Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Freezing Pipes

In most dry cleaning businesses, utilities run 6 – 18% of volume.  One way you might consider reducing those costs is to cut equipment off or turn some equipment down to its minimum level; however, use caution when doing this during extremely cold weather.  If you allow your dry cleaning or laundry operation to become too cold, you run the risk of frozen pipes.  Now, not all of your pipes are at risk.  Pipes that are protected by the building’s insulation, pipes that are insulated, or pipes that are in heated areas are all typically safe.  But pipes in your boiler room, in crawl spaces, or on the outside of the building, where air can flow over them, are susceptible to freezing.

What can you do to avoid a pipe-freezing incident?  Below are a few suggestions.
  • We’ve talked about the importance of insulation as it relates to reducing energy waste and improving efficiency.  But insulating pipes to protect them from the elements is another great reason to invest in insulation.  Be sure to wrap all exposed pipes with insulation or fitted sleeves, making sure there are no gaps in the coverage.   If you aren’t sure exactly what you need, then consult a local plumber or even your area box store. 
  • Process water chiller piping is susceptible to freezing because the condenser is located outside.  Use Propylene Glycol antifreeze up to a 20% maximum mixture with water (anything more than 20% is ineffective), when temperatures are going to drop down in the 20’s.
  • If temperatures are going to drop down into the teens or below, run the chiller circulating pump overnight.  While this will cause your energy bill to creep up, it is far less expensive than the damage that a freezing pipe will cause to the chiller’s heat exchanger.
  • To prevent a boiler room from freezing up, put a small no-vent gas heater on the wall just to provide enough heat for the boiler room alone to protect its water piping.  The plant’s interior typically contains enough heat from the day’s production to prevent any process pipe freeze ups.  
  • Finally, if production will be down for more than a day, run your boiler on low fire, and depending on your location, you might want to use the small wall-mounted heater in the boiler room as well.  I have seen boiler pumps freeze up even when the boiler is running.   
During particularly colder months, make it a habit to monitor the weather.  If the temperature nears or goes below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, then your unprotected pipes are at risk.  My father always said to me that ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’.  That’s especially true in this case; a little higher utility bill one month may save you from a costly repair.

If you have any questions about freezing pipes, please feel free to give us a call at 336-992-5218.  We are always here to help.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Commercial Dryers

While dryer technology hasn’t changed too much over the years, there have been a couple new features, one being moisture sensing, added to more recent models.  Companies like Electrolux/Wascomat and American Dryer Corp. have really embraced this dry control feature that turns the heat off once the moisture level reaches a preset number entered by the operator.  I love the idea of using this moisture control shut off feature for things like delicate items or linens, and I also love the fact that it frees up the operator from having to babysit the load.

Though I am a fan of the moisture sensing feature, I mentioned that dryer technology hasn’t changed much so that makes purchasing used commercial dryers a great option.  Of course, we always suggest doing your due diligence when purchasing any piece of new or used equipment.  When considering used commercial dryers, take a look at the dryer’s age, condition, and parts availability.  Here are a few key items to check:
  • Condition of the basket shaft bearing – to do this simply lift up on the drum from the door opening.  There should be little play, 1” or less.
  • Clearance between the basket and the front door opening lip – if there is very little clearance or some rubbing, then the bearings and basket rollers need to be replaced.
  • Noise level when the basket turns – if there is a bumping noise, more than likely the front basket support rollers need to be replaced.
Keep in mind that the actual piece of equipment is not the only thing to consider before making a purchase.  Here are a couple more things to investigate:
  • Make note of the dryer’s dimensions.  Obviously it needs to fit in the space you have in mind, but it also needs to travel through doors and hallways to get there.
  • Be sure you have the proper air make up for the dryer.  This is important from both an efficiency and code standpoint.  Fresh air needs to enter the room from outside at the same rate that it is blown out of the room.  To avoid a draft in the room, place the inlet air behind the dryer, making certain that the opening is 5 times the size of the exhaust pipe area.  Grates and slats many times block a portion of the air vent area, so be mindful of that as well.  Most manufacturer’s installation manuals offer more specifics to help, but we are glad to answer any questions you might have.
Once your commercial dryer is up and running, don’t neglect it.  Be sure to check out Tri-State's resources section on how to provide proper ongoing care for your commercial dryer in North Carolina and elsewhere.  As always, feel free to contact us at 866-885-5218 if you have questions or need assistance.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Used Coin Laundry Equipment

