Static Electricity in Drycleaning

Here in the United States, we are in the midst of some of the more severe winter weather we have experienced in some time. Colder than normal temperatures, ice and snow have paralyzed parts of the US for most of this past week. Not only has mother nature brought this weather upon us, but she has also brought a problem that many dry cleaners experience and is much more common during times of lower humidity such as we see during these cold, dry, winter days. Static electricity, static cling and lint are problems that drycleaners do not have to suffer through.  It is also a problem that can irritate your customers and is a problem that can send your customers to your competition.

Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charges within or on the surface of a material. The charge remains until it is able to move away by means of an electric current or electrical discharge. Static electricity is named in contrast with current electricity, which flows through wires or other conductors and transmits energy. The buildup of high static charges is quite evident to the drycleaner as he unloads the dryer amid snapping, crackling, and sparking. The shocks you experience as you handle drycleaned loads of garments are static electricity. 

This static electricity can be very bothersome and does create a time-consuming problem that comes at a cost for drycleaners. The static electricity can slow down production as more lint adheres to garments. Because of this static more time is spent lint rolling not to mention the added cost of purchasing more than the usual number of lint rollers.  Static electricity results in garments clinging to customers which can be very irritating to the customer.  Static electricity has also been known to result in fires in dry cleaning plants that use the very low flash point petroleum solvents.

Static electricity forms for several reasons.  Low relative humidity can be one cause.  Garments containing fibers such as polyester, that do not conduct electricity can be another cause.  The repeated contact and separation as garments tumble during drying can cause static.  Extended drying times, poorly grounded equipment and higher than needed drying temperatures can be some others.  But the top two causes of static electricity are improper use of drycleaning detergents and ineffective drycleaning detergents. 

Improper Use of Drycleaning Detergents

The first thing you want to check if you notice you are having a static problem, is to make sure you are using the proper amount of detergent based on the detergent manufacturer’s usage rates.  If the detergent is being dispensed automatically, you will want to make sure the dispenser is working properly and the correct amount is being dispensed. The following are some other reasons for improper use of detergent.

  • Additive pump not working correctly with the pinch tubes needing replacement (the most frequent cause).
  • The detergent doser on the drycleaning machine is turned down to low or dose is not turned on or working.
  • Product is being added at the wrong time during the drycleaning program.
  • Product container is empty.
  • Not enough product being used.  Drycleaning detergent should be added per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • No product being used.

Ineffective Detergents

If the above items seem to be correct, then you could be using a detergent that is ineffective in controlling static electricity, lint. Not all detergents perform the function of eliminating static electricity from drycleaned garments.  High quality, premium detergents do perform the function of minimizing static.  A quality drycleaning detergent should control moisture, prevent sticky zipper’s and prevent redeposition. It should also minimize the lint problems and static cling caused by static electricity.

Some other helpful tips to prevent static.

  1. Review your garment classification. It may be necessary to classify more selectively during winter months in cold climates.
  2. Make sure the solvent level during the cleaning cycle provides a high solvent level.
  3. Do not over extract.
  4. Do not over dry garments. Watch the outlet air temperature doesn’t exceed 140ºF.
  5. Do not allow the garments to tumble excessively at the end of the cleaning cycle, before unloading. A few basket wrinkles are more tolerable than linted garments.
  6. Avoid programs that use a clear rinse.  Clear rinse lacks NVR and will aggravate the static problem.

By following these guidelines, you can greatly reduce if not eliminate static electricity and the linting that accompanies it.  You do not have to suffer with static electricity and static cling. You can decrease the need to lint roll and decrease your product times and cost. 

 If you are having these problems, contact your chemical rep or distributor salesperson to investigate the cause of these problems.  If you are not using an effective drycleaning detergent, this is the time to start and eliminate these issues.  Eliminating lint and static cling, is a part of quality cleaning and may give you an advantage over your competition.

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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