Why not Wetcleaning?

Paul Partyka |

RANCHO DOMINGUEZ, Calif. — When you mention drop-off service, the first thing that probably comes to mind is wash, dry and fold. That makes perfect sense, after all, because wash, dry and fold is clearly the industry’s No. 1 extra profit center. Yet, some operators have dabbled in another drop-off service: drop-off drycleaning.American Coin-Op’s annual State of the Industry survey has shown that a small percentage of operators offer this service, often times with mixed financial results.Have you ever thought about teaming up with a drycleaner and becoming a total fabricare operation? Are you familiar with wetcleaning?Mike Hurrell is owner of Golden State Laundry Systems, a Rancho Dominguez, Calif., distributor. Zion Orpaz is a wetcleaning specialist with the company. Both men were asked about setting up a drop-off drycleaning service as well as wetcleaning.FIRST THINGS FIRST“If I was setting up a drop-off service, I would approach a cleaner, but not necessarily one in your neighborhood, because they may look at you as competition,” Hurrell advises. “A lot of our customers offer drop-off drycleaning; it doesn’t do too bad in our area, it typically covers the cost of the attendant working all day.“There are wholesale cleaners around to take this kind of business. [The coin laundry owner] takes the clothes in, tags them; the wholesaler picks the clothes up, cleans them, hangs them, and you’re responsible for bagging the clothes and distributing them.”If you’re thinking about this service, Orpaz strongly suggests that you set up a designated room or counter for the drop-off work. “This area should be separated from the general, open laundry area,” Orpaz adds.Hurrell believes that most of the customers taking advantage of this service aren’t going to be “Armani-suit types,” so you don’t have to worry about taking care of special cleaning needs. However, he says, customers may ask questions, so attendants need to learn about the service in order to answer the questions.One-day turnaround is the norm for this service, Hurrell adds.Problems can crop up, Orpaz believes. “Many times, pants or suits are left behind. A customer may need the work done quickly. When you process anything away from your supervision, you don’t have full supervision. Plus, the quality of the work depends on the cleaner, not you, although your store’s name is on the work. Don’t forget to promote this service. No one promotes this service well.”As far as profitability goes, Hurrell says there is typically a 50/50 split between drycleaner and coin laundry owner. “Your coin laundry should charge about the same price as regular drycleaners.”wetcleaningBe warned though, if your customer goes directly to a drycleaner, he/she might get better quality work, Hurrell says. “The wholesale drycleaner you end up with may be geared more toward production; he might lack a bit of fine, detail work.”WETCLEANING: THE FUTUREWould it be advantageous to hook up with someone doing wetcleaning?“Wetcleaning is actually drycleaning-only labels being handwashed, with gentle movement, agitation and a delicate detergent,” Orpaz explains. “You could get decent results from this hand-wash movement alone.” However, technology came along, and with it, equipment that simulated the same movements made by hand, Orpaz adds.“Wetcleaning is actually drycleaning, only the garments are being hand-washed with the proper detergents, lubricants, etc.” In addition, wetcleaning uses water as its base, as opposed to chemical solvents.“Wool, for example, must be lubricated,” Orpaz explains. “Wool yarn can swell and the garment can shrink. Fine detergents with lubricants help. You eliminate the mechanical action; heat, moisture and mechanical action will shrink wool garments. Wetcleaning eliminates this.”Most drycleaners do some wetcleaning. Orpaz says about 40 nearby drycleaners are doing all wetcleaning. “Wetcleaning is a cleaner process. The clothing won’t smell, it’s brighter and it’s easier to press. Overall, wetcleaned products look better than drycleaned products.“Think of the PR. Imagine when you have a garment cleaned in water. It smells fresh, looks like new and the color is richer. This wasn’t true a year ago. We have recently brought wetcleaning closer to perfection due to new equipment.” He cautions operators that not all wetcleaning equipment produces the same quality results.Up until a year or two ago, wetcleaning was not effective on all types of clothing, Orpaz says. One wetcleaning drawback is the time it takes to dry wool garments, Orpaz says. “You probably won’t get more than 10 percent wool orders anyway.”“Wetcleaning is now better than drycleaning, although the other wetcleaning equipment and chemicals may not be as effective as the process we have developed.” Orpaz says there is no “universal” wetcleaning process or type of equipment.FACING CHALLENGESIf you’re going to explore this service, it might be beneficial to learn about some of the drycleaning industry challenges.“Landlords are starting to put up obstacles to drycleaners to prevent them from using solvents on the premises,” Orpaz says. “This is a major problem. Next year, there will be drycleaners that have to move out some solvent machines. They will have to practice wetcleaning in order to be ready for the future.”Hurrell agrees. “Drycleaners are comfortable with perc (perchloroethylene is the most common solvent used by drycleaners), but it is being done away with.”Environmental concerns and regulations are greatly affecting the industry now, and will continue to do so in the future, Hurrell believes. “In the next 20 years you will see wetcleaning and CO2 (liquid carbon dioxide, a solvent alternative).“Wetcleaning has been around for a long time, but it has really taken off in the last four years or so. Now it’s roaring. Without wetcleaning, drycleaners won’t survive in the business.” 

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.


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