Locals take slap shot at big-time cleaning problems
August 27, 2006
Playing hockey is all well and good except for the fact that the gear smells awful. Perhaps worse, the bacteria can cause rashes that make hockey less fun. It can be the same with ski boots, feather beds, equestrian equipment or anything else that doesn’t fit in the washing machine. So Basalt resident Steve Smith, an Aspen policeman who is also an avid hockey player, set out to clean some gear. What he found is a large-scale washing machine designed by a hockey mom and dad in Canada who couldn’t stand the stink anymore.
Smith and his girlfriend, Susan DeCillis, went into business together and bought a single Esporta machine with a price tag of $85,000. They also bought the rights for the system, stretching from Parachute to Vail and Glenwood Springs to Aspen. He opened up shop recently after buying a run-down house on Grand Avenue in Glenwood and plopping the 3,600-pound machine in the basement.”The machine was so big we had to take the front door out and rip out some concrete in the front,” Smith said.The system has been catching on in unlikely areas. A friend whose dog had an accident on a king-size feather bed recently brought the bed in to be washed.
There has been interest from oil and gas workers who need to clean their fire-retardant coveralls. The same goes for firefighters’ bunker gear, which can lose its effectiveness without proper washing. The bread and butter is still hockey gear, though.
“If we’re really busy, I can do 24 full sets of hockey gear in one nine- or 10-hour period,” he said. “I could do 300 or 400 sets of towels in that period.”He charges $50 for a full set of hockey gear, while ski boots would run $15 and a helmet $12. The machine washes with water and enzyme-based detergents that are completely biodegradable. The kicker is that the detergents kill bacteria that like to roost in hockey pads. The cleaning is deeper and longer-lasting.
Generally, they air-dry the gear to save on electricity costs. And even if they use the drying mechanism, they only dry to dampness, so the plastic of hockey gear, for example, doesn’t get too hot. “We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to grow a bit and buy another machine,” Smith said. “I haven’t heard a bad word yet from anyone.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org