LAS VEGAS, Nev.— A packed house attended yesterday's panel discussion at Clean '07, "Solvent Options," to hear actual users discuss their experiences with perc and several alternative solvents — as well as another surprising announcement from the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI), formerly known as IFI.
"In light of the regulatory/political issues and media scrutiny of perc," Bill Fisher read from the association's new Review & Evaluation of Industry Solvents, DLI "believes that a member considering an investment in a new drycleaning system would be best advised to first consider alternative solvents."
The paper notes DLI's belief that most operations use perc responsibly today, and that it is a safe and highly effective method for cleaning clothes. Realities of regulation, contamination liability and media scrutiny, however, led the association to issue the case-by-case review of all available solvents.
"We looked at the solvents' limitations and the industry's need for guidance," Fisher said. "The intent is to provide the most critical information members need."
In the discussion, panelists discussed their experiences with perc, high-flashpoint hydrocarbons, liquid carbon dioxide, GreenEarth, wetcleaning and DrySolv.
Chris Edwards, operator of A Cleaner World in High Point, N.C., said he has experimented with GreenEarth and DF-2000, but his plant continues to use perc because "it is the best overall solvent we have found for cleaning clothes.
Representing hydrocarbons, Gary Dawson, operator of Belleair Bluffs Cleaners in Belleair Bluffs, Fla., reported longer run times but few additional issues. He also made no changes to his market positioning after switching from perc.
"I'm a drycleaner and I'm out to do a quality job no matter what solvent I use, and do it responsibly," he told the crowd. "Whether I use a given solvent or not, I'm giving you good, clean clothes."
Longtime liquid carbon dioxide user Tom Ustanik, operator of Lansing Cleaners in Lansing, Ill., noted the solvent's gentleness and that the dedicated machine's useful life can help offset its high initial cost. The solvent is best for operations doing a minimum of 1,800 lbs. per week, he said.
GreenEarth user Fran Sadler, of Medlin Davis Cleaners in Raleigh, N.C., picked the silicon solvent for its environmentally responsible positioning and is happy with its performance — particularly on trims. "GreenEarth has changed the way I clean," she says. "The embellishments I used to worry about are no longer a problem."
Joe Iannarelli, operator of Fi-Del Inc. in Bridgeville, Pa., uses the new n-propyl bromide solvent, DrySolv. He reported making only minor changes to his perc machine to use it, and comparable results. "It isn't a specialty solvent, and it isn't a 'cute' solvent," he said. "It's a workhorse solvent."
However, Fisher and others in the crowd stated concerns about n-propyl bromide. The chemical is reportedly prone to hydrolysis — meaning it can form corrosive acids when it comes into prolonged contact with free water. The solvent may also be considered a volatile organic compound (VOC) under certain state regulations, the DLI report says.
Finally, Tom Janik, owner of three operations based in Naples, Fla., New York City and Princeton, N.J., spoke about his experiences with wetcleaning as the "common thread" in his plants — which also use five other solvents.
Janik said an attempt to turn his high-volume operation into a 100% wetcleaning plant was a "departure" that might have been a viable in a smaller operation. It was a big bonus in marketing his business, though. "There are a lot of tree-huggers in Princeton," he said. "The solvent-free buzz is huge. I see a huge wave there."