Miele Wet Care Interview

Richard: I’d like to thank Paulo Rocha for joining us this month. Paulo is the head of Commercial Laundry at Miele USA, also the head of Marine Business, and the head of Commercial Dish Washing.

Richard: That’s an extreme going from dishes to textiles.

Paulo:    Well, it has to do with the knowledge that I bring from my experience working with Miele throughout the years. That made me a good asset for these three business segments.

Paulo: On the marine business, it’s a mix of residential and professional products. For the yacht industry, Miele has a residential product line for the galley, and also the commercial grade dishwashers and laundry machines – built for marine use. It’s an interesting business market to work on.

Paulo: Our commercial dishwashers are also used in many commercial applications, due to the fast cycle wash times and perfect finish. Our dishwashers are popular in the wine industry, restaurants, universities, private estates, and labs. Finally, the commercial laundry business segment. Miele commercial washers and dryers are used in many applications where the unique features are the main difference when the industries are looking for quality and long lasting machines. We are a preferred brand when it comes to special applications: wet cleaning (WetCare), fire brigades, vets, hospitals, and other applications. We have been very successful in offering solutions for cleaner hospitals and safer environment by washing the microfiber mops using our unique thermal disinfection technology on washing programs – a higher standard of cleaning – saving time and money. My knowledge behind the thermal disinfection gives me know how to sell these machines to these business segments

Richard:    So it is complimentary, your skill-set allows you to interact seamlessly with these buyers in these divisions. Let’s talk a little about, you actually; you grew up in Portugal is that correct?

Paulo:  I was born in Africa in a Portuguese Colony called Mozambique. I lived in Africa until I was around seven, eight years old in a country nearby called Rhodesia. Today it’s known as Zimbabwe. It was a British colony, and when the civil war started in Africa, we had to flee. My father was Portuguese, so we came to Portugal.

Richard:    You started in the dry cleaning industry as a trainer for a large group of cleaners in Portugal.  Is that correct?

Paulo:    That is correct. I joined a company called 5àsec. They were starting in Portugal. My boss at the time bought the master franchise for the country. So he was beginning the three laundries, and I accepted the invitation to join. He was very knowledgeable and used to work for Union and Bowie.

Paulo:    We grew into a point that we had 300 laundries in Portugal. My responsibility in that company was not only opening every new franchise shop, and everything that’s involved in that, but also training for everybody that was already working in the market.

Paulo:    That was my first contact with the dry cleaning industry. I worked there for more than ten years. During my time working at 5àsec, that’s when I was introduced to Miele. They had invented wet cleaning with Kreussler. They came to my training facility saying that if I would like to try the machines and see if it would be something that we could use the franchise shops. At that point, wet cleaning was ridiculous to talk about, because it didn’t make any sense for a dry cleaner going to water. It seemed a little bit unrealistic, but they came saying that we could increase our production by 30% with water.

Paulo:    My training facility had many brands because we were not exclusive. Our franchisees could buy whatever they would like. So I had to have a set of each so we could do training and we could understand what was happening because the quality, for us as the franchise brand, was essential. All the shops should have the same quality independently of using different brands of washers, dryers, or even dry cleaning machines.

Paulo:    But then I started seeing the potential on the Miele brands. They were fully programmable. They had many features that I love. Also, to me, it was either they would go 100%, or they were no deal. So that’s how I ended up working with Miele. I ended up working with Miele because of that. I started seeing the potential, and Miele invited me. It took two years for me to accept, but I was asked by Miele to create a new concept in the market that would be making some competition in the laundry business, with the company that I was working with Saloni. So we opened some shops that would be 100% wet cleaning under the brand name Aqua Care by Miele professional, and I worked in Portugal with that concept until I came to the U.S. and when I left Portugal we had 35 shops doing 100% Wet Care with the Miele machines, the Kreussler detergents, and the Veit equipment.

Richard:    In full disclosure, I spent a small period of my career working for Miele when they first started bringing the professional wet cleaning systems into the U.S. back in ‘99. You and I met shortly after that. I think I’d already gone back to Kreussler, but you were doing some work on the West Coast. I believe originally for Miele?


