Recently I was in a very busy dry cleaners and while talking to the manager, I observed the drycleaner loading the dry cleaning machine. As I watched, he proceeded to cram about 70 pounds of clothes to be cleaned into a machine rated at 55 pounds by the machine manufacturer. Over the years, I have seen this too many times to count. I can understand why busy plants try to overload their machine to increase production, but in my opinion, the cost of reruns, damaged garments, redeposition and inferior qualtiy far outweighs the increase in production (if it really is an increase).
There are many components of the drycleaning process that come into play when we look at what it takes to produce a high quality drycleaned garment. These components have direct affect on the soils that we encounter in dry cleaning. Soils such as insoluble soils, solvent soluble soils and water soluble soils. One of these components is the load factor.
The load factor is best explained as being the ratio of pounds of garments in a load of dry cleaning to the size of the dry cleaning wash wheel, otherwise known as pounds per cubic foot. Studies have shown that the ideal load factor is 2.0 pounds per cubic foot. At 2.0 pounds per cubic foot sufficient agitation of the garment occurs, allowing insoluble soils to be removed, transferred away from the garment and onto the filter rapidly, minimizing redeposition and the garment greying you can expect with redeposition.
As dry cleaning equipment has evolved, the industry has slowly moved away from machine designs that incorporated the 2 pound per cubic foot standard to a 3 pound per cubic foot standard even though the physics involved in the removing of soils from clothing has not changed. In fact, you may find some manufacturer's claiming a load factor of almost 4 pounds per cubic foot. With that in mind, I would recommend looking at the cubic foot rating of a machine when you are purchasing a new machine. For your existing machines, determine the cubic foot of the wash wheel and load it at a factor of no more than 3 pounds per cubic foot to achieve the highest quality cleaning.
Overloading the dry cleaning machine can result in many problems, such as streaks and swales, poor water soluble soil removal, poor solvent mileage and poor quality cleaning. Overloading has a direct affect on your insoluble soil removal and can result in garment greying and dinginess. This type of redeposition is almost impossible to remove and usually results in garments being permanently damaged by it. Underloading the wash wheel can have its own set of problems as well, usually not as critical nor as permanent as the damage incurred when overloading the machine. You will have less agitation which can result in less soils being removed. Another problem can occur in the very lightweight garments such as silk, that can stick to the wash cage leaving the hole pattern of the wash cage on the garment. This is easily remedied by the time consuming re-cleaning of the garment.
As you can see, loading the dry cleaning machine is more than just filling it with clothes. Loading your dry cleaning machine in the correct load size can go a long way towards improving your dry cleaning quality, preventing dingy garments and keeping white colored garments bright.