Captain Dry Clean in Ewing uses organic cleaners rather than toxic chemicals.
Between working (at least) eight hours a day, doing work around the house and running the kids around town, finding time to shoehorn in a trip to the dry cleaners can be difficult for many people.
Captain Dry Clean, a “green” dry cleaner in the Suburban Square shopping center, has the answer. From Monday through Friday they will pick up your clothes at your home or place of business, clean them, and then drop them back off a day or two later. All this for no extra charge than if you dropped off your dry cleaning at their shop.
And your clothes won’t have that funky chemical smell that you get from most dry cleaners. That’s because Captain Dry Clean uses a process unlike traditional dry cleaners, which use perchloroethylene, the most popular chemical in the industry, and one known by its more common abbreviation, “perc.”
Not only does it smell bad, perc is so poisonous that the state has declared it a toxic chemical that will be illegal as of 2021. If overused or not properly disposed of, it can contribute to smog, poison the water supply, and leech into soils.
And the smell it leaves on clothes isn’t just unpleasant, it can be lethal. That’s why dry cleaners tell you to take the plastic off your clothes and leave them outside for a while.
Breathing the vapors of perc indoors with lots of ventilation can still make you sick, and getting too close to it for even a few hours has been directly linked to deaths among homeless people who have their sleeping bags dry cleaned and never wake up after a night of breathing in the vapors.
Mike Waintraub, who opened Captain Dry Clean five years ago, was one of the first dry cleaners in the area to do something about eliminating the toxin from the everyday lives of anyone who wears business suits or dry-clean-only sports wear.
Waintraub, who began his business as a mobile laundry pick-up service — gathering customers’ laundry and dropping it off at traditional laundries and dry cleaners — learned of an organic, biodegradable solvent called GEN-X.
Manufactured by Wayne-based Caled Chemicals, GEN-X is dry cleaning’s answer to its own toxic legacy. Waintraub embraced the solvent and its proprietary machines, which at about $90,000 each are double the price of a standard dry cleaning machine.
When Waintraub decided to start his own business he was at first unaware of the presence of organic solvents. But he quickly learned that he could either go standard or go green.
Waintraub’s mentors and former business partners, whom he did not name, encouraged his eco-friendly enterprise, saying that they wished they could go organic, but they were still paying off their perc machine and couldn’t afford to switch.
Waintraub said he opened Captain Dry Clean to almost immediate customer acclaim, the most obvious accolade being that clothes from his shop had no odor.
“We’ve had double digit growth each year for the past five years,” said Waintraub. “The residents of Ewing and the surrounding area have really embraced us. People like our organic dry cleaning and our customer service”
Despite the more expensive equipment and larger initial payout for his solvents, Waintraub said his prices are “competitive to any other high quality dry cleaner” that still uses perc.
Captain Dry Clean’s pick up and delivery service covers all of Mercer County and goes to Bucks County, Pa., as well. Waintraub said they are the dry cleaner for about 10 hotels in Mercer County and they also service many corporate offices, and the employees who work in businesses such as law firms, accounting firms, and insurance agencies.
With business increasing, Waintraub has been encouraged to franchise the Captain Dry Clean name. He said that although some people have shown interest, he hasn’t had the time to pursue the idea.
“We’ve really been kept busy focusing on building our pickup and delivery business and corporate business,” he said.
The company’s mascot — a super hero clad in a green body suit with a blue cape, boots, and gloves — has served as a great way to build the company’s identity.
Waintraub explained how the idea for the company and its mascot came about.
“I wanted to have a name that would be good for a franchise, and be franchisable,” he said. “Something fun and catchy and have a logo that people would remember and catch peoples’ eye. We threw around a number of ideas and finally settled on the Captain. It’s a fun brand that people like. In fact, a lot of our customers call me or our drivers the Captain when we deliver to them.”
“We’re thinking about trying to expand it more, things like having different stains as villains,” Waintraub said. Also under consideration is a comic book and Youtube videos featuring a live-action Captain Dry Clean.
Waintraub said that one thing is clear after five years — Ewing is a great place to have a business and he anticipates that its going to get better.
“I see Ewing as a town that has a lot of great people that live and work here,” he said. “Ewing has a lot of potential. I’m really excited about the plans for the town center and the airport is going like gangbusters now. I think the town’s really headed in the right direction.
Captain Dry Clean, 37 Scotch Road, Suburban Square, Ewing, (609) 771-8600. www.captaindryclean.com