Recently I stumbled onto a message board where someone was looking for a good source for discounted coin operated washers and dryers.  They wanted a deal but didn’t want to buy used.  Their reasoning was that they believed brand new equipment provided the fewest service calls and ultimately generated more income.  I’d like to dispute that philosophy a bit.

Here are my top three reasons why I think you should consider purchasing used coin laundry equipment:

  1. Buying new coin laundry equipment is a significant upfront investment, and ultimately it will take longer to recoup that investment and start generating profit.
  2. Not only does purchasing good quality used coin laundry equipment mean a lower upfront investment leading to faster profits, it also means that any repairs most likely will be made using good quality used parts which come at a much lower cost than new parts. 
  3. Buying new doesn’t automatically mean that nothing will go wrong for a specified time period.  New equipment can break down too, and sometimes with the latest and greatest comes working out the kinks.  Just think about all the electronics and behind the scenes gizmos in those state-of-the-art pieces that can fail.  Now think about how expensive those replacement parts are.
Of course, before you purchase any piece of equipment – new or used – we recommend that you do your due diligence.  But since I’m advocating for used coin laundry equipment here, I recommend that you make sure that parts are still available, that the operator shares first-hand experiences and pictures, and that there is no sign of excessive wear.

If you are in the market for used coin laundry equipment, Tri-State Laundry Equipment Company has access to a wide-variety of makes, models, and manufacturers.  Simply give us a call at 1-866-885-5218.  We are happy to help.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tips for Finding a Qualified Dry Cleaning and Laundry Mechanic

These days, most dry cleaners, commercial launderers, and laundromat owners have at least some mechanical abilities, but there are times when there is a breakdown that’s simply beyond your capabilities.  We suggest that you have a plan in place before that situation arises – and trust me, it will.  Establish a relationship with a reputable mechanic or company now so that when an emergency does happen, you are prepared.  But don’t trust your business to any Joe down the road, do your homework.

Before hiring an outside mechanic or contractor, check the following:

•    Ask for references from potential mechanics – In this business, it’s a small world and word of mouth is everything.  While you should ask for contact information for several of their customers, odds are that you know someone nearby that’s used them as well.  Talk to those folks; they will definitely give you honest information. 
•    Training & Experience – Training and certification really depends on the kind of repairs they will be doing.  There are lots of qualified guys out there that have no formal training but years of experience and are really, really good at what they do.  But when it comes to working on dry cleaning machines, boilers, hot water systems, and water chillers, training and experience with refrigeration along with a license is important.  Bottom line on normal mechanical issues is that it usually takes 3-5 years to become a proficient dry cleaning/laundry mechanic.
•    Warranty – Make sure to hire a mechanic or company that stands behind their work. 
•    Insurance – Perhaps the most important but often not asked about item is -- are they insured?  They should have liability and workers comp insurance at a minimum.

Tri-State Laundry Equipment Company has a distinctively skilled staff with over 25 years of experience in the business.  Our trained staff includes those with refrigeration certifications and experience in machine & tooling, electronic evaluation, sonic hydronic testing, and pipe fitting – just to name a few.  Whether it’s a small repair or a large job, Tri-State Laundry Equipment can help.  Simply contact us through our website or give us a call at 866-885-5218.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Importance of Insulation

