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Buy Best-Quality Textiles; Thwart Costly Abuse (Part 3 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?” Equipment/Supplies Distribution: Russ Arbuckle, Wholesale Commercial Laundry Equipment SE, Southside, Ala. — A Web-Exclusive
As the cost of cotton rises, premature linen replacement becomes a larger and more expensive issue.
There are a number of causes related to this problem, including high temperature, mechanical action, and chemicals.
High temperatures during the washing and drying cycles can destroy fibers in the laundered material. High-temperature wash water causes the texture to become coarse and reduces tensile strength. Some laboratory studies have shown that washing at only 120 degrees reduces tensile strength by 37%.
The mechanical action that cleans the linen during the wash cycle can also damage the linen! Drying tumblers offer a double whammy of high temperatures and mechanical action.
High-alkaline detergents and chlorine bleach can weaken fibers. If we fail to rinse thoroughly, we may find that drying the linens containing chemical residue causes even more damage.
When properly sized, installed and operated, ozone laundry systems can counter all of these factors.
Ozone can relax fabric weave, allowing the wash action to be more effective. Operators can shorten agitation time, reducing damage caused by mechanical action. Additionally, the relaxed weave enhances wash extraction. Lower moisture content means shorter dry times, further reducing exposure to heat and mechanical action.
Ozone systems also allow for lower wash temperatures and fewer wash chemicals. Ozone doesn’t replace good chemistry, but it can reduce the amount required. Coordinating this with sufficient rinses and water levels should eliminate residual chemicals that may cause textile damage. Periodic testing can ensure proper concentrations are being used.
Another way to reduce premature linen wear is to utilize soft-mount washer-extractors. Their higher G-force extraction can greatly reduce moisture content, limiting exposure to high temperatures and tumbling action while drying.
There is no single way to ensure maximum linen life, but with costs rising rapidly, sagacity suggests that you understand your options and utilize the tools that make the most dollars and cents. Textile/Uniform Rental: John Shoemaker, General Linen & Uniform Service, Detroit
The ability to maximize life expectancy of textile products is of paramount importance, perhaps now more than ever before.
Several years ago, I took over a large, mostly industrial, uniform plant. One thing that caught my attention immediately was the large amount of lint. It was in the air, and it was so abundant that it would deposit overnight onto navy garments and be visible the next morning—if you were looking for it.
What happened next was wonderful. We entirely redid our washroom chemistry. We used more modern technology to reduce the amount of lint, which in turn greatly increased the life expectancy of the garments.
This did involve a vendor change, along with all hiccups that go along with it, but the end result greatly enhanced quality. Chemical costs, washroom costs and garment-injection costs were all lowered as a result of garment life expectancy being maximized.
I would encourage anyone who hasn’t looked at their washroom for some time to take an in-depth look at what they are doing and determine if this could be an area of potential savings. Equipment Manufacturing: Chuck Anderson, Ellis Corp., San Diego
Whether customer-owned goods (COG) or rental, it is more important than ever to make sure we are getting the most mileage out of the textiles we process. One of the easiest ways to do this is to spend some time looking around our own backyards. I’m in countless laundries each year and watch operators run over linen with carts or walk by linen that has fallen on the floor.
The first step is to make our employees aware of the cotton crisis and then educate them on proper textile handling. The next step is to implement a plan to reduce rewashing textiles due to poor processing procedures that can be avoided.

Receiving/Soil Sort

Spend some time looking at the textiles coming back for processing. Do napkins look like they are being used as grill rags? Are bed linens coming back ripped from maids pulling them off the beds from one corner? Do towels look like they are being used to clean rooms or equipment? It may be time to re-educate our customers on proper handling of the textiles.
Make sure textiles are being sorted into the correct classifications and weights. Keep your soil bins, chutes, belts and slings clean and contaminant-free; we don’t need to add additional soil to what might be lightly soiled linen.

Wash Aisle

Inspect your wash wheels for cracks or weld slag that could be snagging or tearing your textiles. Follow proper loading procedures. Overloading can result in poor quality due to redeposition or lack of suds in the wash wheel. Overloading also may result in chlorine carryover and improper pH balance at the end of the cycle.
Underloading is a less frequent problem that results in excessive chemical usage (per pound of linen processed), degrading textiles and adding to operational costs. It also causes excessive mechanical action, which will cause greater wear on textiles and increase linen-replacement costs.
Work with your chemical representative to reduce time, temperature and dosage where applicable. Investigate chlorine-bleach alternatives such as peroxide or peracetic acid. These chemicals may cost more upfront, but will extend textile life. Make sure you have soft water; maintain as close to zero grains hardness as possible.

Dryers

Have your burners/airflow calibrated. I have seen improperly tuned burners and airflow turn linen gray or brown, forcing the need to rewash. Recheck formula times to not overdry or underdry. Do not eliminate cool-down for towels. Make sure that lint collectors are blowing down properly and are properly sealed. Check to see the basket perforations are free from plastic and other debris.

Finishing

Install linoleum or a stainless sheet around feeders to keep linen from contacting bare concrete. Keep the area free of lint and other debris. Have your employees wear shoe covers.
Maintain ironer covers, pads and guide tape. Clean and wax regularly. If running table linen for long periods of time, then switching to sheets, make sure to run a discarded sheet down both sides of the unused ironer chest before processing the sheets.
Folder belting should be kept clean and adjusted properly. Make sure static bars are functioning properly. Instruct staff members who handle clean linen to wash their hands after breaks and lunch.

Facility

Keeping your facility as clean as possible will help to reduce rewash. Try vacuuming instead of blowing lint off equipment. Make sure maintenance is wiping down bearings and equipment after lubricating. Invest in air scrubbers around final processing areas such as folders.
 

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