that 300 of the nation's more than 300,000 (0.10 percent) dry cleaners are using wet-cleaning systems for 25 to 100 percent of the garments taken in. These dry cleaners view wet cleaning as an asset to any cleaning operation.
Wet cleaning can do the following for your business: reduce environmental regulatory burdens by eliminating use of perc, maintain quality cleaning, and increase customer satisfaction from the environmental benefits.
A new wet-cleaning machine ranges from $22,000 to $37,000 depending on the size of the machine.
Perc Use Reduction
From 25-100 percent, depending on how long the wet-cleaning system has been used.
Labor time usually increases with wet cleaning because more pressing and finishing is required. In addition, shrinkage has been a problem with rayon-acetate blends and some other fabrics. The machine costs less than a conventional perc machine, but electrical costs may be higher. Essentially, lower capital costs are offset or balanced with higher operational and labor costs.
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