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Best Practices for Stains, Rewash (Part 1)

“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?”

Consulting Services: Michael Dodge, Gotli Labs (GLOBE), Minneapolis, Minn.

The top priority of understanding a stain issue is to know your customer’s expectations and use of textile products. Are we looking at bar mops, sheets or scrubs? We must define our customer’s expectation (or grade) of the condition for the reuse of the product. This definition must be documented and communicated (over and over) to our production associate. The message of what is “stained” cannot be overemphasized.

The next action item is to measure the amount of stain pieces we have by product type and customer (if possible). Any stain rate over 5% needs to be investigated. A higher-than-expected stain rate needs to be identified. Is this high stain rate due to customer abuse, incorrect wash formulas or reprocessing of stained linen?

Remember, the stain pieces should be segregated and rewashed by themselves. There are various stain treatment wash formulas that can be provided by our chemical representatives for grease, metallic, dyes and oxidizable stains.

When reprocessing the stain wash products, our operators need to pay special attention to the products as they are preparing, or finishing, these linen pieces. The pieces of linen that are still stained should be set aside (for a second time) and removed/ragged out from our product system. Again, we need to measure these pieces by product and customer (if possible). 

 It is these “ragged” stained pieces for which new products will need to be put into service as replacements. Note: Some laundry businesses have an “expected new product put in service” rate and charge accordingly.

Equipment Manufacturing: Keith Ware, Lavatec Laundry Technology Inc., Beacon Falls, Conn.

Blame the chemical vendor! This is often the most used excuse, but most times other issues within your laundry are the cause of rewash and stains. These terms, rewash and stain, need to be defined before we can determine how to reduce the percentage in your laundry environment. 

Stain wash is linen that did not come clean during the normal wash process or linen that may have been stained in the finishing, handling or shipping process. Rewash is linen that was dropped onto floor, did not iron properly, was mixed into a non-compatible load, or was not finished properly with wrinkles or mis-folds that needs to go back through the wash process.

Steps to reduce stain:

Start with proper sorting of linen into the correct wash classification. By mixing items, they may not be washed on the proper wash formula to remove the type of soil/stain. With the selection of proper wash formulas, I have often seen employees wash items on the shortest formula in an attempt to speed up the process if the washdeck has a backlog. This usually leads to increased stains that should have been removed if correct formula was used. Proper chemical titrations ensure the chemical formula has the proper concentrations to remove the soil content of the linen being processed.

Your washroom supervisor should be trained by the chemical rep on how to conduct routine titration tests. I suggest having a checklist for daily and weekly inspections on the following:

  • Verify chemicals in tanks.
  • Test chemical pumps or hoses.
  • Check drain valves for leaks.
  • Verify proper water temperature is achieved.
  • Verify proper load sizes.
  • Any rust or oily areas on clean side that could stain linen.

These simple steps should help to reduce your percentage of stains occurring in the laundry. Dealing with stains being caused by your customers is a discussion for another day.

Steps to reduce rewash:

Rewash is often the silent killer of a plant’s efficiency. Often the same items recirculate through the plant due to a simple problem that has not been fixed. Mis-sorts are typically the cause for rewash; specifically, towels that were sorted into a sheet load will not be dried and sheets going into a towel load that come out dry and cannot be ironed. Also, linen sitting too long in baskets or slings that do not have proper moisture content must be rewashed due to high wrinkle concentrations after ironing.  

Linen falling out of carts onto the floor should be re-washed through its normal process. Staff should be trained to reduce these issues, especially since plants usually do not cover linen at the end of a shift. When the blowdown crew cleans off the overhead, it will create a lint storm all over the clean linen, which will need to be rewashed.

Ironer folding and wrinkles: 

These rewash items are usually the result of improper ironing practices, feed techniques and waxing of the ironer. These issues are a significant cost to the plant since the linen has already been sorted, washed and conditioned. By having staff properly trained on feed techniques, properly waxing the ironer, and having the maintenance staff maintain the operating efficiency and quality of the ironer itself, it should help to reduce these rewash items.  

One key philosophy of operating a plant should be to pull the work through the laundry and not have product sitting for extended periods waiting to be ironed. This leads to over-dried goods, which cannot properly go through the ironer since there is not enough residual moisture in the linens to relax the fibers and remove the wrinkles.

While there is no single magical cure to prevent stains and rewash, sticking to your best practices within the laundry should help to reduce these issues.

Check back tomorrow for insights from institutional laundry, chemicals experts.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].