Where have all the Hoffman presses gone?

The press used to be a stalwart of the drycleaning unit, but I believe it may be taking a back seat now.

If your business has a traditional press, how much use do you make of it? I have heard drycleaners say that that since they’ve installed the steam cabinet/ironing table/former, they hardly ever need to go anywhere near the press.

In contrast, I know of one drycleaner who has a top of the range ironing table and a former, but regards them simply as an aid. He does however know the value of the traditional press and has the knowledge and skills to use it. For instance, the press is perfect for finishing curtains – if you know how to use it.

It seems to me that all the new “aids” are regarded as the easy route to drycleaning.

Yes, they do fulfil a useful purpose and can have a role to play in a modern business. but I do not feel that they should be regarded as a substitute for the knowledge and skills that used to be regarded as essential.

To make the best use of machinery you must know how and when to use it.

For instance, while a steam cabinet may be useful for some applications, there are many materials that are not suited to this treatment, particularly when the item is on a hanger.

If an acrylic or acrylic-mix garment sags in steam, there is no way you will get it back into shape.

I have seen cleaners finishing curtains while they are hanging. They pull at the bottom of the curtain and run the hand steamer up and down the fabric. But there is no way cleaners can be sure they are pulling evenly at each point.

To return to the matter of the traditional press, this equipment can be as much value as any of the other pieces of machinery now deemed necessary, provided that it is used expertly.

However, the traditional “Hoffman pressers” are much more difficult to find now and I believe this is because all the other “aids” are sold to cleaners as being idiot proof and so we appear to be deskilling the trade and to be in danger of losing the “real professionals” in this industry.

No piece of machinery, no matter how good, can cope with every fabric or every problem at the touch of a button. The operator still needs to know his/ her trade, to have a good and upto date of knowledge of fabrics – new ones are appearing every year.

And they should have thorough training in how to use machinery to its full advantage, including the Hoffman or scissor press.

When we advertised for a presser in our Job Centre we had no takers at all. Indeed after six weeks, the centre rang to enquire what the job involved. I replied that if anyone who needed to ask was obviously not an experienced presser.

To give a professional service, drycleaners need well trained staff. For drycleaning is a profession. On a daily basis we deal with people’s treasured possessions, and some of them are extremely expensive items. A wedding or evening dress, for instance, can costs thousands.

Make a serious mistake with such a garment and you risk not only losing a customer, but if there are many claims against you, losing your insurance too.

Staff must be properly trained. A quick run through the booklet with the rep after a piece of equipment has been installed is not enough.

Operators need to have on site training with an expert for at least three days.

In other professions the need for training is taken for granted, so it should be with drycleaning. There are courses available we should take advantage of them. We need to be in charge of the machinery we use, not just button pressers.