RIPON, Wis. — It’s the rallying cry of all on-premises laundry operations—maximum efficiency.
We invest in washer-extractors and tumble dryers with features and functions that reduce utility and water consumption while helping speed cycle times. Managers work closely with their chemical company representatives to ensure tailored programs and dosing for the best results.
The overall goal of efficiency through dialed-in processes contributes to longer linen life and lower per-pound costs.
And then there’s rewash.
If you want to effectively negate all that investment in highly efficient laundry equipment, don’t keep an eye on your rewash percentage. Nothing kills the efficiency of an operation faster than doing a load of laundry … and then doing it again.
The bottom line is paying attention to and adapting processes can help your laundry keep rewash numbers in check to help improve your bottom line.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
The standard baseline for rewash in most linen processing facilities is roughly 5%. Admittedly, it will be a tall order to improve on that number for the simple fact that linen is coming in from off-site clients, where the plant has no control over housekeeping staff.
Hotels, long-term care facilities and other locations that are processing loads in on-premises laundries may run closer to 2 to 3% rewash or better. Though adding in food and beverage linens are likely to raise the rewash percentage.
We’ve already covered that rewash costs a laundry operation in utilities, water and chemicals. Add in the wasted labor, and high rewash percentages take that cost higher.
Then there’s the major cost—linen replacement. As any facility manager knows, linen replacement cost is a significant expense, and maximizing linen life is always a priority.
Whereas normal costs to process loads can range from two to five cents per pound, heavy reclaim numbers can take that cost to 20 cents per pound.
Still think reducing rewash loads isn’t worth your time?
Quite simply, rewash is a leading cause toward prematurely wearing out linens. More washing and, in particular, the more aggressive formulas utilized in rewash programs are rough on the linen fibers.
Baked-in stains require what laundry professionals refer to as the “thermonuclear” wash program to bring the linens back to life. That means a heavy dose of chlorine, which can prematurely fade colors and is just harsh on fibers. Again, the best offense is a defense—limit rewash as much as possible.
START WITH THE FRONT LINE
There’s nothing overly complicated to addressing rewash. It starts with frontline training.
Simply empowering housekeeping staff to separate stained linens and place them in a dedicated bag will have the biggest impact on getting a handle on rewash. Pre-sorting really is 75% of the battle and doesn’t cost anything.
The goal is always to catch the heavy soil items before they enter the washer-extractors and definitely before they make it to the tumble dryers and become baked-in stains. So, obviously, catching these items on the front line makes the most sense and takes pressure off the laundry staff.
Stained items have a far greater chance of being caught by housekeeping staff moving from room to room collecting linens. By the time pieces reach the laundry room, they are piled in carts and the focus is on getting the washer-extractor loaded as quickly as possible.
Therefore, it’s unreasonable to expect laundry staff to be the only line of defense in separating heavy-soiled pieces.
FOCUS ON FORMULA
We can all agree that totally eliminating rewash/reclaim isn’t really a reasonable expectation. So, then the next focus becomes ensuring staining is removed and items can be returned to service without further damage or stress to the fiber. That challenge comes down to the five elements of cleaning—time, temperature, mechanical action, chemicals and process.
Again, the key is working with your chemical company representative to dial in programming. This is also where machine flexibility makes a giant difference.
For instance, the best results on reclaim cycles should start with a cool water flush to relax the stains. Machines with higher-end controls will enable you to get specific on temperature; whereas a basic machine might decide for you that cool is 40 degrees. For our purposes, we want “cool” closer to about 70 degrees for best results.
If you have older machines or models that don’t allow significant programming flexibility, your chemical company will be working with a major handicap in getting the desired results.
As with all elements of your laundry operation, training and process control will be equally important. Heavily stained items will no doubt require some form of pretreatment.
Guess what? The most popular pre-spotters among laundry staff offer a heavy dose of chlorine, and while it’s a great stain remover, it’s also harsh on fabric. That’s why it’s important that staff is trained to A) use as prescribed (more is definitely NOT better), and B) don’t allow the pre-spotter to stay on linens any longer than necessary.
There’s no one simple answer to rewash loads. As with most things in an on-premises laundry, it’s a multi-pronged attack with communication at the center.
Start with communicating the need to reduce the rewash percentage. By bringing all facility partners to the table and establishing that there is a real cost incurred by rewash, you will create urgency and importance to the task.
From there, getting housekeeping and floor staff onboard as the first line of defense and equipping them with separate bags and/or bins for heavily soiled items will have the greatest impact.
Investing in laundry equipment that enables you to tailor cycles to specific pieces and soil levels while giving chemical company representatives greater control over cycle steps and temperatures, also will be an investment that will pay dividends.
The final piece is simple—continuing to put processes in place to monitor the effectiveness of your plan and communicate results to staff.
Most of all, don’t forget to celebrate your victories along the way with staff. Small rewards such as pizza at lunch or doughnuts and coffee marking a great job of housekeeping and laundry staff can have a great impact on team morale and keep them focused on getting the desired results.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected] .