If you follow our blog, then you know that we’ve discussed managing utility costs a number of times.  I focus on this subject because utilities can run 6 – 18% of volume, and I tend to see a lot of mismanagement in this area.  One easy way to help reduce waste, improve efficiency, and lower your utility costs is to properly insulate.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, uninsulated steam distribution and condensate return lines are a constant source of wasted energy.  They further go on to say that insulation can typically reduce energy losses by 90% and help ensure proper steam pressure in plant equipment.  But let me tell you how I read those statistics – reduced utility expenditures equals a larger number on your bottom line.  So let’s get started.  Walk through your plant and take some notes.
  • Are all pipes up to 7’ high insulated?  Not only will this help with waste, it is also mandatory for safety purposes.  Get this taken care of first so that the risk of employee injury is eliminated.
  • Is everything that reaches or exceeds 120 degrees Fahrenheit insulated?  Check your boiler, supply and return steam lines, steam traps, and fittings.
  • Consider insulating cold pipes, ducts, chillers, and roof drains - this will help control condensation and reduce the chances of deterioration.
  • Before purchasing insulation, do your due diligence.  Take a look at using removable insulation covers or jackets on things like valves, steam traps, and boilers.  They are economical and provide easy access should the need for repairs arise.
Once everything is insulated, be sure to properly maintain both your equipment and its insulation.  Leaks and condensation can cause insulation to become wet, which will impact its effectiveness.  Be sure to replace wet insulation promptly.  If you have questions about insulating your dry cleaning and laundry equipment, simply contact us through our website

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Heated Hydrocarbon Cleaning

Not only was the new Unipress Hurricane Double Buck Shirt Unit a hot topic at the 2015 Clean Show, heated hydrocarbon dry cleaning machines also generated a lot of buzz.  That’s because for years now, dry cleaners have been trying to find a more eco-friendly cleaning product that produces the same results as perc.  Unfortunately, few have performed at an adequate level, leaving many dry cleaners both holding off on upgrading equipment and wondering if there will ever be a magic bullet solution to the problem.

An organization in Texas conducted some testing using a hydrocarbon based cleaning solution, somewhere around 1970-1980.  Unfortunately, the testing didn’t progress too far.  We’re not sure why, but perhaps it had something to do with the machinery’s technology.  Fast forward to 2010, a long-time dry cleaning guru, recognizing that there needed to be an alternative to perc, analyzed the data from the previously mentioned testing and believed he’d found that magic bullet solution.  He also found data related to heat successfully cleaning industrial work gloves loaded with grease.  He believed that heat in conjunction with a high class petroleum based solvent was the ticket.

After hooking up with a dry cleaning friend that had a Georgia-based cleaner and specially ordering a machine, they started testing the theory.  Somewhere along the way, in addition to the heat, he determined that the proper detergent played an important role, and Wes Brunson with Fabritec International supplied that missing piece.  The results were simply amazing.  Pre-spotting, with the exception of things like ink, blood, and paint, all but disappeared.  Grease stains were removed easily.  Food spots were coming out 99% of the time without pre-spotting.  Dark loads were getting a 98% pass rate.  Many beaded and embellished garments could be cleaned with this method.  Whites were coming out brighter than if they’d been wet cleaned.  The fibers relaxed resulting in a nicer feel to the hand and fewer wrinkles on the garments, which translated into reduced finishing times.  And as an added bonus, there was no odor.  There is one catch -- these results came as long as everything is done properly -- the right programming in the right machine with the right detergent, but “the magic is in the heat”.

“The dry cleaning industry has long been looking for a viable alternative to perc,” said Kevin Lawson, Vice President of Tri-State.  “With its success in stain removal and reduction in waste, I see heated hydrocarbon as the future of the industry, possibly replacing perc permanently.”  If you are one of those operators that’s been holding off dry cleaning equipment upgrades or purchases for the arrival of the magic bullet solution, now could very well be that day.  Need help getting started?  Simply call us at 866-885-5218; we are here to help.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Used Unipress Equipment

Last month, we shared some information about the new Unipress Hurricane Double Buck Shirt Unit that was unveiled at the 2015 Clean Show.  It is an impressive piece of shirt laundry equipment and will most likely entice many operators to upgrade.  Translation – that Hurricane will have to replace something, and I see an opportunity for others to upgrade to a high-quality piece of Used Unipress equipment while saving some money.  Here are three great Used Unipress pieces out on the market right now:

