This year’s Clean Show revealed an unprecedented display of solvents and alternative cleaning methods.

Such exhibits reflected the mood in the US market, where perc seems to be gradually falling into disfavour with authorities. The state of California has already imposed a phase-out and others have made similar proposals. Restrictions imposed by landlords put further pressure on cleaners to seek alternatives.

In other markets including Europe, there is less pressure to make a switch but alternative methods are gradually gaining supporters.

However, a changeover means investment. With the current economic uncertainties, cleaners that want to try a different method need to be sure they have made the right choice for their business. Research is needed.

Those behind the solvent developments offer help in various forms. Kreussler is particularly active in educating prospective customers about the benefits of its K4 system, which is said to have a cleaning power similar to that of perc but is more eco-friendly and said to be gentler on fabrics. Rynex is gradually establishing its European operation to promote the 3E formulation, which also claims a similar cleaning power to perc whilst also being 100% biodegradable, virtually non-toxic and non-flammable.

Cinet, the European textile care organisation, has just produced a benchmark report on solvent development, which adds further to the bank of information that drycleaners can consult. Given the wide choice of solvent and cleaning methods, the report is timely.

It is based on the Solvetex project, carried out by the Netherlands organisation Netex, and compares the established methods of perc and hydrocarbon with wetcleaning and the more recent alternative solvents.

Tests were carried out in “real life” conditions, during working hours at drycleaning businesses and looked not just at cleaning ability and stain removal but also at the likelihood of problems such as pilling, shrinkage and greying.

In general terms the results were favourable. While acknowledging perc’s continued popularity, even in North America, the report stresses the importance of developing more sustainable alternatives to ensure that the drycleaning industry itself can continue, whatever pressures the regulators and the environmental lobbies may impose.

Drycleaners have a fairly free choice as to how to operate and – within certain limitations – can continue with the traditional methods if they wish. That may not always be the case, however.

It is essential that research into drycleaning technology continues and wise drycleaners will want to keep informed, even if they are not ready to change just yet.

LCNi will be returning to the subject in the November issue.

Janet Taylor –