Plant Operations

Plant Operations

Angelica Ramos, Plant Manager and Dry Cleaning Specialist, leads and mentors our professional staff of 15. Each team member has over 10 years of on-hands experience in the dry cleaning, laundry, and textile industries. Each person serves an apprenticeship period, during which they are trained and cross-trained in every phase of the production process. This enables an uninterrupted daily workforce and ensures a continuity of high quality and world class service. CEO and President Jonathan Laurens has recently invested over $180,000 in new machinery and cutting edge technology in our plant. This was necessary to handle the increased volume of textiles as we experience nearly vertical growth and spread the incredible story of Laurens Cleaners. Further, Laurens Cleaners is staunchly committed to being an environmentally responsible citizen in our communities becoming a greener, balanced ecosystem for us and all our families! Our active recycling program and provision of natural, reusable garment bags are further evidence of our Totally Green orientation.

The plant process begins with each tagged piece arriving from our store locations in large, color coded, protective nylon bags. Detailed invoices, specifying each customer’s personal preferences, accompany the soiled items. Laurens’ initial garment inspection is facilitated by the counter clerk’s assessment at the store. Dry cleaning plant staff re-inspects each piece (2nd evaluation) and sort them according to care label instructions, type and nature of soil, color, fabric, decoration, construction, and stains to be treated. Loads are scheduled according to the type and size of our various cleaning machines. Further, Laurens employs hand cleaning techniques designed to gently coax soil and stains from delicate fabrics such as taffeta, satin, and brocades.

Pre-spotting begins with a trained staff member assessing the nature and extent of the stain, and working methodically through the complex technical steps to safely break and remove it. Stains are divided into two major categories: solvent-soluble and water-soluble. Different stains require different treatments. Much care is taken, with different techniques and increasingly specialized fluids; oxidizers and reducers can be used to act in different directions for different results, Unfortunately, due to the nature of the staining process, not all stains can be safely or completely (successfully) eliminated. Sometimes, the final step is to determine that all that can be done, has been done. Further information can be attained by reading the consumer bulletins and technical materials under the Fabric Care Tips tab on our home page.

Dry cleaning uses fluids, commonly called solvents, to remove soil and stains from fabrics utilizing a closed machine that cleans, spin and dries. A major advantage of dry cleaning is its ability to dissolve grease and oils when water is ineffective. Natural fibers (wool and silk) dry clean very well, but can shrink, distort, and lose color when washed in water. Synthetic fibers (polyester) respond well to dry cleaning, whereas they can retain oily stains after washing. Dry cleaning restores and renews textiles to a renewed condition using safeguards to prevent shrinkage, loss of color, and change of texture or finish.

Wet cleaning is a gentle form of water based cleaning that professionals may elect to process sensitive textiles such as wool, silk, rayon, and linen. It provides flexibility in cleaning items that may not withstand a dry cleaning process or that have soils that would be better removed in water. Decorated items with plastic beads or sequins may dissolve or discolor in dry cleaning, but generally withstand wet cleaning. Rubberized, polyurethane, spandex, or vinyl items (incl. PVC products) may be wet cleaned so that they do not malform, become stiff or brittle, or suffer fusible separation between their facings and linings. In this case, it is followed by an air drying technique. Textiles with large beverage stains, mud, road salt, or hem dirt & grime fair better in a wet cleaning process. NOMEX and KEVLAR are wet cleaned to maintain the special properties of these highly protective materials.

Dry cleaning (or wet cleaning) is followed by air or tumble drying of most textiles. Dress shirts and bed and table linens are exceptions, since they are pressed damp to achieve the “finished, crisp look” of a commercial laundry. Most garments and household items are finished (the term for pressing and/or steaming) using one or more specialized presses and hand irons for specific fabrics, decorations, and constructions encountered daily. Laurens utilizes steam heat with air driven presses, not electric heat, as smaller “mom-and-pop” stores often do. This combination eliminates the possibility of “scorching” fabrics, which happens only with electric irons that are unsheathed. Further, iron guards protect hand “touch up” irons from coming into contact with finer fabrics to avoid crimping or wrinkling them due to “too hot” of an iron damaging these delicate garments.

Garments and textiles are then re-inspected (a 3rd time) to determine if further care is necessary to improve unusual circumstances or condition of the end product. Another staff member sews buttons on where they are missing upon arrival, have come loose in processing, or are cracked by customer use. Laurens replaces hundreds of buttons per month, as a value added courtesy and basic element of our Personal Valet service ethic. If the items are judged “best possible”, they are assembled on gang hooks to keep them together as one order; yet separate from other orders (invoices). Before bagging, tags are removed and stapled to their invoice, which is attached to the bag(s) in the order. Orders are racked for delivery to their source store (or route), including a 4th re-inspection before returning to their owners. Route representatives perform a 5th re-inspection during their handling activities.

Contrary to popular belief, frequent cleaning does not damage clothes. Frequent cleaning extends the life of a garment by removing stains, soil, and ground-in dirt that can cause fiber abrasion and degradation. Frequent cleaning removes stains that could oxidize and yellow if left untreated. Exposure to light (UV), heat, humidity, or the passage of time can cause stains from food, beverages, and other oily substances to oxidize and turn yellow or brown, much the way a peeled apple turns brown after exposure to air. Once that occurs, they become much more difficult to remove or cannot be removed at all.

Some dry cleaners specialize in odor removal and flood and fire restoration of water- or smoke-damaged items. Laurens is one of these specialty cleaners who use ozone generators to do an ozone treatment. The contact between ozone (rich oxygen) and the odors embedded in the textiles causes oxidation to reoccur, resulting in the elimination of the odors and the release of oxygen and carbon dioxide gas. This is a safe and effective process. Laurens has 2 ozone chambers to aid in malodor treatment. This is an extra level of service to remedy specialized issues customers may encounter in their lives.

Some cleaners provide garment storage for out-of-season items. The garments are stored in a vault, which offers protection from insects, fire, burglary, flood, and mildew damage. Furs used to be the primary storage item; but today, cleaners receive woolens, household items, and other items to store as well. Laurens has facilities for cold storage of furs and suede and leather garments. Air conditioning IS NOT cold storage! Air conditioning is a cooling process which reduces the heat in an atmosphere; however, it removes humidity simultaneously, which dries out the natural skins, causing them to become brittle, crack, and deteriorate. Damage is often irreparable. Cold storage is a refrigerated atmosphere which combines cooling with a controlled humidity allowing the skins to remain fairly pliant during summer months. Along with annual cleaning and glazing (re-oiling of the skins), refrigerated storage extends the life of natural skins like furs, suede and leathers.

Thanks for all the technical systems consultation, consumer education and training, and eco-friendly improvements to our hallmark European standards of quality and superior world-class service to the friendly professionals:

Harry Kimmel and Jim Kirby from the Dry Cleaners and Launderers Institute in Laurel, Maryland

Bryan Barca and Jack Arendt from Haiges Machinery in Huntley, IL