Developing an alternative universe

29 January 2019

Visitors to ExpoDetergo could view the latest solvent options alongside established chlorinated solvents such as perchloroethylene. Tony Vince reports

The alternatives now available alongside chlorinated solvents such as perchloroethylene can provide textile care professionals with an immense business opportunity. The message from ExpoDetergo 2018 is that cleaners can now switch away from the perc ‘mainstream’ as the new solvents offer sustainability and improved efficiency.

Chlorinated solvents like perc have been used successfully worldwide for more than half a century and continue to be popular among drycleaners, favoured for the solvent’s proven efficiency in cleaning and stain removal.

As the largest global producer of perchloroethylene, Olin Corporation offers a formulation designed specifically for drycleaners – Dowper solvent. Together, Dowper solvent and its specially designed, closed-loop delivery system are extending the benefits of perc to today’s drycleaning operations in a safe, sustainable manner, as well as facilitating its continued use well into the future.

Nadine Heeb, marketing and sales manager EMEA, Global Chlorinated Organics said ExpoDetergo 2018 presented Olin with a great chance to meet all key players in drycleaning. “We had the chance to meet different stakeholders within the drycleaning market segment at one table and kick-off some potential new and promising projects.”

She said that visitor feedback confirmed Olin’s understanding that perc is still the benchmark in drycleaning and will remain as such.

Many competitors with alternative solvents have entered and left the business, but perc has 70 years of proven history and many advantages to offer. With Milan one of the main meeting points for the PTC industry, interest is definitely growing, she said, adding that: “Olin will remain a prime partner to serve the perc (Dowper) customers globally and in Europe.”

Looking to how the market will develop during 2019, Heeb says that the consistency of perc – in terms of production, its quality, its unique cleaning characteristics, non-flammability, its cost advantages and its sustainable aspects – will continue to provide a very strong offering to end users.

“It can be recycled, used over a long period of time, and then the waste disposed of by professional and established processes that are widely available,” says Heeb.

“People understand that it is a necessary development, to have sophisticated equipment for a safe and sustainable cleaning business. With our products, we completely support this development.

“We see some global uncertainty on the general economic development for 2019, but we believe that the demand in Europe for drycleaning solutions remains stable.”


Organic solvents

The use of organic solvents, such as Solvon K4, Sensene and Intense, is increasing in Germany for example with Sensene increasing the most over the past 18 months. Recently introduced solvents such as Ktex, Arcaclean, HIGlo, Intense and Sensene are now available alongside established solvents like perc, hydrocarbon solvent (HCS), Solvon K4 and GreenEarth.

“Since its introduction at the last Texcare in Frankfurt this solvent has found a lot of users and is spreading all over Europe,” says Joerg Schwerdtfeger, sales and technical support at Büfa. He adds that all organic solvents used in the PTC industry have their pros and cons. “That is why it’s senseless to say this or that solvent is the best to be used. It depends on the individual drycleaner’s location, on the kind of garments to be cleaned, the degree of soiling and what solvent fits best.”

SENSENE is based on an inherently biodegradable modified alcohol, has a low aquatic toxicity and has proved efficient for high-quality textile cleaning. The solvent can dissolve and remove both oil and water-based contaminations.

Sensene was one of two main drycleaning products on show in Milan from Safechem Europe – the other being Dowper Pure Power Perchloroethylene.

As a formulation based on modified alcohols, Sensene is suitable for regular multisolvent or hydrocarbon (HCS) machines. According to Safechem, the cleaning performance of Sensene has been compared with perc and HCS for different stains on wool, cotton and polyester fabric. More than 300 machines worldwide have been installed and run on Sensene. One of these installations is at the cleaning experts Cleanfix in Mönchengladbach, owned by Ralf and Jörg Heidemeyer. Cleanfix has been using the solvent Sensene since January 2017. Owner Jörg Heidemeyer says: “Sensene offers better cleaning results than perc, and the textiles have a better feel after cleaning and are easier to iron. This cuts down on ironing and finishing work.”

In addition to its main location in Mönchengladbach-West, operating four wetcleaning and one drycleaning machine, the company operates four collection points of its own. The company was founded by Ralf Heidemeyer and is now run by his son Jörg Heidemeyer. At the end of 2016, the company relocated and the Heidemeyers invested in a new textile cleaning machine, a Multimatic Topline 500. Due to stricter environmental regulations, they also decided to use a new solvent after decades of using perc. An important factor in this decision was the fact that an expensive exhaust air system would have to have been integrated into the building for a perc machine, which is not required with the Sensene system.

