Reputed to be the largest specialist cleaner of hotel, theatre and public building curtains in Europe, Donau Express Services has to make sure drycleaning processing is absolutely right with a wide range of fabrics—sometimes drapes are supplied in huge quantities by customers.

When it came to replacing some ageing drycleaning equipment, new machinery had to be chosen that would meet all Donau’s specialised cleaning criteria and that would be installed quickly and efficiently.

The company opted for a Firbimatic 1375 modular perc drycleaning machine which was installed by CPT, Firbimatic’s exclusive UK distributor. Donau had recognised that the efficiency of its old perc drycleaning machines was far exceeded by models produced today.

The Firbimatic machine, with a capacity of 75 kg, has replaced two long-serving machines, one of which took 70kg batches, the other 45kg batches. The old machines were expensive to run and doubt was being cast on how long they would be able to meet health and safety regulations.

Barrie Kincaid, Donau’s chairman, visited Firbimatic’s factory in Bologna, Italy, late last summer and says the trip reinforced his high regard of Italian engineering. He says he was impressed not only with the attention given to engineering standards and detail at the Firbimatic plant, but also with the way in which CPT arranged and conducted the installation.

“The changeover was first class,” comments Mr Kincaid. “As we run almost a 24-hour turnround service, it was absolutely vital that the old machines were taken out quickly and the new equipment installed immediately. At 1.30 pm on the installation day test runs with the Firbimatic machine were beginning.”

A second 75kg capacity cleaning module can be later added to the equipment, and this module, and the existing cleaning module, would share the use of the purpose-built double capacity distillation and filtration module.

Distillation is constant, with the main still able to continually operate at optimum performance as residues are pumped to the secondary still—the “sludge cooker”. The cleaning module features inverter/DC drive to provide completely variable wash and spin speeds. The type of drive enhances control over all in-drum handling of Donau’s classifications.

A soft start to the extract phase of the processing cycle is achieved. If a snatching action occurred at this point, work would tend to compress with resulting drum imbalance a possibility.

Operating without energy peaks, the inverter drive can mean that a reduced price for electricity is paid. Up to 20

programs can be assigned to the computer control. Particularly delicate fabrics can be gently but nevertheless thoroughly cleaned when a greatly reduced mechanical action is employed.


With the most delicate program, drum rotation is for four seconds followed by a pause of 16 seconds. In general processing, thorough cleaning is achieved with drum rotation of 16 seconds and a pause time of 4 seconds.

A two-bath process is recommended for general work. Pre-wash solvent is drained to the still, and the main wash solvent directed to the filtration system.

Typically, pre-wash time is three minutes followed by a short spin before the main wash of eight minutes during which the solvent is circulated through the filter system. As no static dip is used, first rate cleaning performance is ensured with avoidance of redeposition.

An in-line cooler means that processing is always conducted with a low perc temperature. Soap dosing is usually via the fully automatic supply system, but special additives may be manually dosed if required.

A final spin precedes the drying phase of the processing cycle. Drying is automatically controlled with digital thermostats regulating hot air in to the drum as well as hot air out. Importantly, fibres are not overdryed which means that curtains are taken from the drum at the end of the cycle with a natural moisture level that facilitates straightforward finishing.

Complete control over temperature throughout the processing cycle means that curtain and lining shrinkage is avoided and the colour retention is optimised. The self-cleaning button trap is an excellent feature for the Donau operation—heavy drapes are prone to generate considerable amounts of lint. As button trap cleanliness is constantly maintained, no reduction of flow in the solvent circuit occurs.