• The Unipress NT, the first in the Lightning Series, boasts features like a contoured chest, side air bags, and dual timers.  It is a sturdy and reliable piece of equipment that has stood the test of time.  While this press is no longer in production, parts are still readily available should a need for repairs arise. 
• A piece of Used Unipress equipment we really like is the second generation in the Lightning Series – the Unipress AP.  It can produce 90 shirts per hour on a double buck and 50 per hour on a single buck.  Not only does the AP produce a beautiful shirt, it also has an open design for easy maintenance, microprocessor controls with self-diagnosis, and is easy to operate. 
• Unipress LS – This press is the third in the Lightning Series and is designed to produce the highest-quality shirt, increase piece count, and reduce labor costs.  Features we love include foot operated clamps, scheduled maintenance notifier, and microprocessor controls with self-diagnosis.

No matter what piece of used laundry or dry cleaning equipment you are looking for, make sure you work with a reputable company that discloses what repair work has been done on the equipment.  We fully disclose all repair work before selling any piece of used equipment.  Additionally, many distributors sell used equipment as is.  We offer a 90 day parts only warranty many of our pieces of used laundry or dry cleaning equipment.

If you need assistance selling or purchasing equipment, call Kevin Lawson at 866-885-5218 or visit our website

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Unipress Hurricane

I love attending The Clean Show.  It provides an excellent opportunity to check out the latest in technology and to talk one-on-one with the companies we partner with.  Probably the most looked at and most talked about item at this year’s show was the Unipress Hurricane Double Buck Shirt Unit.  I’d like to show you a photo of this unit, but as you can see, there was a mob surrounding it the entire time.

You can check out the Unipress website to see photos and to get more detailed information about this piece of shirt laundry equipment, but let me tell you what I like about it:
  • The Unipress Hurricane has a touch screen to monitor production, but that’s not the end to the touch screen’s capability.  When an error occurs, the screen lets the operator bring up the manual at the point of error and then identifies the parts needed to correct the issue.  This gives the operator all the information needed to pinpoint and communicate the problem to the mechanic, who can show up prepared with all the parts needed to fix the problem.
  • Unipress by far manufacturers the best shirt unit on the market.  That being said, no piece of equipment is perfect.  In the past, there have been issues with rubber hoses cracking causing units to lose vacuum.  They’ve solved that problem in the Unipress Hurricane unit by re-engineering it to eliminate rubber hoses and vacuum lines and then replaced them with aluminum tubing.
  • Finally, they did some fine-tuning on the tensioning arm by both beefing it up and adjusting it towards a more natural angle.
Apparently I’m not the only one impressed by this updated shirt unit.  Sales of the new Hurricane far exceeded anyone’s expectations.  I can see why.  It’s a fantastic piece of equipment.  If you’re in the market for a similar piece of equipment, Tri-State has a great selection of used Unipress equipment.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Refrigerated Air Dryers

A recent conversation with a customer in Texas about refrigeration air dryers led me to think about a pattern we have with our maintenance calls.  As you know, every press in every dry cleaning facility operates by air-activated cylinders to either raise and lower or close and open ironing heads, transfer forms, and such.  Each one of those cylinders has a rubber O-ring that is affected when moisture mixes with the lubricant at the seal.  The problem that many facilities experience is that the air going to the equipment has too much moisture, which ultimately creates maintenance problems and costly repairs.  Unfortunately, many folks tend to ignore this issue; however, with just a little planning and effort, this issue could actually not even be an issue at all.  Here are my three suggestions to help remedy the problem.

1.  Installing your air compressor in the boiler room seems like a logical choice given the amount of noise it produces; however, the boiler room has both a higher temperature and higher humidity than the surrounding area.  Instead of taking in ambient air from that humid environment, we suggest that you pipe the intake to pull air in from outside the boiler room.

