TULSA, Okla. — One of the success stories our industry has made over the years is our reduction of water used to wash a pound of laundry.
For the most part, the washrooms where the operators wear rubber boots all day due to the water pouring out to the washers are gone.
I know we had a facility where when we first started tracking water usage, we were almost five gallons per pound! Wow. We were able to get that facility to under .60 gallons per pound over the years.
As much progress our industry has made, there are still improvements to be made. I think it is our industry’s obligation to constantly work at being better custodians of our environment, in particular our water.
There are three levels of water reduction laundries can take. Some of the fastest water savings will cost a company zero investment while others may take a substantial investment. I will briefly comment on each one:
1. Be a better operator.
This may sound simple, but water waste is everywhere.
Start by taking a water reading at the end of the day and then again at the beginning of the following day to ensure you have no valves leaking. A steady leak that you may not hear during the day can cost you .25 gallons per pound or more during your off-production hours.
Check the water controls on your washers. Some washers are very prone to getting clogged up causing the washer to use more water since it is not properly sensing the water level.
Check your washer drains for leaks. Leaky drains can substantially raise your water usage.
Steam system. Steam return should always be captured and sent back to your boiler feedwater tank to be reused. Allowing steam traps to discharge into your wastewater pit is a waste of resources.
Excessive steaming in the washroom. Steaming in your washer takes more water. Try and preheat your water as close as possible to your final wash temperature.
Restrooms. Upgrade your toilets for low water usage per flush and ensure they are not leaking.
2. Work with your chemical provider.
You can work hand-in-hand with your chemical provider to reduce your water usage. This takes time and you must work together.
Unless you have chemistry training, going off on your own and working on your formulas can usually damage linen or no longer clean linen. A few steps that can be taken in the wash area:
Lower rinse water levels. This can be a risky step. Rinse water is helping flush out debris or lower the pH of the product. Perform this step when your chemical provider is present to test the water after the change.
Remove rinses. Chemical providers have made great strides with their chemicals that allow for the reduction of rinses used. This is done if your alkalinity isn’t so high in the wash zone, which allows for the removal of rinses that were there to reduce the pH.
These rinses are also present to remove debris so removing them can be a little tricky. I couldn’t tell you how many times a vendor says they can remove these rinses but then puts them back within six months due to poor wash quality.
Watch your rewash. It doesn’t do any good to have a fast wash formula and then rewash 25% of the linen.
A good wash formula that cleans your linen the first time through is always cheaper in the long run.
3. Mechanical Reuse.
There is no better method of lowering water usage than reusing your wastewater. There are different methods of accomplishing this.
Reusing rinse water. The use of dual drains on your washers that allow the rinse water to be sent to a different wastewater pit is a good choice. This is hard to do with existing laundries since they do not usually have dual wastewater pits.
I have utilized pipes on washer drains versus digging trenches though that can help with this. The decision to use a reclaim drain must be figured in on the initial washroom machinery purchase since a reuse drain is not normally a standard item.
Continuous batch washers. CBWs can get their water usage to under .50 gallons per pound by basically always reusing their rinse and extractor water.
Wastewater filtration. There are several vendors out there that have exceptionally good systems for cleaning up your wastewater to the extent that you can reuse the water in your washroom.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].