Have you planned for your next breakdown?

Breakdowns interrupt your production, frustrate your staff – and most can be avoided. Preventative maintenance costs your time and materials, but you will save money in the long run by avoiding emergency repairs and downtime. An added bonus – quality improves when machines run well.

Organizing Your Maintenance

The biggest part of preventative maintenance is to observe your machines – listen to them, touch them, smell them. You will know if they are operating properly. Generally, you get some warning before something fails.

Air Compressor

Drain the water tank every morning. Monthly, check the oil. Change the oil and clean lint from fins and belt guard every six months. Check the belts, air filter, air line water separator.


Add boiler treatment and blow down the boiler daily. Check for leaks and test the Low Water Cut-Off monthly. If a handhole gasket is leaking, get if fixed immediately. Steam will erode the gasket surface. Annually, inspect the boiler, change the gaskets, clean loose scale from the waterside and lint from the blower fan. Do a hydrotest to check the integrity of the pressure vessel. Check that the safety valve moves freely. In Alberta we have to change the safety valve every other year. An annual combustion analysis will help save fuel.

Boiler condensate return tank

Monthly, check that the float valve is not sticking. If it sticks partially open, the tank overfills and water runs down the drain.

Boiler pump

Check for leaks monthly. Every year, clean the pump strainer and adjust the pump. Change the discs in the check valves at least once a year.

Building heaters

Clean and check them every autumn. Check belts, rust buildup in the chimney, if fans are clean and oiled, if registers are plugged with lint. Clean lint from exhaust fans and evaporation coolers.

Clothes dryer

Clean the lint screen daily. Vacuum the lint from inside the machine and around the burners twice a year. Remove pins or debris from underneath the basket. Make sure temperature sensors are not covered with lint. Check belts or lubricate chain annually. Open the stack to remove lint buildup.

Computer and printers

Virus scans, defragmentation and data backups aside, also clean the lint and dust out of computers and printers; it causes hardware problems. Get professional help if necessary.

Dry cleaning machine

Develop a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly routine around the dry cleaning machine. Don’t blindly push buttons or follow a schedule. Expect problems that don’t fit the maintenance program.

The button trap and lint filters must be cleaned daily. Weekly, do spin disc maintenance, clean the still, scrape the still walls and clean the window. Clean or check the water separator monthly. If your machine has an automatic program, use it weekly. If you have an air line oiler, fill it monthly. Check steam pressures and drying temperatures. Use a perc detector to check for leaks annually. Test the steam traps. Check the refrigeration system for leaks and re-charge. Check the drive belts, grease the bearings. Open inspection panels to check for lint and remove/clean the spin discs.

As needed, change soap pails and soap pump tubes. Switch sludge barrels. Add solvent. Change cartridge or all-carbon when the filter pressure is too high, when solvent won’t stay clean or when you reach the recommended poundage – depending on the type of clothes cleaned and number of loads.

Suzie or pants topper

Check air/steam timers for correct settings monthly. Check for steam leaking past the solenoid valve. Look for proper drying and steam-trap functionality. Replace the dress or pad when dirty or hard. Check the foam on clamps or paddles. Keep blower free of lint. Clean or replace air filters (if any) as needed.

The biggest part of preventative maintenance is to observe your machines – listen to them, touch them, smell them. You will know if they are operating properly. Generally, you get some warning before something fails.

Dry cleaning Press

Presser should clean table and dust back of press weekly, and inspect pad and grid plate. When the pad starts to get hard or wavy, replace it. Bad pads lead to presser frustration, reduced quality, increased labour costs.

Check the steam and vacuum valves for leakage monthly. Check head pressure – place flat strip of cardboard on pad, close press, try to slide cardboard out; there should be a fair bit of resistance. Grease the press and check the oil in the shock absorber twice yearly. If oil is low, the press will bang when it opens or closes. On a legger press, check timer to ensure adequate steam and vacuum.

Shirt press

Warm up bucks prior to use each day. Cycle the machine a few times, then turn the steam injection on. While the machine is warming up, check for cleanliness and wipe off. Check padding for tears or soil, check air bag pressure. Clean chests weekly. Starch buildup will inhibit heat transfer and can stain garments. Monthly, check the timer and test the safety bars or buttons. Lubricate press monthly. Consult the manual for other monthly maintenance.

Spotting board

Keep it clean. Wipe work area several times a day so no chemical or soil transfers between garments. Weekly, pour hot water into the nose of the spotting board. Check that the water drains into waste receptacle and that flapper valve moves freely. Lift glass and screen on nose, clean under it. Check for steam, air or vacuum leak.


Check water inlet valve and drain valve for leaks. Inspect the basket for any pins or screws. Some washers need the oil changed; some need to be greased. Check soap hoppers and flush down valves. Make sure soap injection pump is working properly. Check water temperature and extract action.

Water softener

Look for water in tank, check for salt, but also test water hardness every few months. Watch for leaks.


Drain water from vacuum tank daily. When vacuum is off, open drain valve. Watch or listen to see if water drains out. Sometimes drain pipe plugs; excessive water inside tank will burn out motor.

Read Your Manual

It’s not exciting reading, but it’s vital. Know what your specific machines require. Keep manuals available and look at them regularly. Decide what you are able to do, and what you need help with. You don’t have to do all the work yourself, but you are responsible for it. Your livelihood depends on it.