Maintaining an adequate solvent level and checking your solvent mileage are areas that are often overlooked by the drycleaner. Solvent levels in the base tanks of your drycleaning machine should always be kept at ¾ tank for the working tanks and ½ tank for the reserve tank. Having low solvent levels can greatly affect your cleaning quality, resulting in greying and redeposition on garments, which can result in permanent damage. These low solvent levels can also cause costly damage to the solvent pump on your drycleaning machine. As the pump is starved of solvent it begins to cavitate as vapor pockets form in the once flowing liquid causing premature wear to the solvent pump and even possible structural damage to the pump. A part of your normal operating procedures should be to check solvent levels every day at the beginning of the day and throughout the day as solvent levels fluctuate. If solvent levels become low, solvent should be added. One easy way of making small additions and maintaining a proper level in the reserve tanks is to purchase solvents or perc in the 5-gallon size container. These small packages are much easier to handle than the larger 55 gallons size drums and can be easier on cash flow during slower times.
It can’t be emphasized enough as to how important it is to monitor your solvent mileage. Just knowing how much solvent you are purchasing is not enough to tell you how efficiently your drycleaning machine is operating. The only way you can truly tell of the solvent efficiency of your drycleaning machine is by calculating the weight of garments cleaned and the actual consumption of solvent used in cleaning those garments. Whether you are using perc, Hydrocarbon or one of the new hybrid solvents, one way to help the profitability of your business is to maximize your solvent mileage. Checking your solvent mileage is a very simple and quick procedure.
- First, I would recommend purchasing a scale from your supply distributor (if you do not already have one) to weigh each load to be cleaned. You must know the poundage that is being run each load in order to calculate solvent mileage. Knowing the poundage each load can also help to prevent over loading of the machine, which will also lead to better cleaning and better solvent mileage.
- Second, if you aren’t recording the size of each load, you will have to start by using a poundage chart, these are usually available from your solvent supplier. Weigh each load before cleaning and RECORD them on the chart. Total the loads up daily and then total the daily totals at the end of each week to arrive at a weekly total of pounds cleaned.
- Also, at the beginning of the week, calculate the total amount of solvent by adding the amount of solvent in each tank for the total amount. During the week if new solvent is added to the drycleaning machine, make sure to add this amount to the beginning solvent amount. Now, at the end of the week calculate the total amount of solvent left in the tanks, as you did at the beginning of the week. Subtract this end of week total from the amount you had from the beginning of the week (plus any additions of new solvent). This will leave you with the total amount of gallons used for the week.
- To arrive at your solvent mileage, divide the total pounds cleaned for the week by the number of gallons of solvent consumed for that week.
- Bingo!!! Now you know your solvent mileage.
- Keep a file of these poundage records in order to establish a trend for your solvent consumption.
Once you have established your solvent mileage, I would contact your machine manufacturer and ask what you should expect the optimum solvent mileage for your particular brand and model of machine to be. If your mileage is lower than what they suggest, discuss with the machine manufacturer what they would recommend in order to increase the solvent mileage.
Some things that can contribute to poor solvent mileage are:
- Overloading the machine.
- Too short of drying time.
- Drying temperature set too low.
- Condensing coils clogged with lint.
- Improper operation of the still.
- Inefficient extraction times or speed (belt slipping).
- Dry control not working or set properly.
These are just a few of the things that can cause less than optimum solvent mileage. Maintain solvent levels. Calculate solvent mileage. Check your machine out, if you can’t figure it out, hire a mechanic or talk to the manufacturer because at the end of the year the savings could really add up.