Modern detergents and finishing agents help to ensure a high standard of cleaning and finishing. There are detergents to suit all solvents, and manufacturers and suppliers have close links with customers to supply products that provide the desired cleaning results.

Manufacturers have developed cleaning systems and, importantly, the technical support that will allow drycleaners to extend the range of services they can offer the customer. This may be providing a shirt service, cleaning leather or restoration work using products that remove unpleasant odours from clothes, carpets, curtains and other textiles (the refurbishment of textiles damaged by flood or fire, for example).

There is also a significant trend towards ecologically-friendly products, so reducing concerns about the health impacts of the garment-cleaning industry,

While perc continues to be the solvent of choice for most UK drycleaners, there is a significant number of operations that have switched to a non-perc cleaning system such as hydrocarbon solvent cleanining, siloxane cleaning, liquid carbon dioxide cleaning or wetcleaning.

The types of chemicals used by drycleaners can be grouped into five main categories: drycleaning solvents; other chemicals used in the drycleaning machine; pre-cleaning or spotting agents; garment treatment chemicals; and chemicals used in solvent or equipment maintenance.

Three functions

Drycleaning detergents perform three different functions: carrying moisture to help remove water-soluble soils; suspending soil after it has been removed from the fabric; and acting as a spotting agent to penetrate the fabric so the solvent and water can remove stains.

Based on their charge and how they carry water, there are three classifications of detergents:

Anionic detergents – are negatively charged and carry water by means of solubilisation;

Non-anionic detergents – carry no charge and carry water by solubilisation;

Cationic detergents – are positively charged and carry water by means of an emulsion. Most cationic detergents are pre-charged with moisture.

There are two different systems of introducing detergent into the drycleaning machine. In charged systems, detergent is added to the solvent or “charged” as a percentage of the solvent (normally 1- 2%) to maintain a continuous concentration of detergent. Charged systems use anionic detergents.

In injection systems, also known as batched detergent injection, solvent is added to the wheel saturating the garments and then detergent is injected into the flow line or into the drum by a pump or dump method. Cationic detergents are used in injection systems.

Before being placed in the drycleaning machine, heavily stained garments are usually pre-cleaned or pre-spotted with cleaning chemicals. The types of chemicals used will depend on the type of stain and the type of fabric being cleaned. There are three types of pre-cleaning/spotting agents. These are wet-side agents, dry-side agents and bleaches.

Garment treatments

A number of different chemicals are used to treat garments after drycleaning and include waterproofing, flame retardants, refurbishing, deodorising, stain repellents and pest control.

According to Dominique Suttheimer, international sales director for Büfa Reinigungssysteme, the UK market is generally static and recent economic events and threats of worldwide recession have not improved the situation.

Büfa products are distributed in the UK by Textile Care Supplies, based in Glenrothes, Fife. TCS is a family-owned company, supplying independent drycleaners and laundries.

“In certain geographical areas there is definitely a buoyancy and in these areas drycleaners are doing well when they are offering a range of professional services and marketing them successfully,” says Suttheimer.

“Drycleaners who realise they have to go out and sell their services, who offer extra services are the only ones who are successful.”

Suttheimer is aware of the impact on the industry of the European Union’s Solvent Emissions Directive. The SED aims to reduce emissions of VOCs from specified industrial processes, and complete compliance with this was required by 2007.

UK cleaners using organic solvents – perc, hydrocarbon solvent (HCS) and siloxane – had to apply for and be issued a Local Authority Pollution Prevention and Control (LAPPC) Permit to operate their process after October 31, 2007. The use of carbon dioxide in drycleaning is not covered by these regulations.

“I believe the introduction of licensing has not had the dramatic effect we all hoped for,” says Suttheimer. “Councils in general are not taking action against the “rogue” traders.”

While conscious of the UK market dominance of perc – “There is a general attitude that nothing cleans like perc” – he expects demand from customers for support, help and advice in all areas will grow.

Wetcleaning started off badly in the UK in the 1990s and has really never recovered, he says. “However, I believe there is still a huge potential for growth in this area. We need to overcome the reluctance to become involved because of past experiences where the concept was oversold.

