Check Your Solvent Mileage

If you’re finding it harder these days to afford the costs of doing business, you’re not alone. A recent article in states that since the pandemic began, 92% of small-business owners reported that the cost of supplies or services needed to run their business has increased.

This year, 71% of small-business owners reported at least a 20% increase in costs for supplies and services:

  • 16% of small-business owners report a 50% increase in costs
  • 13% of small-business owners report a 40% increase in costs
  • 16% of small-business owners report a 30% increase in costs
  • 26% of small-business owners report a 20% increase in costs
  • 19% of small-business owners report a 10% increase in costs 

Since the pandemic began, manufacturers, small-business owners and customers alike have struggled to adjust to the rising costs from inflation and supply chain shortages in the US, making it more important than ever to find ways to decrease costs.

One item that almost all drycleaners use that is increasing in cost, is solvent.  Yet, this is a product that usage is often overlooked by drycleaners. Also being overlooked are the potential savings that can be had by making sure your drycleaning process is operating at peak efficiency. During these inflationary 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. Whether you are using perc, high flash hydrocarbon, low flash hydrocarbon or any of the alternative solvents, it will help your supply cost and the bottom line by maximizing your solvent mileage and machine efficiency.

When was the last time you checked your solvent mileage? Was it last week, last month, last year?  Have you ever checked your solvent mileage?  Do you know how to check it? Well don’t worry, I am going to explain how to check your mileage and give you some ideas on how to improve solvent mileage, in the rest of this article.

Checking Mileage.

  • First, if you don’t have a scale to weigh clothes that you will be drycleaning, you will need to purchase one.  This scale can be as simple as a bathroom scale and plastic clothes basket, if money is tight or a weight scale designed for the purpose of weighing clothes, that you could purchase through your distributor.
  • Second, start using a poundage chart or simply a piece of paper to record loads on. 
  • Weigh each load of clothes prior to being cleaned throughout the day 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.
  • Check Your Solvent Levels!!! Also, at the beginning of the week, calculate the total amount of solvent in all base tanks of the machine.  During the week if any new solvent is added to the drycleaning machine, make sure to include this amount with the total of the beginning solvent amount.
  • Now, at the end of the week calculate the total amount of solvent that is left in the tanks. 
  • Subtract this ending amount, from the amount of solvent you had at the beginning of the week (including 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.  
  • Now you know your solvent mileage in pounds cleaned per gallon of solvent used.

 At this point, I would recommend contacting your machine manufacturer and ask what the optimum solvent mileage for your specific machine is. (I would expect that your solvent mileage would be in the 1000-1500 lbs. per gallon used range). If your mileage is lower than what the equipment manufacturer or distributor says it should be, discuss with them what can be done to increase the solvent mileage. It may be a good time to have your equipment maintenance person go over the machine to correct any issues. 

 Some examples of 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.
  • Lint filters not being cleaned at proper intervals.
  • Improper operation of the still.
  • Inefficient extraction times or speed (belt slipping).
  • Dry control not working or set properly.
  • Leaky gaskets.
  • Not allowing cartridge filters to drain long enough, prior to changing.
  • Improper steam pressure.
  • Refrigeration system needing service.

These are just a few of the things that can cause less than optimum solvent mileage.  Check your machine out, if you can’t figure it out, hire a mechanic or talk to the manufacturer.  With the cost of solvents increasing the savings could really add up and those savings can help to weather the storm, during this period of inflation that we are currently seeing. 

Michael Miller

Michael Miller

The author is the senior vice president of R.R. Streets & Co. He can be reached at (770) 827-2342 or E-mail:

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