The textile care industry in its modern form was also born in the last century. At the beginning of the 20th century the majority of textile care was still using water as the cleaning medium and more skills and expertise in the pre-treatment of stains and also in the finishing and ironing process than anyone of we modern textile cleaners are ever likely to possess.

Textile cleaning did use spirits as a cleaning medium back in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century and was carried out using big open vats of highly flammable spirit and very little thought given to safety. But spirits were not affordable to many and water was still the most used solvent.

As the century progressed mechanisation crept in with hand cranked equipment, followed by large steam driven/belt driven plant and equipment, often part of dyeing houses because the stand alone cleaning businesses was still some way off.

As the equipment started to evolve and become more modular, smaller, and with the ability to be used in standalone premises, this was when textile cleaning plants started to exist in their own right and no longer part of a dye house. The decrease in equipment size led to an increase in drycleaning businesses on high streets.

With the help of industrial giants like DOW Chemical in the USA and ICI in the UK, perchloroethylene solvent became readily accessible and deliveries would be made by road tankers to drycleaners, with the product being pumped into storage tanks at the premises.As the solvent became deliverable in storage containers and drums, the solvent delivery tanker became a thing of the past.

And now we come back to the present. Perchloroethylene, which has, long been the favourite and most common cleaning solvent, is now becoming the victim of ever toughening rules and regulations as to its use and the widening availability and development of alternative cleaning mediums such as professional wetcleaning, and other ‘greener’ solvents.

So what will the next 25 years look like? We not only have a very large number of what is likely to be a permanent home workforce but also the Government has announced that new petrol and diesel vehicle sales will be banned from 2030.

The production of petroleum-derived Perc solvent must therefore also be likely to stop as demand for petrol reduces. The good of the planet must, of course, be the prime consideration and we are told that electric powered vehicles are the way forward, but will sufficient electricity be generated to be able to charge up all the millions of vehicles on the road? Let alone also be there to keep the lights on and equipment working in shops and businesses like ours, because alternative “greener” professional cleaning still requires electricity.

Coal generated power stations are gone. Nuclear power stations do not exist in anything like enough numbers to cope and they quite naturally bring a very real concern to people anyway. What about Wind Farms and renewable energy supplies? It is a great achievement that in 2020 40.3% of electricity supply in the United Kingdom was by renewable energy sources. But delve more deeply and in fact that only equates to around just 6% of energy usage which in my calculations is 94% short of where it needed to be prior to a hugely increasing demand for 50 million plus new electric vehicles recharging.

As someone who lives in the real world and is not chauffeured about in a ministerial limousine, there is another issue that I foresee. Go to any industrial estate with the type of facility that is just affordable to a textile cleaning business in a city such as London and watch as companies own vehicles compete to get parked even remotely near their factory unit. Just how are they going to plug into a charging unit so that they can complete their rounds? And what happens when they need to recharge because they have been stuck in traffic on a cold wet winters day and the windscreen de-mister and wipers have been going? If they find an electric quick charge fuel station en route, do they still have to wait there for an hour so that they can travel another few miles?

Maybe those with foresight will go out now and source washboards, tubs, mangles and a horse and cart to be ahead of the competition by being equipped with the best that the 19th Century can bring?