Hydrocarbon solvents have not grown to the extent expected due to many factors, not least the negative publicity it has attracted and the competition from GreenEarth.”

Environmental protection agencies are looking for a reduction in the use of phosphates. “As these phosphate-free laundry products are readily available from Büfa, it could become a niche market for us,” Suttheimer adds.

Small laundries and drycleaners offering a shirt cleaning service will benefit from Ozerna Extra, a highly active, phosphate-free multi-purpose detergent with enzymes and bleaching activator. It is ideally used to wash light and white shirts without pre-treatment on collars or sleeves.

Flexible solutions

Developments in machines means perc is safe to use and still cleans and removes stains better than alternative solvents, according to Richard Cole, MD at Cole & Wilson. “We try to work with our customers to supply products that will provide the desired results. This is done by providing flexible solutions to drycleaners, for example by being able to add laundry-fresh perfume or retexturing additives to our detergents if requested.”

“There are detergents to suit all solvents,” adds Cole. As perc continues to be the number one solvent in use, so the detergents and finishing agents are highly developed resulting in good cleaning and finishing for the end customer.

“Solvents such as hydrocarbon or siloxane solvents have lower solvency power and also have half the density of perc meaning less mechanical action, and hence they are safer on some more delicate items.”

He says cleaners should bear in mind that there are increased process times and temperatures for drying with hydrocarbon and siloxane solvents and this must be assessed so that care labelling is adhered to.

The company produces Sultrasoft HC2, a detergent for perc with antistatic and retexturing agents, GE detergent for cleaning in siloxane and Sultrasoft HC for use in hydrocarbon cleaning. “We always recommend the Sultrasoft HC2/HC as they are concentrated and contain only active ingredients, allowing lower dosages compared with alternative products.”

Dosage rates should be checked regularly to ensure the recommended amount is entering the machine – around 2ml per litre of solvent. The Hydracol series has been especially developed for aqueous cleaning, as well as its proven cleaning power they include protective colloids to minimise shrinkage and fibre damage for use in aqueous cleaning.

“One of the great strengths is the back up and technical training that we can offer,” says Cole. “This can be general training on stain removal and machine safety audits through to specific questions on any aspect of drycleaning. We can back this up with stain removal charts, for example, that advise on the whole process of stain removal.”

The company also supplies a full range of basic chemicals for spotting, including ammonia, acetic acid, amyl acetate and hydrogen peroxide. These are supplied at ready-to-use strengths for effective stain removal. “It is always worth discussing any extra services that a cleaner may want to offer the customer,” adds Cole.

Products such as smoke soap and reodouriser are very effective at removing smoke odours as well as many others such as pet smells.

Smoke Wash is a highly effective odour remover for use in washing machines. Another product, Wiltard, gives a flame retardant finish for curtains. “This is useful to have in stock as many buildings such as nursing homes or schools are often required to have flame retardant materials.”

Other products include Spray Proof, a stain and water repellent addition for perc and hydrocarbon machines, and Coltex, a water-based water and stain guard that can be added or sprayed to provide fibres with a waterproof coating.

According to Alex Reid’s Peter Munden, the popularity of wash and wear garments, and rising business costs, including rent and rate increases, have all taken their toll of the UK drycleaning sector in recent years.

“However drycleaners are resilient and are constantly seeking ways to increase business,” he adds.

Alex Reid has been involved with chemical stockholding and distribution for more than forty years from its two distribution depots in Croydon and Leicester. It is the UK distributor for Kreussler, one of the market-leading developers and designers of advanced, ecologically-friendly, washing and cleaning detergents and chemicals for use with perc, hydrocarbon and GreenEarth. The Kreussler range also includes brushing agents, special spotting agents and post-spotting agents.

“With many drycleaning machines reaching the end of their serviceable life, a decision has to be made as to what machine and what solvent a drycleaner should go with for the future,” says Munden. “Perc is still readily available and going strong, however some customers have made the decision this time to change and go with GreenEarth or hydrocarbon.”

