solvent odor problems

Solvent odor can have several causes – Here is how to fix it

We are used to the smell of the solvent and sometimes it is not easy to detect a change in the smell. That is why in most cases, it is the customer who complains about the odor and when that happens, it is likely you lost him. If you hear complaints from you staff or customer about odor, the manager should find the cause and correct it as soon as possible. Solvent odor can have following causes

Odor from water
● Water separator
When water separator becomes contaminated, it can leave “an old sweat” or “sour” smell on clothes. When this happens, you drain it completely and clean the interior thoroughly. Then refill it with clean water.
Water separators need to be checked and cleaned at least once a week. If necessary, fill it with clean water every day.
● Too much moisture in the drycleaning system
Too much moisture in the system can also cause an odor. Sloppy use of spotting chemicals and improper addition of moisture leave a lot of water in the solvent. When free water gets contaminated, you will have an odor. As a professional drycleaner, you should familiarize yourself with moisture control techniques.

Odor from solvent
● Too much NVR
Too much nonvolatile residue (NVR) in the solvent is a sure way of having an odor problem. Odor from NVR is usually noticed first by steam finishing cottons.
NVR content of 2.5g per 100 ml of solvent is considered too high. To correct it, you need to distill your solvent more often and change your filters. If you rely on adsorptive cartridge filters instead of distillation, you need to change the filters more frequently to avoid odor problems.
● Spotting chemicals
If too much spotting chemicals are present in the solvent, odor can happen even if NVR is low. Amil acetate is a notorious culprit. Amil acetate is used to remove paint, lacquer and adhesives. After spotting, use VDS and steam to completely flush the chemical. Dryclean after drying.
● Detergent
Improper use of detergent can cause an odor problem. Some detergents contain solvent. If you use a detergent with hydrocarbon in a perc system, you will have an odor problem.
● New solvent smell
It is rare but new solvent can have smell. Drycleaning-grade perc should have proper amount of binder in it to keep it from happening. But sometimes, contaminants can find their way into new solvent.
Hydrocarbon solvents are more likely to develop an odor than perc. Unused hydrocarbon can develop a sour smell when stored too long.
● Varnish smell
This smell usually happens in hydrocarbon solvent when it breaks down. If that happens, you need to remove all the solvent from the drum, filters, pipe, base tank and storage tank.
You have two options. The first is to rinse the whole system with new solvent and throw away the solvent. Then refill with new solvent.
The second option is harder but can remove more contaminant. You use trisodium phosphate to clean the solvent tanks. It is a rather involved process best left to the professionals.

Odor from fabrics
● Remaining solvent
If thick parts of a cloth like shoulder pads are not completely dry, the person wearing it will complain about a smell. If you receive a complain like that, you need to increase the drying and aeration time.
● Fabric finishes
Some fabric finishes can cause an odor. Formaldehyde resin used in fabric finishing can leave “a fishy smell.” Formaldehyde is usually combined with amine and amine can cause the smell. When catalyst used in fabric finishing is not completely removed, it can cause a smell. Especially in hot and humid conditions.
Drycleaning won’t remove this smell. You need to wetclean and use a small amount of acetic acid or ammonia in the process.
● Smell from other clothes
Very dirty or smoke-damaged clothes can cause an odor problem. Even though the smell did not latch on other clothes in the load, it remains in the solvent and can cause problems later.
Clothes with strong odor should be clean by the batch method and distill the solvent right away to protect the tanks and filters.
Smoke-damaged clothes need to be ozone-treated before drycleaning. You will need specialized equipment and facility to do this.

Odor from lint
● Lint on coils
Lint on heating coil, cooling coil and air passage can cause a sour smell. Even though lint bag is in good condition, small amount of lint will accumulate on coils and air passage. If this lint gets contaminated with perc or water, it will cause an odor.
If you have an odor problem and you can’t pinpoint its cause, clean all the coils, air passage and drum housing. These areas need a regular cleaning.
● Dirty lint bag
Dirty lint bag or filter can cause an odor. You need to keep lint bag and air passage free of lint. Any accumulated lint can become an odor source. Clean lint bag or filter every morning and repeat after 200 lbs. of cleaning. It’s best to keep washed and dried lint bags ready and change them every day.

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