Everyone is talking about Wet Cleaning 4.0. As Brecht Gailez Sales Manager, Lapauw International, puts it, “It is all about knowing how much has been washed today, how much detergents have been used… calculating exactly what has gone into washing a set volume of linen; adopting heat recovery system or water treatment systems… ultimately it is all about saving costs with real time data. This is Wet Cleaning 4.0.”
This system is getting popular. This is an all-new system but the existing systems can be upgraded to meet Wet Cleaning requirement. “Take for example, the heat recovery system can be applied on the existing ironer and one can start recovering the heat from the ironer to heat up water. There is so much of saving. In terms of numbers, in a system where we take the rinse water to heat up the fresh wash water, there could be a saving of Euro 30,000-40,000 a year. The return of investments on products like these, especially in Europe where energy costs are too high, it one less than two years,” explains Brecht.
Every supplier creates his or her own software. “We have a platform on the Cloud, where you can see the dashboard of your laundry, your machines are connected to them and a constant follow up is possible. and all are connected through one platform. It is all online,” he added.
The trend today is to go for bigger industrial laundries catering to the hotels and other facilities. Hence the demand for bigger machines. Sharing his observation, Giacomo Fontana, Export Manager, Maestrelli srl, said, “Last time I was in Singapore visiting the hotels, the trend is no more in having internal laundry or dry-cleaning facility but to outsource these services. In hotels, laundry by itself is not a big business. The last machines that we sold in Singapore were with a capacity to process about 30-40kg linen; this is really big.
“The Indian market is still in the 10- 12kg capacity stage. One can never say, as India is going to a different concept all together. There are many coming up for the bigger machine. One of them, who recently approached me is planning on 40 outlets with a centralised laundry processing unit,” explains Abhinav Arya, Director, Fabcare India.
Not just India, in most of the countries, the trend is more to do with touch screens and connectivity, says Tanny Chu, Regional Sales Manager, Whirlpool. “The machines today have all got interactive displays, apps, Cloud based connectivity where we can do reporting, analysis, change a program, monitor the traffic and so on. In countries like US, one owner may have a chain of 50 stores and it is not physically possible to go to every store. With connectivity the owner can monitor all the stores… which one has more traffic and which has less. He can decide to alter the charges by introducing a Special Wednesday with special charges to increase traffic. This way even the stores that have more traffic on such days can make more profits.
“Nonetheless, in all cases for the commercial and industrial laundries, it is performance and durability of the machine that really matters,” adds Tanny.
Meanwhile, the market is stabilising in North America and all of Europe while it is growing in South Asia, Middle East and parts of Africa, says Gabriele Cuppini, Sales Director, Union SpA. “Overall there is more understanding of the equipment, demand for latest generation machines, the trend is Perc is going down, solvent is going up. We were the first in introducing solvents way back in the 90s. We have the latest technology.
“Wet Cleaning is a complementary to use Dry Cleaning. If one believes that they can run the facility with either one of them independently, they are dreaming. If you are a professional, you will need both dry and wet cleaning which will result in best performance, cost and quality because you have garments that can be cleaned only with water and garments that can be cleaned only with solvent.
“Wet cleaning is more important if you have all the perc cleaning technology. Perc too is unable to clean more than 50-60% of the garment. But if you have an alternative solvent, then definitely you can clean much more in dry cleaning easily and you would not need wet cleaning.”
Yash Sama of Clean India Journal speaks about the application of Wet Cleaning in India to two of the leading service providers based out of Delhi and Hyderabad respectively, Kaushal Agarwal, Managing Director, K & M Garmen Guardini (India) Pvt. Ltd and Shiv Shankar Agrawal, Chief Executive Officer, Washonn
Exposure to Wet Cleaning
Dry-cleaning has been the age old practice of processing garments. “But when you notice that the garment even after drycleaning does not give the required freshness to the garment or richness to the fabric colour, one definitely looks at alternatives,” says Kaushal. “So, we thought of having a water-based technology which led me to get into wet cleaning.”
