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Commercial laundry

A world without commercial laundry (or professional textile care) would be a grimy one. A wine stain would be the death sentence for your favorite shirt, your hotel bed would smell vaguely of the previous guest and hospitals would be plagued with contaminations.

Those who work in commercial laundry are therefore literally lifesavers. They keep clothing fresh, beds pleasant and clean and workwear hygienic. Are you interested in starting a career in commercial laundry? This article will provide you with an overview of the different commercial laundry services. You will learn what knowledge is required and how you can acquire it. Commercial laundry is generally divided into two different sectors, Retail Textile Cleaning and Industrial Textile Services.


Retail Textile Cleaning

Retail Textile Cleaning includes small-scale commercial laundry, such as dry- and wet-cleaning services for consumers, such as laundromats and drycleaners. Tailoring is also part of this category. It also encompasses laundry done in the hospitality industry.

Are you interested in starting a business in the retail textile cleaning field of commercial laundry or would you like to improve your own or employees’ knowledge? CINET provides several e-learning courses on everything you need to know.


Business models of Retail Textile Cleaning

Within this industry there are several business molds:

  • Warm shops

At warm shops the entire cleaning processes takes place. They offer a high level of service to the individual customer. Warm shops clean and press/iron the garments.

  • Depots

A depot is a drop-off point for the consumer’s laundry. The laundry of various depots will be cleaned at a central location. The depots are mostly located at popular locations.

  • Cold and finishing shops

Cold shops look similar to depots. The difference is that cold shops independently occupy a shop.

  • Launderettes

A launderette is an establishment where it is possible to make use of washing machines and dryers. The last years launderettes are extremely popular and offer extra facilities like coffee corners and free internet.

  • Regional companies

Regional companies clean and return all the garments which are collected at depots or cold and finishing shops. These regional companies are mostly located in an industrial area.

  • Retail laundry

Retail laundry Is probably the most known service to the public. Retail laundry includes laundry to do as a service while using industrial methods. Mostly it concerns launderettes where you can drop and pick up clothes while they will wash it for you.

  • Combined company

As the name suggests, a combined company offers textile cleaning for both consumers as business customers.


Industrial Textile Cleaning Services

Industrial Textile Cleaning is the larger scale type of commercial laundry. This includes washing for hospitals or other work wear.

This requires different expertise than Retail Textile Cleaning. For example, the processes are more streamlined and large-scale and sorting is much more important. Large machines are used, so training and proper knowledge is imperative in order to ensure safety. CINET e-learning courses teach you everything there is to know about this.

Finally, these large commercial laundry operations require good management. A manager in this field should be able to navigate environmental legislation, keep tabs on quality control and hygiene. He or she also ensures that the processes are running smoothly and safety procedures are being adhered to.

The end user markets can be divided into four main segments:

  • Industrial work wear
  • Health care (linen and uniforms for hospitals, elderly homes etc.)
  • Hospitality (linen from hotels, restaurants etc.)
  • Others (mats, dust control, wash room services)

The textiles are processed in an industrial way, using large scale automated equipment. The textiles processed are in general cotton, PET or blends thereof. These textiles are suited for the industrial laundry processes. The laundries are often located in industrial areas with good transportation facilities. They serve a large area and therefore logistics is an important aspect of textile service.

Commercial laundry business school

Commercial laundry is generally divided into two different sectors, Retail Textile Cleaning and Industrial Textile Services. It is important to consider that these sectors are different. Are you interested in retail textile cleaning or industrial textile services? CINET offers many e-learning tools and products.

Retail laundry is probably the most known service to the public. Retail laundry includes laundry to do as a service while using industrial methods. Mostly it concerns launderettes where you can drop and pick up clothes while they will wash it for you.

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The History of Textile Cleaning

During the Roman Empire the highly developed trade of “fullers”, professional cleaners of garments, was known. Lye and ammonia were used in early laundering. It was combined with a type of clay known as fuller’s earth, used to absorb soils and grease from garments too delicate for laundering.

There are many stories about the origin of the modern dry cleaning, all centering on an accidental discovery when a petroleum-type fluid was accidentally spilled on a greasy fabric. It quickly evaporated and the stains were miraculously removed. Around 1700 the first references for the use of an organic solvent (spirits of turpentine) to spot clean fat and oil stains on clothing are reported. The reduction in price of turpentine, begin 19th century, resulted in the rise of the dry cleaning industry.

The start of drycleaning
In 1800, after the French revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Josephine introduced a new hygiene ideal, causing new potential for textile care. Not only personal hygiene became more important, also the hygiene of the garment was considered important. This new hygiene ideal resulted in a demand for textile cleaning. Also fashion was important these days and luxury textiles and fabrics resulted in a demand for dry cleaning processes. These developments in 1840 caused the opening of the firm Jolly-Belin in Paris. This firm is credited as the first dry cleaning firm, using turpentine as a dry cleaning solvent. The use of turpentine as commercial dry cleaning solvent quickly spread throughout Europe. The new dry cleaning process became known as “French Cleaning”. Clothing was cleaned in tubs of solvent and then hung in a warm room to dry. Soon the first power machines for dry cleaning were introduced.

