CHICAGO — Asked what solvent system or systems they use to clean clothing, only about half (50.5%) of drycleaners report that they now use perchloroethylene, according to the most recent Wire survey, marking a major shift in solvent usage.
One-third (33.3%) use a high-flashpoint hydrocarbon system, and another 14.1% use a low-flash petroleum solvent. GreenEarth’s D5 silicon solvent is the next-most-popular, with 11.1% of current users. Liquid CO2, DrySolv and the GreenJet surfactant system each garnered 2.0% of users, and Solvair took 1.0%. No operators reported using Rynex’ glycol ether system.
“We’ve found it necessary to have the means to clean anything, which is why we have four options,” one respondent running perc, hydrocarbon, GreenJet and wetcleaning systems simultaneously says. “Obviously, personal knowledge must go along with the right equipment.”
What’s more, respondents are shifting further away from the industry’s longtime favorite. Asked what solvent they expect to run in the next drycleaning machine they buy, high-flashpoint hydrocarbons came in first, with 27.6% of planned purchases. Some 16.3% of operators say they will stick with perc; 14.3% will turn to GreenEarth; and 11.2% will buy a Solvair system.
Fewer operators say they plan to go with a low-flash petroleum (5.1%), liquid CO2 (4.1%), or Drysolv’s n-Propyl Bromide (4.1%). A significant number of respondents say they do not plan to buy another machine (13.3%), and 2.0% aren’t sure which will be their next.
“I would love to purchase another machine, but my options do not thrill me,” one respondent says. “If someone could find a ‘green,’ yet affordable option, I would jump. Until then, I’ll fix my perc machine.”
Operators are also making wetcleaning an important complement to any solvent system. Survey participants overall process an average 27.8% of order volume using professional wetcleaning techniques, with 16.3% processing more than 50% of garments in water, and 3.2% at or approaching 100%. There’s still room for growth, however: 29.3% of operators process 10% of their work or less in water.
“We’ll use both processes,” says an operator who processes about 30% of orders in water and the rest in GreenEarth. “Wetcleaning is proving to be very effective as well as safe.”
Perc still has plenty of fans, of course, for its efficacy in cleaning clothing. “Perc is the most investigated and regulated solvent in history,” one operator says. “Now that we know all about how to handle it safely, people think we should get rid of it and switch to a solvent that we know very little about and provides inferior cleaning results. What a mistake that would be.”
While the American Drycleaner Wire survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific.
Subscribers to American Drycleaner’s Wire e-mails — distributed weekly — are invited to participate in an industry survey each month. The survey is conducted online via a partner website. Each survey is developed so it can be completed in 10 minutes or less. Readers are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and industry trends.
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