“Wet Cleaning is the buzz word in the garment care industry currently,” says Shiv Shankar. “In the exhibitions this technology has been widely promoted and demonstrated. Practical demonstration gives the complete support and satisfaction and ease of the technology.”
“Wet cleaning is one of the alternative technologies and dry cleaning cannot replace laundry. Same way, wet cleaning cannot replace dry cleaning. But it is an alternative technology which covers a lot of areas which are handled under dry-cleaning. Specifically, there are items which can be done better in dry cleaning. In wet-cleaning there is a risk of shrinkage, desizing and colour bleeding. These are the challenges,” explains Kaushal.
“Obliviously Wet Cleaning will take a market share soon. New players and global environment awareness synced with technology is being accepted all over. Current major players and veterans have started and start-ups are implementing wet cleaning hence this will lead and improve day by day on the technology front,” emphasises Shiv Shankar.
Definitely not all intricate designer clothing can be washed in wet cleaning. “Majorly in India, we have many textures in fabric base and many designer variants with bit work, embroidery thread work and Zardozi. Many of the items are comfortable processed for the expected outcome and results. Self-weaving has no issues in any manner irrespective of mix and match of fabrics in the same dress, but needs a vigil check at all times for controlling damage or value loss,” adds Shiv Shankar.
“Fabrics with colour bleed and vegetable dyes are to be avoided for wet cleaning. Fast colours are widely endorsed in the wet cleaning process. Raw Silk, Matka Silk kind of garments are strictly restricted in the process.”
Definitely, wet-cleaning has not gone high at levels whereby we should worry to see the cost cutting, says Kaushal.
“Wet cleaning also helps on manual intermediation and controls on labour budget. Most of the technical specifications are automated for self-driven and operated. Technology with censors and customized programing help for operating on its own suiting to each laundry owner,” explains Shiv Shankar.
There is less awareness about wet-cleaning. The dry-cleaners who are doing MTO, five out of 10 do not even know about it, laments Kaushal. “The demand is only created where there is good awareness. Over the years, the awareness will increase through continued education.
“If you are doing something professionally, if you are treating a garment in the wet cleaning machine with the solvents, it does make a lot of sense. If people want to adapt with the right practices for cleaning, then the demand would be created. Now the demand is low.”
There are also customers who do not wish to understand the process of wet or dry cleaning, adds Shiv Shankar. “It is the company’s choice for adopting the process. Hence, existing people will have to invest additional while new comers are directly adopting wet cleaning. Demand for new is certainly better and people going for expansions are opting for wet cleaning to be part of operations.”
In conclusion, can wet cleaning operate on its own? “If somebody wants to take a risk, one can do it,” says Kaushal. “Ideally one would need another alternative technology too. I am doing only wet cleaning in my Noida unit. I need to send pieces to the Gurgaon factory for dry-cleaning for stain removal.
“As of now, it is not the whole sole thing, but if am doing a generic type of garment it is ok, if I want to do a multi fabric we need to do a combination of technology.
“The credibility in this technology is also been provided by the company called Electrolux. If they had not been given the Woolmark approved thing, we as a customer wouldn’t have paid much attention to it. Then I tried a wool coat which made sense to me as a market point of view.
“Just by creating awareness and by pushing the customer to buy it and then the customer taking it and starting to use it to pull his customers creates a chain reaction.
With the help of Woolmark and other equipment manufacturers, this new concept can be sold in the market. If there is a push by manufactures also, wet cleaning can become popular. And as it is water based, it is ecofriendly, non-hazardous and non-petroleum technology. Anything green is here to stay which is a big advantage.
“Sustainability of wet cleaning undoubtedly is operating cost and saving on labour cost as well. Minimal risk towards damaging the articles with thorough check and practices. Less amount of space and future of laundry industry will lead towards its own sustainability features,” concludes Shiv Shankar..