Best Practices for Stains, Rewash (Conclusion)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“How can a laundry manager reduce the percentage of stain rewash in their operation? What ‘best practices’ advice do you have in terms of linen types, chemistry, soil/stain identification?”

Other Institution Laundry: Todd B. Jenson, Ramsey County Correctional Facility, Maplewood, Minn.

When I was given the laundry supervisor position, I didn’t know squat about laundry. I just assumed everything went into the washer dirty, and when it came out, it was clean. However, as the years progressed, I found out through various sources that the laundry I was producing wasn’t as clean as I thought. Here are some things I have learned that have helped me reduce my rewash percentages.

Communicate and have a good relationship with your chemical representative. Chemistry is such a huge part of the laundry, as all of you know, and your chemical representative has the knowledge about the chemistry side of laundry, or they have access to someone that does. 

Whenever I have noticed a downward trend in the appearance of the laundry, we, my rep and I, are able to get together and talk out the problem and without fail find a solution. We’ve worked together for many years, have had our disagreements, but have worked through our disagreements and don’t let them drive a wedge between us. We’ve also developed a formula to be used when tougher stains are detected during the pre-sort process.

Share your knowledge with your staff. All that we learn will do no good if it is not shared with our staff that are in the “trenches.” If they don’t know what to look for, then all the knowledge that we possess is worthless. Take the time to educate, not dictate, educate the line staff on what to look for during the sorting process. 

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Todd B. Jenson

Todd B. Jenson

Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves, put on your PPE, work with them, and show them what you want done and how you want it done. In taking this approach, the staff will work harder for you knowing that you care and will begin to find more of the tougher stains, allowing you to get them into the proper wash cycle and getting them clean the first wash.

Commend your co-workers. As you see the rewash percentages go down, share the news with your workers and give them the credit for the improvement. A pat on the back and encouraging word go a long way after a long, hot day in the laundry.

We recently had to make a change from liquid to solid chemicals and the immediate results were not good. The whites were looking very dingy and stains were still present. I contacted my chemical representative and had him change the formula. I also informed and showed my sorters what was happening and that I needed them to weed out the dingy stained whites from the rest so we could wash them separately in the special formula developed by my chemical rep. 

The percentage of rewash has dropped considerably over the past couple of months, and the whites are back to their original brightness. 

We don’t catch everything, but these practices have greatly improved our stain removal and greatly reduced the rewash percentages. Hope this information is of help to you. Thank you for your time.

Chemicals Supply: Rich Fosmire, Epic Industries a Division of Simoniz USA, Bolton, Conn.

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Rich Fosmire

Rich Fosmire

I first try to determine exactly what percentage of the total wash process is reject/rewash. An acceptable number for healthcare is 2-3%. For hospitality linens, a level of 2-6% is acceptable. If you are unsure what your rate is, save all rejected linen for a week, weigh it and compare that number to the total pounds produced for the same period.  

For instance, say we determine the stain rewash rate to be 10%—too high by industry standards—we need only find a way to reduce that by about 7% to compare with what is normally acceptable. This is important because attempting to totally eradicate all stains only leads to washing the life out of the linen, leading to high linen replacement costs, which is the costliest part of a laundry’s budget.

After obtaining a good idea of stain rewash percentage, I next inspect the collection and sorting procedures. When it comes to healthcare linen, this is an on-going battle. We have the nurse’s aides who are responsible for the collection procedure on the floors.  

The preferred process is for the aide to shake out the linen to remove any bodily waste. When this isn’t done, the soils end up staining the linen. The nursing staff needs to be involved in training and monitoring the aides to make sure this critical procedure is observed.

In hospitality, a similar shake-out procedure needs to be observed by the housekeeping staff. They need to be alert to misuse of the towels from makeup, food stains or shoe polish. In both settings, management should take the necessary steps to ensure all of these procedures are followed.

I next look at the wash formulas themselves. The chemical representative can recommend the proper formulas to get things clean the first time.  

One of my “best practices” is to have at least one flush step at the beginning, at cold or warm temperature, to get rid of any heavy particulates, blood or food scraps on the fabric surface. The formula itself is a delicate balance of time, temperature, mechanical action and chemicals. If one area is compromised, the other three must take up the slack.  

When attempting stain control, temperature needs to be checked throughout the day. First loads of the day may get good hot water, but what about later? Are temperatures still at optimum levels?  

Other questions a laundry manager needs to determine include: Are proper formulas being used? Are short cuts being taken to get things washed faster?

These suggestions are not new, but it is good to review them from time to time because when we stray from the formula, we pay the price, either higher replacement costs or a recommendation to close the OPL and outsource, leading to the loss of jobs.  

Miss Part 1 with advice from a consultant and an equipment manufacturer? Click here to read it.

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