Bypass the limitations of water
Industrial garment service providers that reduce garment wear and improve resource efficiency will have a long-term competitive advantage in cost and customer satisfaction. More than 100 years of thoughtful R&D and scaling-up achieved marginal improvements in resource efficiency while sacrificing fabric integrity and garment life. Innovations include new detergent formulations, heat reduction in processing, and new fiber blends. Other innovations, like water recycling, achieve incremental reductions in water, energy, and chemical use.
As textile/garment manufacturers and service providers head into a new era of resource constraints, supply chain transparency, and chemicals mandates, retaining water-based processing will lead to greater compromises between efficiency and product/service quality. Efficiency in water-based textile processing can reduce garment integrity - for example, exchanging water-extraction steps for garment tensile strength reduction.
The limits of current textile processing are inherently tied to water itself. Here's a glimpse of the some challenges with water + textiles:
The limits of water-based textile processing
Water-based cleaning or coating inherently challenges fiber/fabric tensile strength and can lead to issues like soil redeposition. Likewise, the management of downstream effluent and wastes drives up operating costs. Innovations like tunnel washers and extraction steps have achieved incremental improvements in water and energy use. Water-based processing poses three common problems to textiles:
Textile manufacturers and service providers dial-in initial shrinkage of fabrics and garments during processing but inevitably this leads to the use of excess materials, water and energy, driving up costs. Garments then continue to shrink with repetitive cleaning in water - this is true for personal wardrobes and professional uniforms. The consequences range from aesthetic degradation to serious safety concerns. For example the shrinkage of firefighter uniforms reduces the air pocket around the individual, increasing the chances of a burn incident.
Data presented in a 2013 study by the Textile Rental Service Association of America showed that the mechanical agitation and forced air steps in water-based uniform cleaning contribute significantly to shrinkage; both steps are key components of current water-base cleaning procedures used to increase water and energy efficiency.
2. Color bleeding & functional degradation during cleaning
Over time, the natural properties of water and chemicals used in conventional cleaning bleed color from garments. Currently, garments, gear, and personal protective equipment (PPE) are only washed 50 times (on average) during their useful life. Cleaning cycles are limited in order to preserve the aesthetic and functionality of technical gear.
Outdoor enthusiasts are well aware of the challenges associated with cleaning technical apparel in water. Water degrades the technical properties of Important products like down and water-proof layers in either home-based laundries or dry cleaning processes.
3. Reduction of tensile strength
According to the aforementioned study, only 20 cycles of water-based cleaning and tumble drying results in an average 50% loss of tensile strength. This represents only half of the average useful life for garments, while fiber/fabric functionality is already compromised. Most garments used in service roles (e.g. firefighters, oil/gas workers, etc.) are deployed for another 30 cycles of water-based cleaning. Regulatory protocols aimed at ensuring the safety of servicemen and women through garment care are currently under review, and may be amended in the near future.
Liquid carbon dioxide - advancing textile innovation
To bypass incremental innovations that trade product/service quality for incremental gains in efficiency (e.g. resource, cost, time, etc.), TERSUS helps textile manufacturers and service providers look beyond water as the default solvent. Carbon dioxide offers the best alternative to water-based processing by enabling new textile functionality, unlocking sustainability, and enabling unique cost savings and margin improvement.
It's time to rethink water-based textile processing. A glimpse of what you can expect when you adopt LCO2 textile processing:
1. Eliminate shrinkage, improve garment
TERUSS LCO2 processing does not require hot water or dryers, this immediately cuts down energy and water costs. LCO2 does not cause shrinkage because garments are processed in room temperature liquid carbon dioxide and come out of the TERSUS machine dry and cool.
2. LCO2 has superior oil-based contaminant removal capabilities
LCO2 has low surface tension, meaning it more gently interacts with textiles. LCO2 does not leach color from fabrics but seamlessly removes oil-based contaminants as they bond with the molecules. LCO2 has exceptional oil contaminant removal capabilities, and other non-polar properties ideal for treating unique technical gear. Additionally, LCO2 has natural disinfecting capabilities, which removes undesired and unhealthy contaminants.
In our R&D, TERSUS interacts with technical textiles and high-tech gear gently while not degrading the technical function (e.g. water-proof and flame-resistant coatings). In many cases, the LCO2 restores the functionality of coatings by removing oils and contaminants that compromise technical function. This makes TERSUS an ideal platform for cleaning outdoor apparel, fire turnout gear, and high-visibility fabrics, among other gear.
3. TERSUS uses gentle mechanical action
Due to the superior cleaning properties of LCO2, TERSUS machinery does not need harsh mechanical agitation to dislodge soils and stains. The result is gentler, no gravity action while using less detergent and chemicals, preserving the tensile strength of fibers/fabrics.
As organizations integrate LCO2 processing into their operations, new service and revenue opportunities emerge. This includes cleaning and servicing high-end technical gear used in the military, PPE (including high-visibility workwear), or workwear used in professions like firefighting or oil/gas extraction. LCO2 processing enables organizations to extend the life of their uniforms or products, which in some cases can improve margins. Adopting LCO2 processing also shrinks facility square footage requirements and natural resource use.
The future of textiles demands unique innovation to advance more responsible manufacturing, for only through responsible manufacturing and servicing can textiles fulfill the demands of modern life.