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All Textile Products Are Not Created Equal (Part 2 of 3)

“How can we tell if we’re getting our money’s worth from the textiles we’re using? What are the characteristics of a high-quality textile after it has been processed a dozen times, 50 times, or more? And can item type — flatwork or garment — actually influence textile durability?”Long-Term-Care Laundry — Gary Clifford, Pines of Sarasota, Sarasota, Fla.
Getting the maximum use and therefore your “money’s worth” from your textiles requires consideration in several areas.
The first important factor is the quality of the textile that you are starting with. A seemingly easy way to save dollars in your budget is to buy less-expensive textile products, but when you do, you may find that the “cheaper” linen doesn’t hold up well in processing and the more-frequent replacement costs actually increase your budget.
The best ways to determine if you are replacing your linens too frequently are to track your rag-outs and your budget. You should be able to get a hundred or more wash cycles out of good-quality textiles, and your budget should remain at a fairly constant level, allowing for small price increases from year to year.
Ask your textile representative for help in selecting textiles that fit your budget and your process. That is what he or she is trained to do. The rep should be able to help with your purchasing needs.
[NP][/NP]After selecting the correct textile, you will want to be sure that your washers have been set to the correct cycles to minimize textile wear. Too much chemical can cause premature wear of even the highest-grade textiles.
Be especially careful to limit bleach use as much as possible. Also, be aware that the length of your wash and spin cycles can have an effect on your textiles. Don’t over-wash or over-spin. Use the manufacturer’s recommended settings to get the best cycle for each textile type.
When you are sure you have your washers set correctly, check the settings on your dryers. Drying textiles at the highest possible temperature can cause them to break down quickly. Make sure that you consider the type of fabric you are processing when you choose your dryer settings. And, be sure to use a cool-down cycle and remove the textiles from the dryer as soon as this cycle is finished.
If you process good-quality textiles correctly, you will see little wear in 1-50 washings. Beyond 50 washings, wear is limited by the efficiency of your process and the initial quality of your textiles. When textiles become visibly worn — they are thinning or threadbare — it is time to replace them.
I’ve seen no difference in textile durability between flatwork and garments. The wear seems to be more closely related to initial quality than the type of item. But that may differ for industries other than long-term care.Equipment Manufacturing — Joe Gudenburr, G.A. Braun, Syracuse, N.Y.
Looking at this list of questions from a process perspective, I first have to respond with some additional questions:

  • Is there a defined material specification for the textiles you intend to utilize?
  • Do you know where your product is manufactured, and are you working directly with the manufacturer or through one of its distribution channels?
  • Have you visited your supplier and completed a vendor assessment to qualify your potential supply-chain partner?
  • Have you asked your vendor to qualify the critical performance characteristics for the product you intend to purchase?
  • Have you leveraged a third-party organization like your chemical vendor, the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute (the former International Fabricare Institute), or one of the other industry associations to aid you in conducting an independent evaluation of product samples before you decide to make your buying decision?

[NP][/NP]I ask these questions because every process has a starting point, and a host of input variables that drive all downstream aspects of it. It is vital that manufacturers and operators validate all aspects of the materials that go into their deliverables. A failure to do so can and will typically result in erratic product quality, added processing steps and operational costs, and can possibly adversely impact the commercial aspects of your business.
Assuming that the appropriate buying/sourcing and quality protocols have been put into place, one can’t simply assume that all is well. There are many input variables that must be controlled in order to achieve optimal performance.
The use of chemistry, heat, mechanical processing, and material handling can adversely impact textiles. If the textile is suspect from the start of the process, any upset with one of these variables can quickly create a processing, quality, or durability problem for the launderer.
If problems of this nature manifest, it is important to review input variables to the process before altering proven equipment parameters or equipment designs in an effort to minimize the adverse condition that exists. Doing so typically only worsens the situation, or creates a temporary fix that can mask the root cause of the problem. Such changes will create an erratic and costly operating environment.
When textile durability or processing issues exist, don’t hesitate to enlist the support of third-party organizations that I mentioned earlier. And, don’t hesitate to reach out to your OEMs for their support. All of these folks are in plants every day, and aid clients in dealing with problems of this nature.
The experience and technical tools that all of these resources have to offer can aid you in quickly addressing the difficulties that you may be having.
With the rapidly changing global landscape that exists within the textile marketplace, it is important that operators do not go it alone. Often, all products are not created equal, and the cheapest solution does not always provide the best value to the launderer or their client.Check back tomorrow for Part 3 of this story!
 

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