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Buy Best-Quality Textiles; Thwart Costly Abuse (Part 1 of 3)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“Cotton prices are incredibly high, and our textile suppliers are warning that they’ll continue to go up. Can you suggest some ways we can extend the life expectancy of the textiles that we process without completely sacrificing quality?”Textiles: Elizabeth Easter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.Purchase the highest quality that your facility can afford, but keep in mind that price is not always an indicator of quality.
For example, consider sheets and thread count. In general, the higher the thread count, the higher the price point. But thread count is not a direct indicator of durability. The higher counts may be constructed with finer yarns of lower tensile strength than sheets of lower thread counts with coarser yarns.
Many hospitality firms have moved to thread counts traditionally seen only in the consumer retail markets, such as 400-800 thread counts. It has come as a shock to some facility managers when these sheets do not provide the durability of service that they were accustomed to with 180-200 thread counts.Verify the specification of purchased products. Do not assume that you are always getting what you ordered and/or purchased.
Examine and/or evaluate the product received against the purchasing specifications. If the product feels lighter or the thread count is suspicious, compare the product specifications. If you are unable to do this in-house, send the product to an outside source for specification confirmation testing.[NP][/NP]Extend the life of your products through laundering, but continue to provide the customer with acceptable linens.

  • Pre-sort — Increase the process control at the sorting end of the laundry. Remove heavily soiled/stained items from a lightly soiled load.
    Confirm that foreign objects such as scissors, needles and/or tapes are not present in the load.
     
  • Pre-treat — Increase your pretreatment operation. Adding an additional step in the process will prevent rewash/dry and extend the life of most linens.
     
  • Post-treat — Preferably do this at the end of the wash cycle to prevent the stain/soil from being heat-set during drying. If not, post-treat the stain and rewash.
     
  • Wash temperature — Wash in cold or warm water to reduce energy costs, but keep in mind that many soils are more readily removed in hot water.
    Evaluate the energy cost vs. the cost of rewash, which not only utilizes more energy but also reduces the service life of the product.
     
  • Bleach or no bleach — In general, the use or overuse of chlorine bleach will reduce the service life of cotton products.
    Reduce the use of chlorine bleach to those linens that require bleaching to return them to an aesthetically pleasing product.
     
  • Proper drying — Utilize the minimum time, temperature and cool-down cycle to remove the moisture, but do not dry until “bone dry.” The strength and durability of cotton is reduced by 15-20% when overdried.

Increase the number of textile repairs or amount of reuse when possible.

  • Train sorting teams to look for hems and seams that are coming unstitched and remove the goods prior to washing. This will reduce the extent of damage and lessen the amount of repair.
     

  • Evaluate the potential to extend the service life by assigning a secondary function to a product. For example, sheets with multiple repairs may be used as draw sheets to extend their service life.

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Phil Jones, Sheraton Vistana Resort, Orlando, Fla.
There are several important things that anyone who deals with linen needs to make sure are happening. The first is conducting an accurate linen inventory each month. This allows you to purchase only what linen you need and also identifies any unusual linen losses that may be occurring.
[NP][/NP]Next, teach whoever is tasked with cleaning guestrooms what constitutes linen abuse. We meet with the housekeeping team monthly and bring examples of the kinds of abuse we see and make suggestions for how to correct them. We assign a dollar amount to the losses to help educate the housekeeping management staff.
Our resort places cards in each room asking guests to help save the environment by reusing their towels instead of replenishing them on a daily basis. The cards display the program’s mascot to draw the guests’ attention and direct them to some linen-conservation facts and figures we display on our resort TV channel.
Since we are an all-villa resort, we also shifted from a daily cleaning to a mid-week “tidy,” changing the linens only during the tidy unless a guest requests otherwise. This has reduced significantly the number of times linen is washed.
Finally, partner with your chemical company to make sure the proper wash formula is being utilized. The chemical representative needs to do a complete titration of your washers on a regular basis and supply you with the results. If you have not seen a titration report in the last several months, ask for one.Commercial Laundry: Rick Rone, Laundry Plus, Sarasota, Fla.
Linen life expectancy (LLE) is usually calculated in number of washings. Start by reviewing the way the customer uses or, in some cases, misuses the products.
[NP][/NP]Since the first step at your laundry is usually sorting, let’s make sure that it is done correctly so the flat goods aren’t dosed the same as terry linens.
Mechanical action is one of the four parts of the washing equation. We can control this by properly loading the washers and properly utilizing inverter-controlled wash cycles. You can adjust the number of seconds the machine rotates clockwise and counterclockwise vs. the soak time.
If the laundry utilizes a tunnel washer, it probably also utilizes a press for water extraction. Today's press is far gentler on linens than the standard high-speed spin. Again, technology comes into play.
Now, let’s look at wash chemistry. We utilize an ideology based on low-pH and low-temperature washing. The lower we can keep the pH and water temperature, the longer the linens will last (with everything else being equal).
The last part of the wash equation is time or duration. Let’s make sure the goods are not spending too much time in the washer.
Next stop for terry linens is the dryer. Newer dryers are equipped with infrared sensors to measure the temperature of the goods themselves, determine the correct temperature and set the dryer accordingly. This will ensure that you don't cook the fabric softener out, and that you save on energy costs while minimizing abuse of the terry.
The flat goods now usually go to the ironing line. If you use a spreader-feeder, is it adjusted correctly so there is no excess tension on the sheets?
At the ironer, we can adjust speed (lineal feet per minute) as well as chest temperature. Production needs to come in to play but if both are set correctly, it will drastically increase LLE.
Finally, there are automatic folders. Some utilize metal blades to promote folding, and some use air blasts. If your machines utilize blades, make sure they are smooth and do not damage the linens.
If you process COG (customer-owned goods), discuss with your customer the real benefits of acquiring an additional par level. This is a difficult sell, but it will actually save them money over the long term.Healthcare Laundry: Jesse VanOven, Greater Binghamton (N.Y.) Health Center
[NP][/NP]I don’t have much input to provide, with the exception of two suggestions:
      •  Encourage Support Service staff members (and Direct Care staff as well) to request ragged linens for cleaning and related tasks rather than utilize linens from end-user storage areas.
     •  Monitor linen reclamation tasks and train staff to perform the washing properly. Despite the use of automatic liquid-injection systems, some operators have a tendency to add more chemicals than is needed.Check back next Thursday for Part 2!

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