Start gearing up now for the perfect finish17 March 2021
Dry- and wetcleaning results ultimately stand or fall on the quality of the finishing. Kathy Bowry looks at what is around for today’s stringent demands
Drawing on the words of well-known industry expert, Bryan Pearce, taking an international view on the pandemic and lockdowns last year (albeit in China and Nigeria specifically), his thoughts then are relevant globally today as we start the third month of 2021. It is a landmark one year since the effect of lockdowns on the drycleaning industry first began to be realised.
He said then: “I anticipate that, like the UK, there will be a significant number of independent drycleaners that will be forced to close as a result of the pandemic. Existing drycleaners will need to improve on their standards of service and quality in order to attract high end customers. Designer garments will continue to require drycleaning but only to the highest standard, and customers may also demand a higher level of competence by the cleaner and may also be prepared to pay more for that level of skill.”
Pearce added: “How many drycleaners to be lost may well depend on how long the drop in turnover remains. The groups will struggle at first but will survive given the resources they have. Naturally, the loss of substantial numbers of independent cleaners will also have a knock-on effect on the suppliers and the trade associations linked to our industry.”
Bearing Pearce’s comments in mind, and taking into account recent conversations the author has had with other dry- and wetcleaning luminaries, if you want to survive this pandemic as a functioning business, your skills have to be top notch – and your finish has to be perfect.
Marco Niccolini of Renzacci has sound advice to offer, too, and he takes a wide view, saying it is imperative to get the right equipment and accessories for a perfect finish – and that this starts from the beginning of the process. He believes that after natural solvents appeared on the scene there was a split in businesses between drycleaning and wetcleaning. “I fight this. Perc is a different story to the new wtcleaning solvents which are being pushed as being bio-degradable. This is a good dialogue for suppliers making these natural solvents and wetcleaning machines. However, wetcleaning cannot clean 100% of garments - it is a misrepresentation that has been out there since 1999 when wetcleaning started to become popular.”
He says that with reference to wetcleaining the correct professional wetcleaning and drycleaning technique is combining professional equipment and professional chemical products. Why is this so important?
Niccolini says a large minority of European businesses are using domestic washer extractors and going to the supermarket to buy domestic chemical products. “We are definite that wetcleaning must be professionally done. I note a minimum of 42 % make recourse to a domestic machine. The consequence is that the use of professional drycleaning and wetcleaning machines is necessary for a professional end result.
“For professional finishing the minimum equipment you will need is a professional ironing table, pro-steamer former and it is important, in addition, if you have a shirt service you will need to dedicate a corner of the the workroom to that. However, the situation in Europe is different in respect to shirts to that in the USA and South America markets. In Europe we don’t deal with as many shirts as they do in those countries. There is no sense spending many thousandes of Euros on shirt units if you don’t need them.”
Whether wetcleaning or drycleaning, Niccolini says definitively that no one technology satisfies all needs. “After Covid, drycleaning/laundry shops must additionally become providers of cleaning services PLUS. They must become experts relating to the wellness and health of their cusotmers.” He explains that Renzacci calculates cleaners should be able to cleanse in one way or another at least 45% of a typical wardrobe and says perhaps it is time to look at another form of cleaning, adding that post-Covid people are extremely receptive to guaranteed santisation.
“There are so many items that could be serviced, and not just traditional textiles. Renzacci has had a tremendous success in Europe and the UK with its ozone cabinet. The cabinet disinfects and eliminates viruses including complex pathogens and mould, for example. Items form daily life such as bags, safety helmets, gloves, even push chairs – and also garments, of course, can be sanitised in an ozone cabinet.
“It is an opportunity to provide customers with an important 360° service. So you aren’t just a drywetcleaning service per se. We must completely change the way we approach the customer, offering cleaning, wellness and health.
“Stop thinking traditional cleaning - become more receptive to ‘clean wellness’ so you are not just a remover of a stain on a suit lapel but can also offer a service that disinfects, preserves colour and textile and is also hypo allergenic -the concept of cleaning has now changed post Covid-19,” says Nicco
Pony SpA has developed a number of solutions for both traditional solvent based drycleaners and wetcleaners which is proving to be highly successful. At the core of its Research and Development Department, says Claudio Franco, communications and marketing at the company, is an ingrained desire to not only produce the highest quality finishing equipment but also provide the operator and owners with solutions that are ergonomically superior, energy saving and reliable.