Learn more: The World of PTC Book Series

The first drycleaning solvents
In the late 19th century turpentine spirits, camphor oil, benzene, naphtha, kerosene and white gasoline were used as dry cleaning solvents. Due to the flammability of these solvents many accidents happened. To reduce the hazard William Joseph Stoddard, a dry cleaner from Atlanta, and Lloyd E. Jackson of the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research developed the slightly less flammable Stoddard solvent in 1924.During the 1920’s also other new non-flammable solvents entered the dry cleaning market, together with new equipment including the first solvent recycling systems.

First laws and regulations
The flammability and hazards of the used solvents resulted in the first laws and regulations for the textile cleaning industry. In March, 1928 the U.S. Department of Commerce required a minimum flash point of 100°F for petroleum dry cleaning solvents. Dry cleaners now started to use Stoddard solvent. During this period also the chlorinated solvents gained popularity, due to the fact that these solvents were less or non-flammable and had a good cleaning performance. The dry cleaning industry, exploring the advantages of the alternative solvents of these days, started to use chlorinated solvents with tetrachloromethane (carbon tetrachloride) as a first alternative. Around early 1930 trichloroethylene gained preferences as dry cleaning solvent but still some problems with corrosion and damage machine parts took place. Therefore Stoddard solvent was still used on a large scale in the textile cleaning industry. In 1934 tetrachloroethylene is introduced as a dry cleaning solvent in U.S. In the 1950’s the use of tetrachloromethane as a dry cleaning solvent is discontinued due to toxicity and corrosion problems with equipment. Tetrachloroethylene replaced carbon tetrachloride as the leading chlorinated solvent.

Decentralisation of the textile care industry
After the Second World War, in 1945, the equipment size is optimized and safer to fit in a small shop, resulting in dry cleaning shops in city centers and near populated areas. Decentralisation of the textile care industry towards the customers takes place. [1] Third generation dry cleaning machines (closed loop dry-to-dry machines) are developed in the 1970’s. Two new Chlorofluorocarbon solvents (1,1,2-trichloro-1,2,2-trifluoroethane, or Freon 113) are introduced in the 1960’s, but in September 1987 twenty-seven countries signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, after which chlorofluorocarbons are banned. These solvents were mainly replaced by hydrocarbon solvents.

New equipment to meet new regulations
In 1989 the 5th Generation of dry cleaning machines was launched. With these machines the solvent emission was reduced significantly. This equipment is designed to comply with the 2nd BImSchV (German Emision Directive) of 1990. In Germany these stricter regulations are in place since 1990 and in the Netherlands since 2001, with mandatory emission limits.

Clean Air Act and Solvent Emission Directive
In 1990 US Congress required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate PERC under the Clean Air Act. The EPA in 1991 proposed national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) to limit PERC emissions from dry cleaning facilities . In 1996 the NESHAP Requirements have its maximum impact. Requirements include drycleaning machinery maintenance, record keeping and monitoring [4]. In Europe the Solvents Emissions Directive 1999/13/ EC is established in 1999 as the main policy instrument for the reduction of industrial emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the European Union. Dry cleaning is especially covered in the directive. The VOC Solvents Emissions Directive requires installations in which such activities are applied to comply with the emission limit values set out in the Directive. In 2007 all existing (and new) installations must comply with the Solvent emission directive.

New solvents are developed
In 1994 Exxon Chemical begins marketing DF-2000™ a high flashpoint synthetic paraffin (petroleum) drycleaning solvent. Founded in 1995, Rynex Holdings, LTD developed the solvent marketed as Rynex™. In 1999 in the US, three dry cleaners founded GreenEarth Cleaning LLC to market GreenEarth® as a dry cleaning solvent. In 1999 the first commercial liquid carbon dioxide dry cleaning plant opens in Wilmington, North Carolina. Also in 1999 PureDry™ was first marketed as a dry cleaning solvent. In 2004 the Lyondell Chemical Company has introduced Impress™, dry cleaning solvent, as a new alternative. In 2001, soon after the introduction of the new solvents new equipment, either dedicated to the solvents or allowing multisolvent use, is introduced. In 2006 the hybride Solveair technology was launched. This technology uses a dual system of cleaning with Glycol Ether and extraction with liquid CO2. Enviro Tech International trademarked DrySolv™ (n-propyl bromide) was first used as a dry cleaning solvent in 2006. Solvon K4 (dibutoxymethane) is introduced as dry cleaning solvent by Kreussler in 2010 on the ExpoDetergo in Milan.

Learn more: The World of PTC Book Series

Historical Overview
The historical overview shows many developments and innovations throughout the years caused by safety concerns, environmental issues or quality improvements. The issuing of legislation and regulations in the mature markets the last decades resulted in the loss of up to 50% of the dry cleaning market. New developments and innovations of technical issues, work methodologies and service concepts will help to develop a durable industry that is able to processes safe and sustainable high quality products.