A Cooperative
Project between
the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and
the Garment and
Textile Care
                                                                                        ERA 744-F-01-004, May 2001
                    us. Em
                                     Garment and Textile
                                          Care Program
This notice has been reviewed
by the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and approved
for publication. It is based on
experiences gained from projects
conducted by EPA's Design for
the Environment staff in collabora-
tion with partners from industry,
public interest groups, and
research!educational institutions.
The information contained in this
document does not constitute EPA
policy. Further, mention of trade
names or commercial products
does not imply endorsement or
recommendation for use. All prod-
uct performance information was
supplied by the manufacture^ sj
and has not been independently
corroborated by EPA.
                                          Case Study:
                                100% Wetcleaning Facility:
                                      Route-only Service
                                      As part of a cooperative effort
                                      between the Environmental
                                      Protection Agency (EPA) and the
                              professional garment and textile industry,
                              the EPA Design for the Environment (DEE)
                              Program recognizes the wetcleaning process
                              (i.e., a water-based cleaning system) as one
                              example of an environmentally-preferable
                              technology that can effectively clean
                              Currently, most of the nation's 34,000 com-
                              mercial drycleaners use perchloroethylene
                              (perc) as a solvent to clean clothes. Since
                              1992, in response to growing health and envi-
                              ronmental concerns about perc, EPA has been
                              working in a voluntary partnership with the
                              drycleaning industry to reduce exposures to
                              perc. EPA's DEE Garment and Textile Care
                              Program (GTCP) encourages professional
                              clothes cleaners to explore environmentally-
                              preferable technologies capable of cleaning
                              garments labeled "dryclean only." Numerous
companies in the garment and textile care
industry have begun using the wetcleaning
process to clean all types of fabrics. One
company, The Laundry Club, is a 100 percent
wetcleaning facility, utilizing wetcleaning as
the only garment care process.

Company Background

The Laundry Club (TLC) began cleaning
garments in August of 1998 in the Washington
B.C. suburb of Leesburg, VA. The company,
a family owned and operated business, began
as a route-only service to meet its customers'
everyday laundry needs. As the business began
to grow and the customer base increased, TLC
recognized the need to expand their profes-
sional cleaning methods to accommodate those
garments that are traditionally drycleaned.
The company's goal was to provide high
quality professional garment care to customers
without the health and environmental concerns
associated with traditional drycleaning
With this criterion in mind, and no prior
experience in the garment care industry, TLC
explored various professional cleaning options
using the internet, making phone calls to
industry equipment and supply manufacturers,
visiting industry trade shows, and attending
educational seminars through the International
Fabricare Institute. Through this research, TLC
was impressed with the benefits of modern
wetcleaning relative to traditional drycleaning.
Benefits include the elimination of health
and environmental concerns, the high quality
results achievable by professionally wetclean-
ing garments as well as the lower cost of
wetcleaning units relative to drycleaning units.
Also, advances in textile manufacturing have
created fabrics that respond well to the wet-
cleaning process.

 The initial training to become a professional wetcleaner was
 extensive because it required gaining a knowledge of the fibers
 and fabrics in addition to the process itself. TLC asserts that
 after appropriate and thorough training, the TLC staff are able
 to wetclean virtually all types of fabrics, including woolens,
 silks, rayons, acetates, linens, cottons, suede, and leather with
 excellent results. In addition to those materials, and as a
 result of their research, development, and testing, TLC is
 now successfully wetcleaning rayon/acetate velvets and
 rayon/silk velvets (fabrics that traditionally were not recom-
 mended for wetcleaning).
What is Wetcleaning?
• ••••••••••••• •ป•
 Wetcleaning is a professional garment cleaning technique that
 uses a combination of specialized detergents and additives and
 controlled water temperatures and agitation levels. For large
 scaled production, the process requires four elements: comput-
 er-controlled washers and dryers, specialized detergents and
 additives, tensioning finishing equipment, and trained, skilled
 personnel. Unlike conventional washing machines, state-of-
 the-art commercial wetcleaning units are computerized
 machines that can be programmed for various functions,
 including agitation, water temperature, water volume, and the
 addition of specialized detergents. For garment pressing to be
 most effective, proper drying and finishing equipment, which
 includes standard equipment utilized by  most professional
 cleaners, is a necessity.

