Planned Maintenance or Costly Repairs?

There are two types of dry cleaners with regard to maintenance on their equipment.  The customer who incorporates planned maintenance as a routine weekly function versus the customer who seldom or never performs any maintenance.  The difference in profitability to the owner can equate to approximately 5-10% of the total yearly gross receipts.

When I sell my customers a piece of equipment, I always provide instruction regarding the required daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance.  Regardless of which brand of equipment you are using, I suggest the following maintenance be performed.


Boiler, Air Compressor, and Vacuum

  • Blow down the boiler at 15 psi into a blowdown separator.
  • Drain the air compressor of excess water accumulated in the tank.  This problem is one of the most common problems I witness in the operation of dry cleaning machines, shirt equipment and pressing equipment.  So often, I see valves sticking, press cylinders malfunctioning and overall poor performance of equipment simply because water is present in the compressed air system.  This is best resolved by installing a coalescing filter immediately after the compressor, an in-line air filter down the line before the equipment, a refrigerated air dryer and finally a filter, pressure regulator, and lubricator at each piece of equipment.  As a minimum, all equipment should include a filter, regulator, and lubricator capable of being drained on a daily basis if necessary.
  • Drain the central vacuum of any excess water.  A drip leg with a ball valve is recommended at each press to simply be able to drain any accumulation of water in the vacuum system.

Dry Cleaning Machines

  • Clean Lint filters and button trap every 3 loads.  Remember, as lint accumulates                                                                                                                                                                      on the air filter, air flow is restricted thus causing prolonged drying times.  A build up in the button trap reduces solvent flow causing poor cleaning and a strain on the pump.
  • Still Maintenance should be performed daily to prevent sludge from accumulating, cooling overnight, and then having to distill again.  As still sludge builds in the still, it becomes more difficult to recover and thus solvent is disposed along with still waste.

Finishing and Shirt Equipment

  • Check and drain any water accumulated from your compressed air lines at the air filter.  Assure that oil is present in the lubricator.  Optimum air pressure for operation of pressing equipment is 80 psi.  Set the regulator accordingly.
  • Open the ball valve installed under the vacuum connection to drain any excess water.
  • Check the head steam valve, buck valve, and vacuum valve for any visible signs of leaks.  Adjust and replace springs, seals, and o-rings as necessary.


Dry Cleaning Machines

  • Spray air operated valves with silicone spray.  This takes less than 10 minutes for the entire machine, but will assure optimum performance of air valves.
  • Check ph level of solvent in all tanks.  Solvent is neutral at a ph of 7.  Pump solvent from each tank into the cylinder and get sample from the button trap.  If the ph level is below neutral , add soda ash to the still on a daily basis until the ph level is normal.  This is particularly important when dry cleaning tuxedos because of the dyes present which will eventually deposit in the still and subsequently result in a reduced ph condition of the solvent.
  • Drain and clean the water separators.  Bacteria often accumulates in water separators causing odors in the garments if untreated.  To minimize draining and cleaning water separators, additives are available to treat and neutralize the solvent and subsequently coils and distillers on an automatic daily basis.

Finishing and Shirt Equipment

  • Grease fittings are present on all types of equipment and are the most neglected.  High temperature grease is recommended because of its longevity and ability to withstand the temperatures so common in dry cleaning plants.  Review the service manuals for location of grease fittings.  Typically, cylinders and any type of transfer mechanism will incorporate some type of grease fitting.  Consult factory representatives for location of fittings if you are not certain of their location.  On shirt equipment, it is often necessary to remove side panels to access certain fittings.
  • Padding and Covers are the “Absolute Secret” to high quality finishing of shirts and dry cleaning.  A polyester cover is available in the $50-$60 range and will will suffice for a period of time, but may leave seam impressions and produce an inferior finish.  A nomex cover treated with teflon in the $70-$90 range will provide a softer yet more defined finish and will outperform and outlast the polyester type.  A good rule of thumb to check padding and covers is the use of your thumb.  Push down on the padding with your thumb and watch for the padding and cover to spring back.  If the padding is worn, no spring back will occur.  Also, if you are breaking buttons, the padding is in desperate need of being replaced.

For information on the proper servicing and  maintenance of your equipment, I suggest you consult your local distributor and manufacturer for hands on training and demonstration.

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