One of the early companies in the 1930s which started producing dry-cleaning machines at the industry level in Italy, Maestrelli, has evolved with the history of drycleaning industry. Clean India Journal e-chats with Giacomo Fontana, Sales Manager of Maestrelli, on the solvents that go into dry-cleaning.
Worldwide the drycleaning market is complex. On the one side, cleaning with water is developing and we can confidently today say that garments that we would not have washed with water 10 years ago, can now be washed now. On the other side, delicate garments (from silk to leather and suede) and new textiles with plastic or polyurethane inserts demand a higher professionalism and competence. Even today, these need to be dry-cleaned, maybe by using new alternative solvents.
So, which solvent to go for?
MTO (Mineral Turpentine Oil)
Very honestly, MTO not indeed an option. This solvent was used something like 40 years ago mainly in the US but it was banned from Europe many years ago. We have never produced machines using MTO.
It is a toxic and highly flammable solvent, extremely aggressive. There is a consistent risk of spoiling delicate garments when using it. Moreover, machines using this solvent usually cannot dry, so you have to unload garments soaked with MTO and load them into a dryer. It means you really breathe the solvent while moving the garments from one basket to the other…
Perc or Perchloroethylene has always been the “traditional” solvent that is being used during dry-cleaning.
Is that good or not?
It is surely very good when you have to wash away a stain of grease or oil. In general terms, being an aggressive chemical, it is always good for washing (very) dirty garments.
It is also true that some medical studies (back to approx. 30 years ago) made the supposition that there could be a kind of connection between breathing perchloroethylene and medical diseases like cancer… However, it has never been really proved.
Some European countries, have been discussing for many years now to ban this kind of solvent too, but Perc is still being used.
Latest machines are now equipped with several technical features to avoid exposure to solvents while breathing or through direct contact. Suction fans are being in-built that start automatically when opening the drum door to absorb any smell or smoke of the solvent…
Hydrocarbon and Silicon
The “new generation” solvents are less aggressive than perchloroethylene and that is good when you have to wash delicate and colourful garments. Washing silk, leather or suede with perchloroethylene can be quite risky. You could spoil them and plastic/polyurethane inserts very probably would melt down.
Moreover, the cleaning power of these solvents is stronger. In some cases it is now comparable to perchloroethylene (if not the same yet). The new trend of the market is for hydrocarbon solvents, not really because they are greener than perchloroethylene but because they can give you the chance to clean everything from a delicate and colourful sari to any kind of cloth.
Are these solvents flammable?
Yes, they are. But all these machines work always under vacuum and are equipped with several technical features that basically bring down to ZERO the risk of any possible explosion.
Machines using new solvents are available also without distillation; in such a case, solvent is kept cleaned by a doublefiltration system based on one nylon filter with powder and one cartridge filter with active carbons. Well, these machines can reduce a lot of running costs in terms of far lower consumptions of water and electricity/steam (if compared to machines with distillation). Under this perspective, these are green drycleaning machines.
As of today, Maestrelli range of perchloroethylene dry-cleaning machines includes model from 6kg up to 80kg loading capacity but, if interested, we can offer also models up to 150kg (in the “twin” version). Our drycleaning product line involves even a full range of machines using any kind of solvents right now available on the market and alternative to perchloroethylene; from hydrocarbon to silicon-based solvents (Rynex, D5, Green Earth, K4, Intense and Sensene just to mention the most popular ones available in the market today).