He reckons one of the highlights of the Pony range, and one of the most popular solutions is the Pony Formplus-S which is not only able to be used for solvent based cleaning, but also wetcleaning. Available with or without a built-in electric boiler, the Formplus-S allows fast garment loading and automatically tensioning systems which assure a spectacularly professional finish in a very short space of time. In addition, a perfect addition to the finishing line will be the Pony MPT-D trouser topper, which boasts precise automatic waist and leg tensioning as standard. The MPT-D is also available with a built-in boiler which is powerful enough to provide the steam requirement of an adjacent ironing table such as the Pony Genus-SV which vacuum, hot air blow and steam from the table surface, giving the drycleaner all the tools they need for fast, efficient and reliable production.
While some machinery from the Pony range is garment specific, a great deal of time has been devoted by the Pony R&D department into giving drycleaners solutions that are able to process different garments, all within one machine. One such example is the pony 404 shirt and jacket former which produces consistently excellent results in a smaller space than two machines dedicated for each garment type, as well as being cheaper in terms of capital outlay and energy usage.
A recent addition to the Pony range is The Pony DLP Double Legger Press which can finish trousers to an excellent quality in one action. All machinery is available to be viewed working at the Pony showroom in Milan and also in London.
Trevil, meanwhile, is looking at the comfort of the operator and talking ergonomics. Which it considers a key factor to guarantee correct posture and eliminate any unnecessary movements while operating the machines.
Trevil’s Pantastar trousers finisher, developed in cooperation with end users, to make trousers finishing easier and more comfortable promises high productivity even with an inexperienced operator; constant quality over time; and, 50% smaller footprint than the previous model. has developed in a way that allows the operator to work in a standing position throughout the entire duration of the finishing cycle. The operator does not need to reposition the pants between finishing of the waist area and legs and can work comfortably with a minimum effort while manual operations are reduced to a minimum. The finishing cycle is controlled via a foot pedal, so operator’s hands are free to handle the garment. At the end of the finishing cycle, the manual touch ups can be comfortably carried out thanks to a handy hanger. Operators can hang the garments there without having to leave the work station.
The Trevistar CR2 shirt finisher and a cuffs and collar press called Trevilpress CP take up less than 5 sq m of space making for an extremely compact work station allowing to reduce the operator’s movements and effort to the minimum.
The press can be equipped with a custom designed shirt basket mounted on casters with a spring-loaded bottom so shirts are always to hand and prevent operator fatigue or bending to retrieve them.
The Trevistar CR2 has also been equipped with a fast placket uploading mode while all Trevil ironing tables, including those with a boiler, have been equipped with a spring aided height adjustment. The height of the table can be easily set by a single person without the use of any tools.
Operators can alternate quickly and efficiently in seconds by adjusting table height, so that every operator can work in the most suitable and correct posture. What is more, the vacuuming ironing tables as well as the vacuuming blowing ironing tables have been equipped with a foot pedal that is as long as the entire ironing surface. In this way, operators can activate vacuuming or blowing functions from wherever they are standing, without stretching.
Roger Cawood writes: The range and age of equipment for sale [sadly because of businesses going to the wall because of Covid-19] will be considerable and there will be marked variations in asking prices. This will undoubtedly be a buyer’s market and while the best deal is likely to be found in buying directly from a cleaner who has closed down, don’t rush in where Angels fear to tread. Bear in mind that equipment may not have been properly maintained or may have been standing for a long time and there could be considerable engineering issues when it is recommissioned.
Therefore, buying second hand from a reputable supplier is likely to be the safest option particularly for cleaners without good hands-on electro/mechanical skills. Equipment bought through a supplier should come with a warranty. If it does not, my advice would be to walk away. Take a close look at the warranty making sure that you read the small print. It is also important to ask your supplier to confirm, preferably in writing, service back up details should you have to make a claim.
What to look for
If the equipment is not in a clean and tidy condition it’s probably not been looked after and properly maintained. Spotting tables even when relatively new can be in filthy condition if, as many have, they have been used for ‘soaping up’ and it can take hours of work, external and internal, to clean them. A good professional table should come with a stem/air gun, vacuum and a high-pressure water spray, while some even have overhead lighting.
There are many types of rotor cabinets and garment formers. Tensioning formers with electric steam heating deliver by far the best standards of finish for a wide variety of jackets, coats and dresses while on the other hand rotor cabinets come with a trouser topper and cover a wider range of items.
Ironing tables should have controls on both sides as staff often have strong preferences regarding which side of the table to work and of course some staff are left handed. Steam heated irons are too cool for cellulosics (cotton and other natural fibres) and are less than adequate for wool/ polyester fabrics. So, go for a professional electric steam iron. Many tables are fitted with overhead lighting, a big advantage when it comes to quality finishing. Finally, if you are buying a cleaning machine from a cleaner get your engineer to go over it and give you an independent report.
LCN first ran a longer version of this piece in Trade Secrets, December 2020 in the UK edition.