Taking the cleaning process to the next level7 July 2016
Professional wetcleaning is perhaps the most accessible of the alternatives to drycleaning because the equipment used is affordable to small businesses. Tony Vince examines current market developments
Professional wetcleaning continues to grow as a popular service offered by clothes cleaners, and as an environmentally acceptable substitute to the use of drycleaning chemicals.
The process offers a proven solution for laundering "dry clean" only garments without the need for solvents and without the need for a specialist drycleaning machine.
Expertise and attention to detail have been the main contributing factors to National Dry Cleaners' long-term success.
Techniques and technologies of cleaning have changed immeasurably over more than 100 years and the company has always been a leader in adopting new solutions to keep pace with both changing fabrics and customer needs.
"Drycleaning is changing," says Adrian Redgate, director at National Dry Cleaners, "Wetcleaning is better for water based staining and although it requires pre-treatment, greater stain removal results can be achieved. It removes stains more quickly and is ideal for things like perspiration and drinks stains. It is also very good for delicate items with beads and trimmings, where it is much gentler. So, it complements our drycleaning service."
Established in 1897 and based in Nottingham, National Dry Cleaners has an established reputation for high quality cleaning and outstanding customer service. Led today by Adrian Redgate, the great grandson of founder Henry Redgate, it remains a family business. The company has an excellent working relationship with some of Nottingham's top fashion and bridal brands as well as retail outlets. Leading fashion guru Paul Smith is among National Dry Cleaner's well-known customers.
National Dry Cleaners recently purchased a Wet Cleaning Ready Girbau HS-6017 Inteli washer. It uses this machine for wetcleaning and laundry work along with suede and leather cleaning, to provide maximum versatility and productivity. The firm also purchased a Girbau HS-6023 washer, which it uses for flatwork like sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers, as well as for the added convenience for duvet washing.
"We chose Girbau for the high build quality and reliability of their machines, combined with the very good price. The controllability, especially of the Inteli machine was also a factor. They are easy to programme and making adjustments is easy too. We've developed a number of variations of the wetclean programs for the different materials we process."
National Dry Cleaners also has the steam-heated version of the Girbau Pro Series II dryer GU050 with the moisture control settings for drying of wetcleaned items. "We've found this to be a very good dryer, and very controllable. The different humidity settings are ideal for different fabrics and help us to prevent overdrying and shrinkage," says Redgate.
Girbau HS 6 Series washers and ED Series dryers have been wetcleaning ready for some time, but earlier this year Girbau UK launched its complete Wet Cleaning System.
The Girbau wetcleaning system includes all the equipment a laundry or high street cleaner needs to start a wetcleaning service including washers, dryers and finishing equipment as well as the required detergents.
According to Girbau, the use of chemical solvents such as perc for cleaning is being outlawed in an increasing number of jurisdictions including Germany and France in the EU. In the UK, drycleaners already have to apply for a licence for using the solvent and keep accurate records that account for safe disposal.
These factors, together with an increasing desire to offer customers more environmentally sensitive options, are increasing the appeal of wetcleaning, particularly to new start-ups.
Joanne Cull joined the Girbau UK team as wetcleaning sales manager over a year ago with an in-depth experience of the wetcleaning market in the UK. She has played a leading role working with the company's technical and business support team in developing the company's complete wetcleaning system.
Girbau's HS-6013, HS-6017 and HS-6023 Inteli washers are ideal for wetcleaning, while its ED energy efficient dryers have been designed to dry delicate items safely, efficiently and cost-effectively. Both washers and dryers include a full range of wetcleaning and laundry programs, giving them the flexibility to be used for both general laundry and specialist wetcleaning and helping to ensure maximum productivity from all types of work, said Cull.
Wetcleaning finishing equipment available from Girbau UK now includes steam generators, a wide range of finishing tables, presses, garment formers and a trouser topper.
"We offer a complete support package to our wetcleaning customers that guides them through from an initial business plan and scheme design to long-term aftercare," says Cull. "If you are new to wetcleaning, we'll listen to your plans and guide you through what they need on a step-by-step basis. Having worked successfully with operators big and small across the world, Girbau can offer a depth of both business and wetcleaning specific advice including comprehensive training on all the equipment we install."
Girbau UK also offers a range of competitive finance packages to suit customer needs. These include equipment rental with no capital outlay and fixed monthly payments that include machine maintenance and servicing.
At Electrolux Professional, Michael Williams, regional segment manager points out that many people use professional textile cleaning services to clean their clothes every day. In the past, their top priorities may have been limited to speed and convenience, but these demands are evolving, he said.
"Now, there is a growing awareness among consumers of their impact on the environment, and this has led to the expectation of the same fast, effective cleaning results, but through more sustainable means," said Williams. "Many high street cleaning business are looking for a replacement to harsh, solvent-based cleaning systems, and manufacturers are responding with rapidly advancing water-based cleaning processes."