Kreussler’s Clip Comfort is available for use in both perc and hydrocarbon machines. Described as a multi-functional detergent that is non- corrosive to the machines, Kreussler’s Clip Comfort, with its odour-absorbing capacity, does away with one of the main disadvantages of textile care in solvents: the typical drycleaning smell. A combination of anionic and non-ionic surfactants and disinfectants, its formulation allows it to also absorb strong smells.

Clip Combi is a concentrated drycleaning detergent with antistatic properties, and is also suitable for use in both perc and hydrocarbon machines. Clip Conc Asept is a highly concentrated detergent; a mix of non ionic and cationic surfactants with microbiocides, it gives good cleaning results, disinfects garments and ensures the solvent is maintained in a good condition by inhibiting any bacterial growth and helping to keep the water and air phases of the machine free of contamination.

Kreussler produces a range of products that can be used with the GreenEarth cyclosiloxane solvents. These consist of a drycleaning detergent, prebrushing agent, and spotting agents. They are Clip CSL,

a drycleaning detergent with antistatic properties; Prenett CS for prebrushing; and the Prenett A-B-C CS prespotting kit range. The range is approved by GreenEarth Cleaning.

In addition to the Prenett A-B-C pre-spotting kit range mentioned, Kreussler produces the Deprit post-spotting agents. These are used to treat stains that cannot be removed during basic cleaning.

Brushing agents are Prenett Max, for drycleaning normal textiles; Prenett Pur, for drycleaning delicates; and Lanadol Avant, for wetcleaning all textiles.

“The demand for wet cleaning is growing and is a sure way of making extra profit,” says Munden at Alex Reid. “The majority of the UK’s drycleaning units now offer a laundry service of one type or another. For some it is just washing a few shirts in a domestic washing machine, others have industrial washers and dryers and tackle all forms of domestic washing. Duvet cleaning can be particularly profitable especially if duvets are washed, packed and priced correctly.”

Seitz of Germany has established a solid reputation for its production of modern, highly effective products for professional laundry and textile care in solvents as well as consulting, installation and maintenance of dosing facilities for powder and fluid detergents.

Its drycleaning range is distributed in the UK by two companies, Permac Technical Services of Hayes in Middlesex, and P Copping of Basildon, Essex (the latter also supplies the range of drycleaning spotters from USA-based manufacturer R R Streets).

The Seitz range includes pre-brushing agents; pre- and post-spotting agents; drycleaning activators and detergent concentrates; finishing agents; and water-repellent finishes.

The OdoSorb-system was developed by Seitz to neutralise and eliminate unpleasant odours in laundry and textile care. Its Preclin OdoSorb is a special drycleaning activator with integrated odour-neutraliser for use with both perc and hydrocarbon solvent.

Preclin OdoSorb gives excellent results on water-soluble stains and pigment soilings without the addition of water, says Seitz. Numerous stains can be removed, so reducing work in pre- and post-spotting, while its low water content eliminates the risk of greying, colour loss and shrinkage.

The combination of high-grade anionic and non-ionic surfactants in Preclin OdoSorb means it can be used with cationic drycleaning detergents from Seitz.

Ultraclin OdoSorb is the partner product for highly effective results in drycleaning machines. It is a concentrated drycleaning detergent with a super-active odour-absorber that binds the molecules that cause the odour and reliably rinses them.

Seitz’s Novaclin Perfekt is a detergent concentrate with marked anistatic and retexturing properties. It is has been developed exclusively for use in closed-circuit perc drycleaning machines.

Earth Clean GE is a prespotting agent and drycleaning detergent for use with silicon solvents such as GreenEarth. Tested and approved by GreenEarth and recommended for drycleaning in GreenEarth systems, Earth Clean GE is based on biodegradable raw materials and contains a special grease-solubiliser consisting of vegetable oils.

Apart from active detergents, Earth Clean GE contains bactericide substances as well as antistatic additives. The detergent can be used undiluted or diluted with silicon solvent at a 1:1 ratio for prespotting especially tenacious stains.