Boosting solvent performance28 March 2018
Modern detergents and chemical additives ensure a high standard of cleaning and finishing. Tony Vince examines the options now available to textile care professionals
Drycleaning detergents and other additives ensure a high standard of cleaning and finishing for the professional textile care industry. Although solvents are central to the drycleaning process, on their own they are not sufficient to produce the standard of finish that will satisfy customers.
There is now an impressive array of chemical products that exists to make drycleaning solvent truly effective in removing stains from textiles. These can include drycleaning detergents, pre-cleaning/spotting agents, garment treatment chemicals, optical brighteners, bactericides, fabric conditioners, anti-static and anti-lint agents. The drycleaning detergents perform three main functions: carrying moisture to help remove water-soluble soiling; suspending the soiling after it has been removed from the fabric; and acting as a spotting agent to penetrate the fabric so that the solvent and water can remove stains.
Although drycleaning solvents themselves exert a good level of ‘cleaning’ due to their inherent solvency power, they are not capable of providing the characteristics required to achieve optimum stain removal and anti-soil redeposition during the cleaning process, according to Stacey King of Dry Cleaning Technology Centre (DTC, author of LCN’s regular ‘What Went Wrong’ feature.
She points out that unlike laundering, where an item is passed through several baths (prewash, main wash and rinse sections), drycleaning typically uses only one or two baths. “Using the correct detergent at the appropriate dose is vital to ensure that soiling and staining is removed and successfully suspended within the solvent to avoid unsightly redeposition.”
Some of the key components in a drycleaning detergent are the surfactants used to aid in the removal of staining. Anionic surfactants are particularly good in aiding the removal of dirt and grime and also at partially holding it in suspension, where non-ionic surfactants are key in removing oily/fatty stains. The presence of cationic surfactants within the detergent impart anti-static properties to the finished articles, not only to stop the fabric ‘sticking’ to itself and other items but also to prevent the attraction of lint particles to the surface.
There are still drycleaners that believe that the solvent is such an excellent cleaner that no further additives are needed, according to Jörg Schwerdtfeger at Büfa of Germany. “This is not correct,” he says.” Organic solvents need a detergent that will take care of the soiling, prevent greying and avoid static and other problems.”
As the mix of fabric changes, so suppliers are also reporting an increase in demand for wetcleaning products. Büfa says that successful textile care businesses now use both drycleaning and wetcleaning methods. Büfa’s CareConcept for wetcleaning, laundry hygiene and drycleaning includes detergents for use with ModulDOS, a modular system for cleaning with perc and hydrocarbon that allows the cleaner to achieve excellent cleaning results when it is matched to the respective fabric type, says Schwerdtfeger.
The company also produces detergents for use with other solvents, such as Secasene Clean, a concentrated cationic detergent for use with Sensene and Silco Clean, a detergent for use with silicon solvent (GreenEarth).
“Each kind of garment can be individually treated with customised products. The products are added selectively so the system is more economical and it also eliminates the need for pre-spotting, so reducing time and labour,” says Schwerdtfeger.
Solvent of choice
Perchloroethylene (perc) remains the solvent of choice for the majority of the UK’s professional cleaners. They also now have the option of choosing from cleaning systems that are based on recently introduced solvents such as Ktex, Arcaclean, HiGlo, Intense and Sensene. These solvents are available alongside established solvents like perc, hydrocarbon solvent (HCS), Solvon K4 and GreenEarth. In addition, wetcleaning is gaining favour.
The initial cost of alternative solvent machines, when compared to perc machines was previously one of the main reasons for people’s reluctance in purchasing, says Jason Alexander, managing director of Renzacci UK. “Now we are seeing the cost of this machinery coming within a similar price range, customers are now thinking harder about their choices. More consideration regarding future proofing and differentiation is now evident.”
Following rigorous tests, all Renzacci multi solvent machines including the Nebula hydrocarbon machine can now use the Sensene solvent produced by Safechem, says Alexander. Sensene is a modified alcohol solvent with a very high solvency power but which is inherently biodegradable. “This new solvent provides new opportunities for those who want to provide greener services but prefer traditional methods. Not only will you have a superior cleaning power but when used with the Renzacci Nebula your maintenance costs are reduced.”
Cole & Wilson introduced its all-round drycleaning solvent, HiGlo, into the UK in 2015 as an innovative alternative to the more traditional perc. Developed by Cole & Wilson and manufactured by Christeyns, HiGlo offers excellent cleaning in all types of multi-solvent or hydrocarbon drycleaning machines, being compatible with all types of filtration systems such as spin disks, cartridges and powders. It is essentially a gentle solvent that is tough on stains but not on the fabric itself, says Richard Cole from Cole & Wilson. “One of the benefits of HiGlo is that it can be used in a multi solvent machine with no alterations or extra expense involved,” says Cole. “The solvent has a very light, pleasant aroma, so there is no difference in smell over using a standard hydrocarbon solvent.”
Cleaning with HiGlo requires a normal process time of around 50-65 minutes and due to the nature of the solvent the garments come out crease free, meaning reduced time spent finishing.
Ridgewood Dry Cleaners in Bristol, who specialise in drycleaning services, has been using HiGlo for around a year.
“The decision to invest in changing to the new solvent has paid dividends,” says Paul Clark, Ridgewood director. “The performance far exceeds that of hydrocarbon solvent, the number of re-cleans has reduced together with the time spent on spotting, the majority of items just needing brushing with Sultex Hi pre spotter. We also noticed a reduction in machine cycle times.” He adds that the biggest difference is the removal of water marks and water based stains, because hydrocarbon struggled to remove these. “Because HiGlo is more accepting of water it allows these stains to be misted with water or steam if necessary, thereby aiding their removal.”
Cole & Wilson also has its Sultra range of specialised additives for cleaning and finishing for drycleaning and includes pre-brushing agents and cleaning enhancers.
Sultrasoft Deo Hi is a machine injection detergent that acts as a cleaning enhancer with a strong anti-static effect, and the pre-spotting agent is Sultrex Hi, which can also be used as a pre-wash detergent in the first wash in the drycleaning machine.
Difficult to remove stains can be treated with the Sultraspot stain removers, including Sultraspot Soft for removal of general stains of very delicate items. The Sultraspot series, a six bottle professional Spotting Kit, gives an effective but easy to use solution to pre and post spotting. Each of the 500ml bottles - Protein, Colour, Mineral, Tint, Metal and Soft - is designed to tackle a different staining problem.
Clark says HiGlo solvent, combined with Sultex Hi and Sutrasoft Deo Hi produces excellent results, “garments are less creased and easier to press.”