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Clean Workplace Promotes Morale, Safety (Conclusion)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

What tasks should we be performing regularly to keep our facility clean? To what degree do we need to clean our equipment?

Chemicals Supply: Philip L. Bodner, Metro-Chem, Kearny, N.J.

philip bodnerThe topic of maintaining a clean wash room and production area is one that really resonates with me. I believe that a light routine of scheduled cleaning and organization, and that little extra effort to paint what needs painting and throw out or recycle what needs to go, will pay off in so many ways.

I get to visit many laundry operations of various types and sizes. I call on independent linen and uniform plants as well as shirt laundry and institutional facilities. I’ve seen some pretty nasty operations, and some plants that are like well-oiled clocks—as clean and organized as you can imagine.

The better-maintained plants have the ability to produce better quality and realize a more efficient production stream. The employees are happier because they work in a clean, safe, organized environment that allows them to be more productive and a proud part of the operation that employs them. No matter what size plant or budget, there exists some simple things to do that are proven to benefit one’s overall productivity, safety and profitability.

There is nothing more rewarding at home than a good spring cleaning and subsequent purging of everything that doesn’t work, doesn’t fit or hasn’t seen the light of day in years. A laundry operation is no different, if only for the fact that we spend much of our waking hours there.

Start by losing those dead laundry carts that are falling apart or have no wheels. Toss the old, yellowing, dead-linen inventory that will never be used and only takes up space. Make arrangements to remove unused obsolete equipment. I know it costs money to remove “Old Betsy” from your plant, and it’s the only good place to hang your calendar and jacket, but its departure will leave you with newfound production space.

Some simple musts include blowing down lint from all surfaces on a regular basis. This should include rafters, light fixtures, fan guards, folders, etc. Less lint means less chance of potential fire hazard and a better chance that electric eyes on folding equipment will function correctly. While at it, make sure to clean lint from all air-intake screens on sides of washer controls and other fan-cooled equipment, which will reduce heat-related electronic issues and failures of costly inverter units and other circuit boards.

The frequency of cleaning and waxing of pressing equipment or flatwork ironers should be based on their production volume. A busy shirt laundry doing 2,500 or more shirts a week should properly clean all pressing surfaces at least once a week. All flatwork ironers should be maintained with a prescribed regimen of cleaning cloth, cleaning paste and ironer wax on a fixed schedule. Busy table-linen plants may do this every morning and sometimes again at midday. Consult with your pad and cover providers for ideas, materials and instructions to accomplish the correct cleaning procedures.

Both the soil-sort area and wash alley are usually ground zero for accumulation of dirt and clutter. This is where we receive all the dirt, grime and surprise goodies that our end-users send back in the linen. Soil-sorting rooms and areas should be swept clean daily and either hosed down or mopped regularly. This lessens potential slip-and-falls and also removes food sources for insects and rodents, both of which can and will damage textiles.

Right before you sweep up is a good time to flip over laundry carts to remove debris—and hose them out if they are really bad. In the summer months, carts can get quite smelly from soils and molds. After cleaning and hosing, try spraying with unscented disinfectant spray to control residual odors and partially inhibit mildew growth.

Sweep wash-room floors with a stiff broom and hose them down at the end of every production day. If your plant is not keeping up with this practice, then you are probably saddling yourself with unnecessary linen- and uniform-replacement costs.

Linen on the floor is walked on or rolled over by a cart. Combine that pressure and weight with floor grime and you’ve got a virtual “printing press” that spells immediate disaster for otherwise viable linens. I’ve seen many a perfect image of the bottom of a sneaker smack in the middle of an expensive tablecloth. Once these “cement stains” occur, there is no reliable, sensible way to remove them, so help yourself by curtailing them.

There are many other common areas that may stretch over into preventive maintenance that should be common practice in all laundries. Some include keeping good records of lubrication periods on your machinery; checking washer and dryer baskets for fabric-tearing burrs by wearing a wool glove and rubbing your hand on all surfaces to feel for snags; updating and correctly labeling the breaker switches in the electrical boxes powering your machines; and replacing burnt-out lighting with upgraded bulbs that save energy while allowing your employees to see what they’re doing. I’d say that “shining a light” on these issues will help everyone involved in day-to-day production.

I could go on, but once you make a move toward keeping things clean, organized and serviced, you’ll discover other areas and items that can and will be improved. If you follow a cleaning program routinely at little or no cost, the tangible benefits are well worth the effort.

Commercial Laundry: Richard Warren, Linen King, Conway, Ark. 

richard warrenKeeping the facility neat and clean is an important exercise, since laundries are in the business of producing clean, neat linen that feels and smells nice.

We also have visitors from time to time and the impression they leave with will influence how they feel about our work, as well as impact our reputation. The things our customers see and look for need to be addressed, of course, but there are other points to consider.

In many laundries, the soiled sheets and blankets come into contact with the floor, so that area must be disinfected daily. Same goes for the conveyors for the washers and soil sort. The washers require daily disinfection, especially at points of linen contact when unloading. Disinfect the wash-room floor every day.

Lint will collect on your exhaust fans, and when you shut the fans off, that lint will fall. Keep the fans clean. Overhead blowers will collect lint when they sit idle. When turned on, it looks like a blizzard! That lint lands somewhere, but hopefully not on the clean linen or in empty carts. Discretion and care are vitally important. Sweep out and disinfect the truck boxes daily.

You can mop your floors with neutral cleaner and a disinfectant. It may not get the floor as clean as something else would, but it will be disinfected in a one-step process. Or, you may mop with a higher-pH cleaner and follow with a spray disinfectant. That takes more time but is a more effective procedure, I believe.

One of the things that give customers excessive heartburn is the presence of lint on or around the ceiling; dust and lint must be removed daily. Insulation looks like lint to most observers, so cut it down or cover it up. Assess and address that situation monthly. Pest control is also an important part of this equation.

The old standby is to blow everything down using compressed air. Safety people get all excited about compressed air, and rightly so. I’m not the safety police, but I have to say we would all do better with a vacuum. There are units that will clean the highest ceilings, clean out the dryers, clean machines and the floor, even suck up soda cans. They are big, bulky, and take some getting used to, but they certainly ease housekeeping problems. Vacuuming collects the lint instead of moving it to another surface.

One of the best things a manager can do is get all employees into the habit of picking trash off the floor. Clean break rooms and restrooms will help establish your expectations. When this cleanliness becomes habit, the next step is for all operators to wipe down their machines after each break. We all have some bad habits, so let’s create some positive ones.

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