2.  Install a refrigerated air dryer.  Here’s how it works – warm wet air enters the dryer and is cooled down.  The moisture that was in the air condenses to water, and that water goes into a water separator bowl and filter.  What’s left is dryer air, which is reheated to room temperature to keep the outside of the pipes from sweating.

3.  Your last line of defense is to install an oil water separator on each press.  This device is designed to keep water from mixing in with the lubricants and getting in your rubber seals and valves, ultimately leading to premature valve failure.  The photo below is of a combination separator/filter/regulator.

Protect your investment.  If you are having water vapor issues, contact us at or call us at 866-885-5218.  We are happy to help.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Graying Garments

A common complaint among frequent dry cleaning customers is that their white and light colored garments look dingy – sometimes referred to as ‘graying’.  This issue comes from redeposition – a situation where the dirt, dye, spotting agents, and body oils from dirty clothes get suspended in the dry cleaning solvent.  Those soils are then redeposited back on to garments in future loads.  Along with the garment’s dingy look, there sometimes can be an odd odor as well.

What causes redeposition?  Actually a number of things, so we’ve come up with a list of the most common causes:

• Using dirty solvent.  Most dry cleaners distill their solvent constantly so that each load is cleaned in clean solvent, but there are some discount cleaners that try to save money by running this process only periodically.   The result is clothes being cleaned in solvent that is at best, murky and at worst, brown.  Your solvent should always be clear.
• There is a lack of solvent exchange between the drum and filters.  There could be a number of issues causing this including dirty or clogged filters that don’t allow the solvent to pass through; a clogged pump strainer; a malfunctioning tank inlet/outlet, filter inlet/outlet, or wheel inlet/outlet valves; the pump not pumping because of either a clogged button trap or a malfunctioning valve at the button trap causing the pump not to have suction.
• Clogged bleeder lines for the filter housings, an issue that is often overlooked.  Each filter has a bleeder line to bleed off air and ensure that the filter is completely full of solvent.  These lines can clog with lint, causing the filter to not completely fill.  That means you could be operating with only half the filter area of your filter system.
• Dirty carbon filters.  Carbon filters are used to remove dye and should be changed every 1200-1500 pounds of cleaning each.
• Improper sorting.  Not only should you sort your loads based on color, you should also sort for weight.  Be sure to run lighter weight garments separately from heavier weight items.
• Overloading the machine.  If the machine is too full, it won’t allow the solvent to move around the wheel properly, causing removed soil to remain in contact with garments longer.

The good news is that the graying color can many times be removed by simply cleaning the garments again in fresh solvent.  If you’ve had customers comment on their whites, do some investigating.  If the list above doesn’t solve your problem, then contact us at or 866-885-5218.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Professional Wet Cleaning

When did people start cleaning their clothes?  I suspect it’s when they started wearing them.  Though I suppose that they didn’t clean them quite as often as they should have.

Web sources site the first form of dry cleaning being used by the ancient Romans.  According to, they used ammonia and fuller’s earth to launder their woolen togas.  Fast forward to the 19th century where Jean Baptiste Jolly, a French dye-works owner, noticed that his tablecloth became cleaner after his maid spilled lamp oil on it. He then developed a clothes cleaning service using this process which ultimately became known as dry cleaning.  According to, perc became the solvent of choice for dry cleaners in 1962.  In recent years, however, the use of perc has declined as more environmentally friendly options arose.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with David Knight of Kreussler, Inc. about an ever growing in popularity alternative to dry cleaning – professional wet cleaning.  David explained that Kreussler, Inc. developed this process in 1985 as a healthier alternative to solvent-based cleaning processes.  Professional wet cleaning is the practice of cleaning dry clean only goods in water.  But please take note - professional wet cleaning is not like doing laundry.  Professional wet cleaners use specialized equipment and processes to safely care for garments.  It takes more than just having the special equipment to professionally wet clean a garment.  It also takes considerable knowledge and skill as most items being cleaned are not durable goods but rather more fragile pieces.  The specialized detergent must do the cleaning so as to eliminate the mechanical action that could lead to shrinkage and dye bleeding.  In addition to the specialized detergent, a conditioner must be used so that the fabrics won’t get hard and rough to the hand.  Finally, garments must be properly finished.
Why might you want to add a professional wet cleaning system to your dry cleaning plant?  First, there are lots of garments that cannot be dry cleaned.  For instance, items like beaded dresses, wedding gowns, and silk items are sometimes better suited for professional wet cleaning.  Second, water soluble stains tend to come out easier in professional wet cleaning; it’s not that dry cleaning cannot remove them, it’s just that there will be a lot of spotting to get the same result.  Third, more of the garments manufactured these days are washable as opposed to 30 years ago when everything had to be dry cleaned.  Finally, professional wet cleaning doesn’t produce any hazardous waste.