Paulo:    I came here only once to see what was happening on the West Coast. In Europe, you will never hear about a million dollar wet cleaning business, but in California, you had a few. I did do that in the early 2000s. I visited California to see what they were doing. However, I only arrived in the U.S. in 2013, late ’13. My focus at that time was mostly the hospital business with the microfiber mops. However, my heart was always with wet cleaning. I never forgot wet cleaning, and that’s where we are now. Wet cleaning is now becoming a trend.

Richard: Let’s take a step back and talk a little bit about the culture of the company, Miele. Miele is a family-owned company, and they’re over 100 years old. I think they were founded in 1899. There are two families, the Miele family and then another family that’s still in or are actively involved in the ownership. Is that correct?

Paulo:    Yeah, the Zinkann family, correct. Miele started with the dairy industry.

Paulo:    They were excellent, but the passion that they had was the washers and the dryers. They sold that to start making money to go full forward on the washers and dryers. More or less, that’s how they started.

Richard:    The brand Miele, is well known as the quality standard in the spaces that they occupy. They make fantastic equipment. Moreover, if anybody’s ever had an opportunity to see a showroom maybe or to look at some of the equipment that Miele makes it’s incredibly high end. What always impressed me with Miele is, and I think it’s like their founding motto, is that they’re never satisfied with where they are. They’re always trying to see can we improve this? Is there something else that we can do to make this better? Easier? More advanced?

Paulo:    Right.

Richard:    And I think that’s what Miele is known for, right?

Paulo:    Yeah. Correct. The motto for Miele is immer besser. It’s a German phrase that means forever better. However, that’s the model. If we don’t do the best machine, then we don’t even sell it. It has to be the best. I was working with other brands, and when I met Miele, that was precisely the feeling that I had. I’m working with the best machine manufacturer in the market.


Richard:    Your activity in the professional textile care division here in the United States has been ramping up over the last couple of years for you. Where do you think this is going to lead for the dry cleaners in our segment?

Paulo: Here’s the thing, going back a little bit, a couple of years ago Miele decided on the professional division, number one, we should ultimately be detached from the residential division. We would be working more independently, although we would be still under the same brand. Before we were known as Miele professional but now it’s Miele. So we work under the same brand umbrella. However, we are two different divisions. One is aiming for the residential side, and one is pointing entirely on the commercial side. When we decided to do that Miele also decided to create a goal, and the goal was to grow fast, grow strong. We want to compete with the biggest manufacturers in the world on the laundry side and the OPL side. That is the motto that we have since two, three years ago, and that’s how we are starting to grow here in the U.S. market as well with that thought grow fast, grow strong.

Paulo:    The idea is to gain more market share in every segment of the commercial side of the business. So also our goal now, specifically in the U.S., is to get the right products and the right solutions for this market. Because the U.S. market is entirely different from other markets that I’ve been. In the European market, Miele is so good that you close your eyes and you think about a brand that can do everything, it has high quality, it’s Miele. Here in the U.S., we still struggle, because other companies are in this market for many, many years, probably since the beginning and created their names based on pricing, not specifically on quality.

Paulo:    Because the American mentality is entirely different. It’s more about if it breaks down I’ll buy another one because they’re so cheap. With Miele it’s different. We think about holding to a machine for ten years, 13 years, 23 years and making money with that the same machine. So it’s a different concept. It’s not when it breaks down; I’ll buy another one because it’s cheap. Because the machine has to be built to endure, we have to bring in features that will make the difference. Also, the features are what exactly provide solutions with the highest quality possible to the user.

Richard:    Expanding on that with your machines. Why don’t we talk a little bit about what Miele has put into, specifically with their professional wet cleaning and laundry machines, some of the unique aspects of that design? If you could tell us the top three or four most important elements.

