Dodged a bullet

Kevin Marois

There are lots of moving parts involved in a dry cleaning or laundry plant. And at the end of a long day, it’s easy to overlook something when everything is shutting down. Do you have a checklist that is handy to whoever is closing the plant for the day to be sure it’s all been done? If not, it’s time to make one, and use it.

Case in point

We ran into a situation that not everyone may be aware of. A customer left a steam-electric iron turned on overnight. No big deal … we have all done it before.

Iron that overheated and melted the sole.

Except that the thermostat in this iron wasn’t working. Normally the thermostat will cycle the power to the heating element off and on. When it cools off, the power turns back on. When it reaches temperature, the power shuts off – as long as everything is working properly.

The thermostat in this iron never shut off. It kept heating all night long. Until it melted part of the iron sole. The photos show what the iron looked like when they arrived at the plant the next morning. Fortunately, the iron was sitting on an iron rest and didn’t cause any other damage.

The heat was high enough to melt the aluminum on the nose of the iron.

It didn’t have to end so “well”

I have also seen the results of leaving a steam-electric iron on a press pad for too long. The foam in the pad will actually catch fire.

If that ever happens, don’t step on the steam and especially don’t step on the vacuum. The air blowing through the smouldering pad will cause it to flare up and fill the plant with smoke and the smell of burning rubber. The best thing is to spray the pad with your water bottle until it is saturated with water and the fire is out. It would also help to take the pad outside so the smell doesn’t permeate customers’ garments.

Steam-electric irons are great for shirts. They are a little heavier and a little hotter. But they are more likely to fail than an all-steam iron. Plus the heat in an all-steam iron shuts off when the boiler is shut off.

An all-steam iron will only be as hot as the steam coming from your boiler. A steam-electric iron has an electric heating element and can get hotter than is safe for most fabrics. Plus it only shuts off when you turn the switch off.

Know your equipment

There is definitely a place for steam-electric irons, but the temperature needs to be monitored and they must be turned off when not in use. It is easy to turn the temperature up on a steam-electric iron. It will heat up quickly. If you want to turn the temperature down, however, it may take quite a while to cool off to a safer temperature for more delicate fabrics.

Steam-electric irons also require a lot more maintenance. They have a heating element and thermostat. They require a low-boy or solenoid valve and the power cord will sometimes fail if you wave the iron around too much.

Make a list, check it twice

Imagine the sick feeling of getting a call in the middle of the night saying your plant is on fire. Or a boiler has blown. Or some other catastrophe has occurred. Rather than waking up in a cold sweat wondering if the equipment was all switched off, make that checklist and make it part of the mandatory routine at the end of every day.

Then sleep well.

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