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And How You Can Make Money Selling Them 

By Nathan Schiff, Ph.D.

Associate Editor - Institutional, FABRICARE

Powdered detergents are better than liquids for coin operated laundries. This article discusses the different types of dry-form detergents and some of the ways you can make money by packaging your own from bulk supplies.

Powder products are manufactured using one of three different processes, depending on the desired performance. These include:

1. Simple mixing of ingredients in a powder blender according to a specific recipe.

2. Powders which are manufactured in a drying tower (blown detergents).

3. Granular or agglomerated powders.


Simple Mixing
In this process, the solid ingredients are placed in a mixer. As the mixture is agitated, dry detergent (surfactants) is slowly added to the blend resulting in a free flowing product with individually identifiable particles which can be seen through a microscope. Simple mixtures have densities less than water, weighing approximately 8 to 9 lbs per gallon.

 Drying Tower Powders
In this process, a wet slurry is produced, by adding liquid surfactants to the dry ingredients. The slurry is then allowed to fall through a large tower in which it is dried by upward-blowing hot air. The product so produced has a free-flowing consistency, is uniform in particle consistency and is relatively light weight. Its
weight can vary between one-third to one half that of a simple mix process. 


In agglomeration, sufficient liquid surfactants are added to the dry ingredients to produce a moderately wet mixture. The individual dry components and surfactants tend to adhere to each other during mixing, as the liquids are absorbed, forming granules. The granules are similar in physical composition to each other but not necessarily of a uniform composition. These granules are then broken up into uniform-sized particles, resulting in a highly concentrated detergent. Premium grade detergents are produced in this manner. Agglomerated or granular products have relatively high densities; often weighing one and a quarter times more than simple mixes.
So what has all this got to do with detergency, cost and true value? To answer these questions, let's reflect on how density affects the cost of a product.

The manufacturer's cost, and therefore the price that distributors pay for a product, is based on weight. When a product is light and fluffy, the manufacturer tends to state the net contents in liters rather than kilograms. The contents of a package with a 2 L capacity will weigh 2 kg when a simple mix detergent is packaged. However, because of the lightness of tower-produced detergents, the product would now have to be packaged in a 3 L container to hold 2 kg.

Since, the consumer's perception is that "bigger is better", the detergent in the big box, is perceived as having a higher value. Performance however, is based on weight of product used per weight of laundry, and much more product must be used in order to achieve the same cleaning benefits as the standard density blend.

Profits to the Coin Op Operator
When the product is packaged, transported, marked-up and distributed, the resulting cost is approximately $2.25 per kg for a 3 kg box, at the retail level. Coin-op packs of detergent come in 1.8 to 2 oz boxes when sold through coin dispensers. A 51 gram box of Ultra Tide, containing sufficient product for one load of laundry, sells for $0.75. That same product when purchased in a 3 kg box at the retail level costs about
$2.25 per kg. It contains $0.11 worth of detergent and has a 7-fold mark-up.
This represents an excellent opportunity for additional revenue which can be realized by coin-op managers by making available their own pre-packaged detergents in small zip-loc or plastic bags. Doing so can have a positive affect on overall profitability. Best results are obtained with simple mixes or agglomerates.

Bleaches are another High-Profit Product
The machine-dispensed, color-safe bleaches consist basically of sodium percarbonate. In solution they release active oxygen which acts as a bleaching agent. It is similar to chlorine, but much gentler to fabrics and color. A kg of sodium percarbonate which is readily available from chemical suppliers cost approximately $2.00. A typical laundry load requires 30 g or $0.06 of percarbonate for bleaching action,
representing a healthy 12.5-fold mark-up.  Offering pre-packaged detergents and bleaches can be very profitable for a coin laundry.


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