Paulo:    Okay, the benefits and features on the machine that we build are; it starts with the most important is the honeycomb drum. Miele holds the patent on the honeycomb drum until I believe 2024. I’m not sure, but we can look into that. However, this honeycomb drum, the reason is, that we understand the Sinner’s circle concept. It says you have to master at least four things, having one that’s common for everybody or any manufacturer. It’s the solvent. In the washing or the wet industry, it’s water. We have to master time, temperature, mechanical action, and chemistry. So as you know, Miele is not a chemistry manufacturer, that is something that we try to partner with the best manufacturer in the world for which is why we partnered with Kreussler because they’re well known and the reputation is very high on what they produce.

Optimum washing result – the Sinner’s circle

Only when all four factors are harmonized, an optimum washing result can be achieved.

Sinners circle, developed by Dr. Herbert Sinner in the 1950s, illustrates the interplay between the four main factors for successful cleaning:

  • Chemistry (choice of cleaning agent)
  • Mechanical (removal of soil via friction)
  • Temperature (at which cleaning is performed)
  • Time (duration of the total cleaning processes)


Paulo: We achieve high results because we understand how much time we need for a specific type of fabric, the temperature that we need to get the best results, and then the mechanical action. Having that and then creating this drum that is, as this construction like a honeycomb. So we can make the fabric last three to four times longer on this drum, due to the way it’s built. The way it’s built, it doesn’t break down the microfibers. Even when it goes to high extraction, it doesn’t break the fibers, so the fibers tend to last longer. So if we would spin, for example, the silk blouse on one of the Miele drum at a thousand rpms, when we take the blouse out, we don’t see the mark of the drum.

Paulo:    If you do that with the regular drums that you see in the market, you will see the mark of the drum, and you can’t wash that same blouse several times in a row because then you’ll damage it. That’s a big difference, the drum that cares about the fabric. The other thing that I could say is the machines are fully programmable, so I can tell the machine to do whatever I want. Rotate once to the left, three times to the right, put this amount of water, spin at a thousand. I can go from 300 to 1500 rpms if I want to, depending on what I’m watching. By that extraordinary high G force that we use on our extraction rates, we can also make the drying times, significantly reduced. I have swift drying times, meaning that from start to end on a washing cycle, I can do probably 30 to 50% less time than the competitors with the same quality or better quality.

Richard:    I will say that our experience, everything that you’ve just said we have seen time and time again in the field. The design of the drum allows us to do so much more in terms of the delicate structure and composition of garments and fashion in water because we know that we have more surface area to secure the clothing, there’s less friction on the garment from the drum. All of those things work not only in theory but in practice, You can see it, you can see when the pieces come out, they look so much better.

Paulo:    Another feature that defines us as a wet cleaning leader is a dryer. The way that we also dry the garments is different from the other manufacturers. We dry from in to out the other manufacturers dry from out to in, which increases the time of drying and also from out to in, it will get the sides crispy from the outside, it’s crisp and very hard. With Miele it’s different. I still feel at the end of the dry cycle that it’s dry, but it’s not burnt. The fibers are not crisp.

Paulo:    The other thing is the way that we control the moisture. The moisture is controlled inside the drum and also on the exhaust. With other manufacturers you have one controller on the exhaust, meaning that you’re not monitoring what’s inside the drum, you just controlling the moisture that’s going out, so it’s not very accurate. With Miele, it’s what is precisely happening in the drum, and you can see it on the display, you can see percent by percent how much moisture you have inside the drum until it’s dry to whatever you want to. Because we can set up by moisture, by time, by temperature, however, we want. The machine is purely programmable.

Richard:    I think that the idea of a polished, stainless steel drum where the air flows axially from the front to the back, instead of passing through the perforations of a drum and the drum acts like a grater almost against the textiles. It’s so much easier to dry in less time, and the garments finish much better as a result.

Do you have any comments about where you think professional garment care is going with wet cleaning, advancing in the industry?

Paulo:    Every show that I go, every open house that I go, although it’s entitled dry cleaning, open house or dry cleaning show or event, what we are talking there is only about water. So I see that the industry now and even probably the textile manufacturers are trying to go into that direction.

