CHICAGO — When Graham Skinner was general manager of laundry services at Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., he was always on the search for the most effective wash formulas.
“I looked for minimal end-user issues as it relates to stains, etc.,” he says. “These are time-consuming. I would pay more to have reductions in these areas. Cheapest price does not always produce the best outcome.”
In order to create those formulas to produce the best outcomes, Skinner worked side-by-side with his chemicals suppliers—and he looked for specific qualities in those suppliers.
“I want my chemicals supplier to be a good steward of utilities,” he says. “I also want them to be an experienced professional. Tactfully and discreetly share best practices from their experience in the industry and other facilities when they see areas for improvement in my facility.”
Skinner also looked for suppliers who provided documentation of the process for administrative and compliance reasons.
Today, Skinner is on the chemicals side of the industry as a sales manager for U.N.X. Inc. And he knows what laundry and linen service providers are looking for when it comes to creating wash formulas: quality, service and value.
“Many factors are considered when specialists work with customers to design effective wash formulas and processes for all of the different classifications that they handle,” says Steve Tinker, senior vice president of research and development, marketing, for Gurtler Industries Inc. “The basic considerations are soil types (body soils, blood, natural fats/greases, food soils, petroleum oils and greases, and particulate soils, for example), concentrations of the soils (light, medium, heavy, extra heavy), and the types of fabrics (cotton or polyester or blends).”
Kevin Minissian, president and CEO of Norchem Corp., says that while there may be something that can be called the “right” wash formula, that does not necessarily mean there is one right formula.
“For example, the right formulas for one facility may not or will not be the best fit for another,” he says.
David Barbe, director of engineering for U.N.X., agrees, and says there are multiple methods to clean goods.
“One can use traditional high-temp, high-alkalinity baths, or low-temp, enzyme baths,” he says. “Pick your method depending on type of goods, the water quality and temperature available, etc.”
Tinker adds that more specific considerations have to be taken into account, such as type of washing equipment, productivity requirements, and energy and water conservation goals or limits. Other operating conditions, such as the quality of the water and any restrictions on chemistry created by wastewater regulations, also must be considered when a laundry seeks to create the most effective wash formulas for the goods it processes.
When it comes to programming wash formulas, the formulator’s interpretation of the established laundry industry pie chart is key, says Scott Pariser, president of Pariser Industries. The “pie” is initially divided into the four equal components of time, temperature, mechanical action and chemistry.
“One must balance all four of these components such that when one item is diminished, one or more of the others must be enhanced,” he says. “Often, operational factors, such as limited production time requirements, and/or the availability of sustained hot water supply, will affect how this chart is manipulated.”
For instance, if a plant can’t provide sustained hot water at required minimums, wash time or mechanical action (through reduced loading weights or water level variation) or chemical dosages, and maybe all three, will need to be enhanced proportionately.
“If one has little mechanical action, something else will have to be increased,” Barbe says. “Those four factors are interrelated. If you have lots of time, you can save on some of the other factors. Or, if you are short of time, you will have to increase the chemicals and/or the temperature.”
Barbe says a good formula is usually the result of starting with reasonable guidelines, titrating the baths for concentration, and then adjusting time, temperature and chemicals to achieve good results.
“Evaluate the results by percentage of stained goods left, brightness, etc.,” he says. “Samples can be sent for lab analysis to test for tensile strength loss, soil levels and many other factors.”
In the end, both the laundry and the chemicals supplier have to consider their customers. Pariser says wash formula construction requires a delicate and thoughtful consideration of the individual laundry and its production requirements, along with local water-in and water-out restrictions, in order to provide the best approach to providing clean, hygienic linens in a cost-effective manner.
“Once we understand the conditions and the operating parameters that the customer wants to meet or is restricted by, then we can design specific wash formulas for every classification in the laundry,” Tinker says. “The best chemistry for the overall conditions is selected. Alkali, water and soil conditioners, detergents, bleaches, fabric softener and/or fabric sanitizer, and sours are all selected for the best possible results.”
Miss Part 1 about fibers, soils and chemistry? Click here to read it.