I took an interesting call the other day. Mr Savva, a drycleaner based in the north Kent town of Margate, has developed a “freezing cabinet” that kills bugs on sheets and other textiles. He explained that he originally designed the system, which he calls “PolarFreeze”, to alleviate the suffering of his asthmatic child.

Having witnessed the beneficial effects of freezing his child’s bedding, following his doctor’s advice, Mr Savva then began pondering whether it was possible to exploit the phenomenon at his drycleaning business.

From his 20 years in the drycleaning and laundry industries he knew that it was impossible to clean bedding material, including divans and mattresses, at a high enough temperature to kill all asthma-causing mites and bugs. Freezing, on the other hand, could offer an effective complementary process.

It was Mr Savva’s interest in modern history that provided the inspiration for the PolarFreeze system. He knew that the German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun (1912 to 1977) had developed a method of freezing materials to very low temperatures during work on the V-2 ballistic missile for the Nazis during the Second World War. (The V-2 rocket was the immediate predecessor of those used in space exploration programmes in the USA and the Soviet Union.) For the technically minded, Von Braun’s method is capable of freezing items down to -152C without using cryogens (freezing mixtures) like liquid nitrogen or liquid helium. It achieves freezing without damaging articles by producing atmospheric conditions within a closed chamber.

Six years ago Mr Savva started freezing duvets and pillows at his drycleaning shop in Margate. Today business has grown to around 400 items a year. Mr Savva says that 80% of his customers reuse the service within 18 months and none has ever complained.

Now he is collaborating with Jon Bullard and David Bevan, who have pharmaceutical and medical backgrounds, in order to further develop the technology. They have turned their attention to hospital linen and the problems of cross-contamination and hospital-acquired infections. Initial results from a scientific research association have shown that 100% mortality can be achieved after as little as two hours for house dust mites, flea larvae, flea pupae and bed bugs.

Jon Bullard says: “PolarFreeze is fast acting, effective, uses no pesticides or other harmful chemicals and is cheap to run.” As I have said in previous comments, the textile care industry cannot afford to stand still. It thrives on ideas and those who strike out on new routes. Other industries, such as vacuum cleaners, have successfully opened up fresh market sectors by designing specialist products for allergy sufferers.

So this idea deserves consideration. If you’re interested in finding out more, contact Jon Bullard on 07970 010865.

   Glenn Tomkins (gtomkins@wilmington.co.uk)