Paulo:    I think going to water is going to be the solution for the future. Most of the fibers that are very delicate like wool or silk. If you look at those fibers they are, they come from the animal. The hair or from an insect that becomes the silk. The thing is, it’s all natural. You can’t clean natural with human-made or something that comes from petroleum. Because in my opinion and this is what I’ve seen, the only thing that petroleum derivatives and that’s how they build the solvents, they can do on garments is to disperse certain things or disperse certain how I say? Dirt or soil on the garments.

Richard:    I know when we do presentations, and we talk about the benefits of wet cleaning and trying to help dry cleaners expand more into what they can process and water. We talk about the types of soils that are on the fabrics coming in, and sometimes it’s a little subjective, and it also depends on the kind of work that the shop does. However, we know that there are studies that show in general there’s X amount of soil on outerwear and we know what that soil is and where it came from. Also, almost all of it responds to wet cleaning better than it will for organic solvents.

Richard:    The idea that you can be a dedicated wet cleaner. I think that’s proven. I think we’ve established it, especially here in the U.S. market. We have a number of dedicated wet cleaning shops; they operate, they’re successful, they’re profitable, the employees are happy, we know that it’s a viable model. Do you think it works for all types of cleaners or do you think it’s a better solution for some? Or do you think it’s just a mindset?

Paulo:    Now, I think it’s a better solution. Can we go to 100%? We can. However, is that realistic? It depends on the manufacturers of the textile industry. I know that they’re all moving to manufacture textiles that respond better to water. Most of these big brands, they are trying to go that direction because that’s what the market is asking for. Also, the only thing that I still think is missing is a proper care label. Because I think that the industry has to move that way, the services for treating the garments need to be done by professionals. I believe that the only thing that’s still missing is the care labels pointing to that direction saying yes, you can do it on water, but it has to be done by professionals.

Paulo:    The same way that you have a P or an F with a circle, the circle means by professional cleaners, you should have a W with the circle saying yes, you can do this, but you have to go to a professional cleaner. Once this is done, I believe that everything goes back to where it was. You can go entirely 100% on water. I’ll give you an example, one of the large dry cleaning businesses I work with has four dry cleaning machines, they took three out and will still keep one. That is my recommendation because there are some garments still in the market that you can do it on water. However, you have to think that business as a business, you have to make money.

Paulo:    If you spend too much time doing on water because you can do it, but you will spend more time there’s more labor involved, then it’s probably better if you still have a dry cleaning machine, throw it in, and you will have that done quickly. So it’s just as a business concept. I think that some of them, it’s a good idea to keep a dry cleaning machine. However, you can go to 100%. I have, 50% of all the sales that have been doing with wet cleaning machines are fully 100% wet cleaners. Some of them don’t even have adequate finishing equipment. However, since they are a mom and pop businesses, it’s easy for them to do wet cleaning because at the end of the day, here’s a big difference.

Paulo:    On dry cleaning, you do a cycle in approximately one hour, and then you finish it, with wet cleaning by Miele, you have a load every 15 minutes. You can increase your production; you can go faster. Meaning that now that you’re doing everything more quickly, you have more time available to do some of the garments that need a little bit more labor, you can spend that labor there and not diminishing the profits that you’re making by saving because of that. However, on the dry cleaning side, you can’t do that. That’s what it is, and you have to work based on that. Every hour a load but with wet cleaning, it’s every 15 minutes alone. To me, that’s where you make the difference. It allows you to be more independent. When you talk about, should you still be a dry cleaner or should you go entirely to wet? I can go dry to wet. I have the time now, and I can do it. It just takes a little bit more time to do it.

Richard:    If we went back just for clarification on the care labeling aspect. We do have an ISO care label, but we have not adopted a care label or a standard under the American guidelines. I think what you’re saying is, is that you’d like to see an ASTM care label.

Paulo:    For the American market.

Richard:    Yeah, and FTC approves a care label for professional wet cleaning. We lack that, and it seems to be slow in moving in that direction. However, there is an ISO standard for it.

Richard: There have been discussions about a lot of the microplastics that are getting released into the oceans. A lot of it seems to be coming from the washing of synthetic. Polyester, nylons, these synthetic fibers that of course have just permeated the fashion industry are getting serviced 99% of it at home.