 Cleaning Agents at The Laundry Club

 Wetcleaning does not pose the environmental and health con-
 cerns associated with traditional drycleaning. Not only does it
 use water as it's primary solvent, but all  cleaning agents used
 at TLC are environmentally-preferable products. Typically,
 wetcleaners use three separate cleaning agent products. These
 include specialized detergents, conditioners, and sizing. TLC
 uses SmartCare, an all-in-one product made by Kleerwiteฎ
 CHEMICAL in conjunction with its cleaning process. TLC has
 found that the SMART Care™ all-in-one product is successful
 in reducing water usage due to shorter rinse cycles. Also, this
 product has virtually eliminated the need for post-spotting.
 One issue that wetcleaners face is the difficulty of removing
 grease and oil-based stains. TLC injects  Nature-L™, a
 degreaser made by Kleerwiteฎ CHEMICAL, in conjunction
 with SMART Care™ during the wetcleaning process to
 enhance grease and stain  removal. The amount of each product
 injected is adjusted by manual controls on the wetcleaning unit
 as appropriate for each fabric type, the soil level, and the
 weight of the cleaning load.
                                         The Laundry Club van.
                                         Wetcleaning Machinery

                                         TLC uses a 60-pound Unimac wetcleaning machine with a
                                         microprocessor and customized computer programs. The
                                         machine is fitted with a re-circulation pump and injection sys-
                                         tem for cleaning agents. There are also smaller wetcleaning
                                         machines available for low volume loads.
                                         Drying and Finishing
                                         • • • • * • •••••••• *•
                                         Depending on fabric type, TLC may place garments in a 75-lb
                                         UniMac or a 50-lb Heubsch dryer for a brief period of time.
                                         The drying time is determined by the fabric content. The gar-
                                         ments are then air-dried to complete the drying process. TLC's
                                         pressing and finishing equipment includes two standard pro-
                                         fessional cleaning finishing machines: a Forenta utility press
                                         and a Forenta pants press. In addition, TLC employs two spe-
                                         cialized finishing machines: a Hi-Steam Tensioning Pants
                                         Topper, and a Hi-Steam Tensioning Form Finisher, which were
                                         developed primarily for wetcleaning. Employees at TLC with
                                         previous experience in the drycleaning industry find the over-
                                         all finishing process for wetcleaned garments to take no longer
                                         than for dry cleaned garments. The most significant difference
                                         is associated with structured garments, which may require an
                                         estimated 5-10 percent increase in finishing time as compared
                                         to traditional drycleaning.
                                         The Unimac washer and dryer, and all finishing equipment
                                         used at TLC require minimal maintenance. They are main-
                                         tained according to manufacturers' directions.

No independent performance testing has been conducted or is
being planned. The performance information that is presented
in this case study was provided by representatives of The
Laundry Club.
TLC has the ability to clean 100 percent of garments that are
normally drycleaned, using automated, state-of-the-art wet-
cleaning techniques and skilled personnel. TLC can wetclean
virtually all garment types ranging from casual wear to busi-
ness suits and formal wear and fabric types including  woolens,
silks, rayons, acetates, linens, cottons, suede, and leather - all
with excellent results.
Garments cleaned by traditional drycleaning methods  are not
subjected to the same conditions as those garments that are
immersed and agitated in water. Although, modern wetclean-
ing machines have eliminated most of the problems that can
stem from immersion in water, certain fabrics can shrink, cer-
tain dyes can bleed, and fabric texture can be altered just as
they can in traditional solvents; neither method is perfect. The
primary difference between the two technologies is that
drycleaning relies on solvents such as perc and specialized
detergents to clean clothes, while wetcleaning uses water and
environmentally-preferable detergents, thus presenting less risk
to human health and the environment.
     Problem stains. TLC asserts that the wetcleaning
     process is superior at removing water-based stains
     such as those caused by food.
   • Problem fabrics. TLC is now  successfully cleaning
     fabrics that traditionally were not recommended for
     wetcleaning such as rayon/acetate velvets and rayon/silk
     velvets. The only fabric that TLC does not attempt to
     wetclean is antique satin, which is different from regular
     satin, and is rarely encountered anymore.
   • Garment damage. TLC asserts that there are no cases
     of garment damage at The Laundry Club.
   • Shrinkage/Wrinkling. The TLC process and perc
     processes rarely result in shrinkage or wrinkling. TLC
     asserts that the all-in-one detergent helps to limit shrink-
     age to less than one percent of all garments cleaned.
     Prespotting. Both the TLC process and perc processes
     require about the same amount of prespotting.
   • Color retention. Machine wetcleaning is a superior
     process with respect to resistance to discoloration, color
     loss, dye bleeding, and ability to process multicolor
   • Hand and feel. TLC asserts that one of the main benefits
     of wetcleaning is the softness  and feel that the garment
     has after being wetcleaned.
  • Solvent Odor. The TLC process leaves no residual odor,
     unlike traditional processes.
  • Cycle Time-Washing. The TLC process requires a 15 to
     20 minute wash cycle.
     Cycle Time-Drying.  The drying time is determined by
     the fabric content. Depending on fabric type, TLC may
     place the garments in a dryer for a brief period of time.
     The garments are then air-dried to complete the drying
     Pilling. As a result of air drying, the TLC process
     substantially reduces pilling.
  • Labor and Finishing. TLC indicates that  employees
     with previous experience in the drycleaning industry
     find the overall finishing process for wetcleaned gar-
     ments to take no longer than for drycleaned garments.
  • Adhesives. TLC asserts that for all garments containing
     adhesives, the adhesives are thoroughly tested to ensure
     that they are water insoluble before being wetcleaned.