He said that the latest, and best, of these operate with the effectiveness and simplicity of traditional techniques, but in a way that is kinder, both to the environment and to garments.
"Electrolux's lagoon Advanced Care system aims to do just that," he said. "Building on our previous lagoon solution, the new system taps into the potential of water-based garment care to ensure quality and productivity can be achieved in an eco-friendly way."
He said that as the first and only wetcleaning system to have been approved by the Woolmark company, the lagoon Advanced Care system makes the process of cleaning garments more sustainable, and taken wetcleaning to the next level - giving cleaning professionals a concrete option for business growth as the industry continues to evolve. "We see it as the perfect combination of specifically designed equipment and smart, tailored programmes. The result is a cycle of short, simple processes that help to take garments from dry to dry within one hour. What's more, garments are able to become touch dry in our dryers, meaning minimal finishing is required to achieve some really fantastic results - meaning high street cleaners can now even offer their customers express wetcleaning services.
Packages are tailored to give businesses complete flexibility: an Essential set available to complement existing drycleaning operations and an Absolute set ideal for replacing a 15kg drycleaning business.
When Amanda Barnes opened her specialist laundry in 2009 in Ivybridge in Devon, it was the first in the county to offer Electrolux Woolmark-approved lagoon wet cleaning system. So, when planning to expand the business with another environmentally friendly cleaning shop four years later, there was only one system to turn to.
"I could see the potential of wetcleaning, and our shop in Ivybridge became Devon's first specialist laundry to offer the lagoon system very soon afterwards," she said.
It wasn't long before the team was processing a high volume of items every day and Amanda Barnes set her sights on a sustainable cleaning shop in Totnes, Devon. Amanda added: "I'd always wanted to open an environmentally-friendly laundry, and Totnes was the perfect location. It's is renowned for having an environmentally-conscious outlook and a busy high street bursting with alternative, independent shops."
Redruth-based distributor Brewer & Bunney specified a full Lagoon system, including an 18kg W5180H washer, a 32lb T5350 tumble dryer, a steam-heated FFT-WC multi-form finisher, and a FIT1-WC handheld ironer and ironing table. The shop opened in October 2013 and Amanda said that the new shop has done extremely well. "We can process over one hundred items per day. People choose us over a traditional drycleaners because it's a much better for the environment and for their clothes. From a business perspective, it's great, because we can deal with any challenge presented to us. Whether it's an everyday suit, a wedding dress, a leather jacket, or a suede skirt; we can accept absolutely anything."
This year Miele Professional celebrates 25 years of the WetCare system. Miele Professional, together with Kreussler, pioneered the system, making great progress in improving gentle fabric care and finishing performance. Since then further advances in technology and chemicals have ensured that a large proportion of textiles can be washed using the WetCare system, dried and finished.
Miele's washing machines and tumble dryers with their patented honeycomb drum protect the garment fibres. Using biodegradable detergent, low water consumption and a gentle action, stains are removed easily and effectively whilst saving energy, preserving fabrics and leaving them smelling fresh.
The system has been developed further to eliminate hanging time after the drying cycle. Now the garments spend 25 minutes in the washing machine, 30 minutes drying, and can then go straight onto the finishing equipment, meaning garments can be effectively processed within an hour.
Moving forwards Miele have developed a national Partnership programme across the UK. Miele Professional Approved WetCare Partners offer pre sales advice to interested customers; install and commission machines; provide training; and after sales advice and support. They also offer a launch pack of marketing materials for sites taking on the system aimed at informing the customer about the WetCare process. This includes videos to explain how WetCare works which can be shown in-store, window stickers, customer leaflets and branding material for shops and vans.
Sew Perfect is a newly established wetcleaners in Sevenoaks, Kent. When starting his business, it was important to owner Richard Green that he invest in reliable, state of the art equipment. After researching the wetcleaning industry, Richard decided that the process was a far better choice than drycleaning. It would allow the team at Sew Perfect to clean suits, silk dresses, duvets, even leather and suede items without damaging the garments.
He visited wetcleaners Clean and Green in Epping who use the Miele Professional WetCare system and was extremely impressed with the results.
He consulted his Miele WetCare dealers GW Commercial, who advised him to invest in Miele Professional's 20kg washing machine (PW6207) and matching tumble dryer (PT8507).
"We've only been open a few weeks but our customers are already commenting on how nice the finish and smell is!" said Richard Green, adding that throughout the process, GW Commercial and Miele Professional provided the best service. "We were fully educated in the WetCare system and even experienced the process first hand, which confirmed our decision to invest."
Earlier this year Miele Professional teamed up with influential blogger, Poppy Dinsey, to help educate customers on the process of wetcleaning