Richard:    These small, microscopic pieces of plastic are making their way into the oceans. Is Miele, as a company, are you thinking, okay so we’re making a more sustainable cleaning technology, we’re eliminating the use of organic solvents, we’re doing it with less energy, we’re doing it in a healthier environment. Now let’s look downstream. Is there any discussions or can you talk at all about the idea to mitigate some of the release of microplastics through professional washing and professional wet cleaning?

Paulo:    To be honest with you, this is something that we never, as far as I know, we never discussed that because it doesn’t depend on us. We already have a drum that has a small perforation, that has a honeycomb drum. So when it’s washing, even if on the mechanical action, like on the microscopic side, it’s not something that it’s provoked by the technology that Miele have on the machines. It’s either the construction of the material, or it’s the on the chemical side.

Richard:    I think to show that there are causation and correlation. Moreover, if the cause for the release of microfiber plastics is influenced by the design of the machine, then Miele is already taken into account that their designs mitigate or limit that to non-mechanical related influences. Also, you’re reducing this risk just merely by using the technology. As opposed to going to a more standard washing machine like a shirt laundry machine or something like that, which the mechanical aspects are much more severe.

Richard: What are the plans for the Clean Show this year?

Paulo:    Clean Show is also a little bit more like a continuation of what we’ve been doing in the past. We will have live demos at the Clean Show. This year, it’s going to be a little bit different because this year, for the first time we’re going to start saying to everybody, that we are the leaders on wet cleaning. Because that’s what we did forever. However, we never, we never took that position. Do you know what I mean? So this Clean Show, we’re going to take that position. We’re going to say; we lead this, we invented, we have a chemical company that works with us that recognize that.

Paulo:    We partner with one that invented wet cleaning with us and evolved as well in that industry. So Miele and Kreussler have both evolved. So together we can do 100%, the only thing that, sometimes as a joke, I say the only thing  I can’t wash is paper napkins and toilet paper. However, everything else, if I’m working with Kreussler.

Paulo:    It is true. If I’m working with Miele, that’s why I have much success here in Florida and wherever I am with Kreussler like now in Nashville, Tennessee. We are doing great stuff with Kreussler. Because it is a proven concept. We invented wet cleaning together.

Richard:    I will tell you that Kreussler is excited once again, to be able to have our chemistry used on the Miele booth and we are excited to work with Miele. Also, showing everybody the potential of this technology and there will be live demos at the Miele booth every day at Clean, people can see this and feel and smell the difference with Miele’s Wet Care using Lanadol.

Richard:    Is there’s anything else that you wanted to touch on before closing.

Paulo: Miele is going to grow fast and grow strong. Why? Because we have the best machines, we have the best technology; we have the know-how. Sinner’s Circle says that to conquer clean, there are four things you have to master, right? Miele only does not control one aspect: the chemistry side. And Kreussler is our leading chemical partner, and we’re going to be number one. That’s what we want to be. There are only two phrases that for me make a lot of sense and have tremendous meaning: “Either we are the ‘Immer besser’ or forget about it.” And our Clean Show 2019 motto is: “conquer clean.”

Paulo: We’re going to show how to “conquer clean” with our machines. You can wash many things, but you can only have the perfect solution if you have the right machines. And with Miele its all about savings. You will save on the water bill, electricity bill, and time. Time is critical nowadays. Has to do with efficiency. Also, space is critical. On a hotel setup, you will have a washer and two dryers. Since the washer doesn’t have higher extraction, all washable fabrics come out wet, and you have to split that load into two dryers. With Miele machines, you don’t need two dryers. And drying time is cut by 50% since all fabrics come out of the washer almost dry. Miele is the perfect solution for many markets. And this is the message Miele is sending out – conquer clean. That’s our message.

Richard:    Paulo Rocha, I would like to thank you very much for joining us this month. Miele is an outstanding company, and everything they make is just top notch stuff. Their wet cleaning systems are second to none. We can say this because we’ve been working with them for almost 30 years on this side and no one does what they do. Thank you very much for your time today.

Paulo:    Thank you, Rich.

Richard: You’re welcome.

Paulo:    Thank you so much.