There are lots of great companies out there that are heavily invested in wet cleaning soaps, conditioners, and processes.  Besides Kreussler, companies such as Electrolux, Fabritec, Faultless, and UNX are leading the way in this exciting industry.  If you are interested in learning more about professional wet cleaning, feel free to contact us.  We are happy to answer any questions you might have.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An Alternative to Perc

According to Wikipedia, the Kauri-butanol value ("Kb value") is an international, standardized measure of solvent power for a hydrocarbon solvent, and is governed by an ASTM standardized test, ASTM D1133.  And why is this number important?  Because solvents are typically used to dissolve materials, and the higher the Kb value, the better the solution dissolves and ultimately cleans.  Unfortunately if the number is too high, the solvent can pull color from and possibly damage garments.

According to a Dow MSDS sheet, the Kb value of perchloroethylene (typically called perc) is 90.  In the past, the benefit of using perc as your solvent was that it was a better cleaner.  Perc easily dissolves most oils, greases, and fats in the cleaning process.  But over the years the use of perc has declined as more environmentally friendly options have been developed.

At Tri-State, we are all for being more environmentally friendly whether it is ensuring best practices are followed or if a client wants to seek an alternative cleaning method besides perc.  Over the years, dry cleaners have been trying more eco-friendly cleaning products, but few have performed at an adequate level.  Customers ultimately were disappointed with the results.

Recently a long-time customer of ours, Bowen Cleaners in Greenville, North Carolina, switched from a couple of perc machines to a Realstar 80lb Dry Cleaning machine using DF2000, a synthetic hydrocarbon fluid which has a Kb value of 27.  We were happy to be a part of that process and consider Rich Volk, the owner, an extremely knowledgeable resource as to the changeover of performance and results.  So far, Rich has been pleased with the results.  “I grew up using perc, and it is still the best cleaner by far,” said Rich.  “But using the hydrocarbon solvent and upgrading to the optional Realstar solvent heater, I’m getting better results on water-soluble stains and my spotting has gone down 50-60%.”  I learned a number of things during my conversation with Rich, and here is my takeaway:

• Perc is still the best cleaner, especially at getting out oil-based stains.
• Hydrocarbon, even with the lower Kb value -- as long as you are using the right soap, is a great alternative, and it is great at getting out water-soluble stains.
• Hydrocarbon produces significantly less waste than perc.  Rich was disposing 4-6 drums every 5 weeks and is now disposing 1 drum roughly every 10 weeks.
• On a down side, his cycle times have increased significantly but he has combated that by using a machine with a larger capacity.
• He is getting better mileage out of hydrocarbon solvent, so he is recognizing a cost saving there as well.
• Hydrocarbon isn’t limited to just Realstar machines; he is also using the same process in a Union machine.
• There isn’t as much federal or state red tape involved with using DF2000.

If you are in the market for a new dry cleaning machine and are debating on which solvent to go with, weigh the pros and cons of all the options out there.  As you weigh your options, be sure to speak with a machine manufacturer, such as Realstar USA, who can suggest an experienced distributor to help bring the project to fruition.  You may just decide that hydrocarbon could prove to be a great choice for your business just as it has been for Bowen Cleaners.