There Are Soaps And Soaps

Just like washing, drycleaning requires soaps and detergents and there are differences, especially in the way that they work.

by Howard Duffy, DIA Technical Officer

Just like washing, dry cleaning requires soaps / detergents and there are differences, especially in the way that they work.

Detergents are classified as:

  • Cationic
  • Anionic
  • Non-ionic 

Drycleaning detergents are necessary to achieve quality cleaning with no detrimental effects on fabrics. Detergents aid in allowing water and solvent to mix, which greatly improves soil removal. They also suspend insoluble soils to prevent redeposition and reduce static electricity.  Although anionic and cationic detergents differ in terms of water dispersion and practical usage, both provide excellent cleaning when used according to manufacturers’ recommendations.

Cationic detergent enables water and solvent to emulsify and provide good removal of water-soluble stains.

The detergent is added to the machine either into the pipeline from the filter to the cage or directly into the cage. The detergent needs to go to the garments rather than the filters. The detergent is added to each new load because if added as per the manufacturers’ instructions there should be very little left at the end of each load it should end up on the garments.

Most currently used cationic detergents are pre-charged with moisture so care must be taken with moisture sensitive garments otherwise shrinkage can occur.

Anionic detergents commonly called a charged system. When using the detergent, the wash / work tank is charged with the detergent according to the recommendations.  A great majority of these detergents contain additional components that enhance their performance, such as optical whitening agents, antistatic agents, and sizings.  The specific percentage of detergent in solvents will sufficiently control any normal amount of moisture introduced to the charged solvent.

In non-ionic detergents, there is no charge.  The molecule does not split in water and does not ionize.  The “non-ionic” carries water by means of solubilization, just as in anionic detergents.  The usual charge for a non-ionic system is 1 to 2%.  Non-ionic detergents alone cannot be easily tested or “titrated".  Many ionics use an anionic as a tracer to help determine the system charge.  This is not a widely used detergent.

Your machinery or chemical supplier are the best qualified to advise you on the specific needs of your business, the types of garments or other pieces will determine which soap and system will suit you and your machine.

Too much is a costly waste and can cause distillation problems and too little will result in bad stain removal and the feel of the garments.