The machine at Cleanfix in Mönchengladbach operates using the 2-bath process and normally in the standard programme, which takes around 70 minutes. Sensene has excellent distillation properties and the drying time is comparable to that of perc. In full operation, the machine can clean between six and seven loads a day.

The cleaning process itself has hardly changed, says Jörg Heidemeyer. The pre-treatment has remained the same, but the after-treatment now takes less time and effort. Although the distillation residue now has to be scraped out by hand, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. It is now possible to get to places that you could not otherwise reach, and so no dirt can collect in corners, adds Heidemeyer.

“Black woollen coats, for example, formed lint when cleaned using perc – this is no longer a problem since we stated using Sensene. Prints on T-shirts adhere well when cleaned using with Sensene and do not become hard and brittle, which was a common problem with perc cleaning.

In the USA last year, Sensene was added to the list of alternative solvents for use in drycleaning machines, in addition to eight previously approved products, in New York State. This was ahead of the 6 September 2018 deadline when only NYSDEC approved alternative solvents may be used in alternative solvent drycleaning equipment. The more stringent regulations on the use of perc include the required removal of all perc dry cleaning machines from residential buildings by December 21, 2020 and then replacing them with alternative solvent equipment. To achieve greater perc emission reductions, all third-generation machines will be phased-out by December 31, 2021.

Safechem’s distribution partner for North America Seitz, The Fresher Company, based in Tampa Florida, has already delivered Sensene to first customers in New York State. “Sensene is an outstanding solvent, and the decision to add it on the list of alternative solvents in New York State speaks to the great momentum this solvent is generating right now”, said Kurt Wickiser, executive vice president of Seitz.


Sustainable alternative to perc

Alongside its Lanadol wet cleaning system, Kreussler presented its SYSTEMK4, the sustainable alternative to cleaning with perc. Thomas Zeck, commercial director of Kreussler Textile Care says that the SOLVONK4 – a halogen-free organic solvent – shows not only even better cleaning power than perc in many cases, but sports a far superior environmental profile.

The solvent is complemented by the pre-brushing agent PRENETTK4, drycleaning detergent CLIPK4 and the proofing spray VINOYK4. Combining the products with other Kreussler solutions can also cover any special requirements, such as leather finishing for example.

Zec sees excellent opportunities for SystemK4 in the future, both in Germany and worldwide. “Depending on the state of regulation, perc is still being used, but in the long term, we expect that more and more countries will look for alternatives.”

“More than 1,200 SystemK4 cleaning machines have already been installed worldwide, and our clients are more than happy with the excellent cleaning results, the soft touch and brilliant colours.”

In France, where perc will be banned from 2022, both Kreussler alternatives, the Lanadol wet cleaning system and SystemK4, are used widely. Hydrocarbon solvents (HCS), which have gained a large market share in the UK and France, do not clean as well as perc according to Kreussler.  “Our SystemK4, using SolvonK4 as solvent, is the first alternative to classic drycleaning which cleans as well, if not better, than perc, while being neither a dangerous material nor a hazardous substance in accordance with CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging),” says Dr. Manfred Seiter, technical director of Kreussler Textile Care. “On top of its excellent environmental profile, SolvonK4 is ultra pure, ensuring long-term stability even after many cleaning cycles, therefore being extremely cost-efficient – in contrast to modified hydrocarbon solvents which cannot be as easily separated from water, showing a far higher solvent loss.”

In co-operation with Green Biologics, the US branch Kreussler Inc. last year developed a special variation of SolvonK4. It is basing on corn grown by about 500 family-owned farms in the heartland of America, which is converted into n-butanol through a low- energy, minimal waste process. Due to the use of that bio-based n-butanol in the solvent production, the SolvonK4 variation has earned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased Product label. It is the first and only bio-based solvent in the drycleaning industry, 88% of it being naturally sourced.

Seitz is a family-owned, German company with a commitment to the development of specific solutions for specific customer groups, within all fields of professional cleaning, sanitation, disinfection and textile care. The solvent Intense from Seitz is a boosted hydrocarbon solvent formulated with glycol ethers. The solvent is suitable for regular multi solvent or HCS machines. It is said to be easier to remove water-soluble soil and stains from fabric. Intense cleans gently and leaves textiles in their original form, making finishing even simpler and faster.


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