Safety & Health  Impacts
The environmental, human health, and safety impacts resulting
from the wetcleaning process are less than the impacts associ-
ated with the use of traditional solvents. Wetcleaning waste-
water, if left untreated and discharged directly into a lake or
stream, could pose risks to aquatic life. However, it is normal-
ly the case that such wastewater is discharged into a public
sewer system and treated at the local publicly owned waste-
water treatment facility in accordance with Federal Clean
Water Act requirements. Under these normal conditions, risks
to aquatic life are  minimized. Potential human health and safe-
ty impacts are essentially limited to  minor skin  and eye irrita-
tion. Skin and eye exposure to the cleaning agents can be min-
imized through adherence to proper operational procedures.
The wetcleaning process does not produce hazardous wastes,
hazardous air emissions, greenhouse gases, or ozone depleting
substances. The spotting and cleaning agents are nonsolvent
formulations that are biodegradable  and generally benign.
Water consumption at TLC using one (all-in-one) cleaning
agent in conjunction with  the wetcleaning process (approxi-
mately 100 gallons per 30-lb load) is less than that associated
with a three-product wetcleaning process. Also, compliance
with federal and state hazardous waste regulations is eliminat-
ed and the regulatory burden associated with wetcleaning is
much less than the regulatory burden associated with tradition-
al drycleaning solvents.

 Capital and Operational Costs
 The cost for modern wetcleaning machines range from
 approximately $12,000 to $37,000 for a washer and dryer
 set (30 to 50 pound capacity). In comparison, the costs for a
 perc machine of comparable capacity range from approximate-
 ly $32,000 to $47,000 and the costs for a comparable petrole-
 um machine range from $35,000 to over $100,000. Specialized
 finishing (tensioning) equipment is as  an essential component
 of the wetcleaning process. There are two basic types of
 wetcleaning finishing equipment, form finishers and pants
 toppers. The cost of each of the two equipment types range
 from approximately $6,000 to $12,000. This price range is
 comparable to that of traditional drycleaning pressing equip-
 ment. An investment in specialized wetcleaning finishing
 equipment will reduce labor costs associated with the finishing
 process and pay for itself over time.
 The Unimac washer and dryer, and two pieces of Hi-Steam
 finishing equipment at TLC cost just under $35,000 total.
 However, there are a number of companies that sell wetclean-
 ing and tensioning finishing equipment and for the most
 accurate and up-to-date wetcleaning equipment costs and
 information contact the individual  wetcleaning equipment
 supply companies.
 Operational costs at TLC for the calendar year 2000 account
 for the following proportions of total sales: approximately
 14% in supplies (detergents and additives), 26%  in labor costs,
 20% in equipment leases and maintenance, and 9% in electri-
 cal and natural gas costs. There are no solvent supply and
 disposal costs associated with the wetcleaning system used
 at TLC.
 Impact on Business
 According to TLC, the wetcleaning process enables their
 company to provide quality professional garment care services
 to customers at competitive prices without the environmental,
 health, and safety impacts associated with traditional dryclean-
 ing solvents. Relative to traditional drycleaning, the environ-
 mental regulatory burden associated with wetcleaning is sig-
 nificantly reduced. The need to comply with the numerous
 federal and state regulations that apply to perc and petroleum
 solvents, as well as federal and state water quality regulations,
 is eliminated.


 EPA's Design for the Environment (DEE) Program is a volun-
 tary initiative that forges cooperative partnerships among
 government, industry, academia, and environmental groups.
                                         One of the primary objectives is to incorporate environmental
                                         concerns into the design and redesign of products, process, and
                                         technical management systems.
                                         The goal of the Garment and Textile Care Program is to pro-
                                         vide cleaners with the information that can help them run their
                                         facilities in a way that is more environmentally sound, safe for
                                         workers, and more cost effective. To accomplish this goal, the
                                         program utilizes EPA expertise and leadership to evaluate the
                                         environmental and human health risks, performance, and cost
                                         tradeoffs among clothes cleaning technologies. DEE dissemi-
                                         nates information to all interested parties and assist businesses
                                         in implementing environmentally-preferable technologies.

                                         For More Information

                                           • For more information about The Laundry Club,
                                              the wetcleaning process, and training, contact:
                                              Tammy Kernus, President
                                              Tameran Ventures, LLC d/b/a
                                              The Laundry Club
                                              20134 James Monroe Highway
                                              Telephone: (703) 771-8283
                                              Fax: (703) 771-8284
                                              E-mail: tammy@thelaundryclub.com
                                              Contact the EPA Pollution Prevention Information
                                              Clearinghouse (PPIC)  to receive an information
                                              packet about EPAs DFE Program or the Garment
                                              and Textile Care Program, or to request single copies
                                              or a list of DFE documents.
                                              EPA's Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse
                                              U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                                              1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (7409)
                                              Washington, DC 20460
                                              Telephone: (202) 260-1023
                                              Fax: (202) 260-0178
                                              E-mail: ppic@epa.gov
                                              Visit the EPA DFE Garment and extile Care
                                              Program website:
                                           • Visit the DFE Program website: