The Guild of Cleaners and Launderers (GCL) has turned its mind to averting problems when we eventually shrug off Covid-19 and head back to work.

For cleaners who have decided to close on 20 March and sit it out there is a potential problem waiting to frustrate some who may not have foreseen that starting up equipment that has not been in regular use for a long time, may be far from straightforward.

The vast majority of machines and mechanical equipment needs to be operated on a regular basis if it is to work reliably. For example, if a car is left standing for three months the chances are it will not start and this is very much the case with cleaning equipment.  Problems can be many and varied, ranging from blocked pump out systems, leaking pumps, seized pneumatic valves, and peristaltic feeds, stuck steam traps and blocked boiler blow downs to name but a few. There is also the possibility of bad odours in drycleaning machines due to bacterial growth, although this is most unlikely to be an issue with perchloroethylene machines.

The best advice is to start up the system, say, once a week and operate the machine on one normal cycle and allow distillation to be completed before closing down the machine. Operate all the valves on finishing equipment including presses and ironing tables and run a cycle on garment formers and cabinet finishers; finally shut down and blow down the boiler,  allow it to drain completely and do not refill then turn off the water supply. it is appreciated that this is a costly time -consuming option that many cleaners and launderers will be reluctant to adopt.

For those who decide not to adopt weekly maintenance, to avoid corrosion it is particularly important to drain the boiler completely.  Also turn off the water supply to the machine to avoid the risk of water accumulating in the machine due to the development of perforations in the cooling system. If production equipment has not been operated for more than six weeks, contact your engineer or equipment supplier for advice before you recommence production.

The above suggestions are not exhaustive and are intended to give the cleaner/launderer some ideas on how to deal with a long period of inactivity and the difficulties that might have to be faced following a prolonged shut down.

For further advice, or if you need to find an engineer, visit the Society of Laundry Engineers & Allied Traders (SLEAT) at or email secretary David Hart on