Define Criteria for Ragging out Linen, Train Staff to Take Action (Part 1 of 2)

“What criteria should I establish to rag out or discard linen? Also, do you recommend a multistep process to make this determination, or should one pass per item be enough to decide whether it stays or goes?”Textiles: Elizabeth Easter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.
Serviceability of a textile product in the institutional environment depends on meeting five major factors or requirements:

  1. Aesthetic Appeal — The degree of pleasantness to the sensory mechanisms of your consumer, which includes the state of cleanliness, retention of the original color, and physical integrity of the product. 

  2. Comfort — The ability to provide the user with freedom from pain and/or discomfort.
  3. Durability — The ability to retain its physical integrity, that is, resistance to mechanical deterioration and flaws such as tears, holes, abraded areas and open seams.
  4. Performance — This deals with what the textile can do; that is, the manner in which or the efficiency with which the product reacts or fulfills its intended purpose. 
  5. Health/Safety/Protection — The characteristics of textiles that make them potentially hazardous to humans and/or the environment.

Serviceability implies fitness for purpose. Another approach to making decisions regarding textile serviceability is to determine whether the product is suitable for use or not. To apply the fitness-for-use concept to textile products:

  • It must be free from stains, material (fabric) defects (holes, rips or tears), open seams, loose or hanging threads, etc.

  • It must provide the expected aesthetic appeal to the institution, customer and/or intended users.
  • It must perform satisfactorily in normal use. For example, protective clothing is expected to resist penetration, or barrier fabrics must protect against microbial exposure.

When making the decision to rag out or discard a textile item, inspect and apply the serviceability attributes of the fitness-of-use approach to each.

Sheets are primarily utilitarian in purpose, providing the user with a more comfortable surface on which to sleep than the bare mattress, and helping keep them warm. Sheets and pillowcases also protect the mattress, blanket and pillow. Besides their basic purposes, sheets influence customer satisfaction through aesthetic appeal. A soiled or stained sheet reflects directly on the quality of the institution.
Towels absorb moisture, but must also be durable. A durable and absorbent towel combines these characteristics in ways to achieve a reasonable balance. Such a towel has a tight, balanced ground weave; high yarn count in the ground; ply yarns in the ground; a firm, even selvage and hem; a cotton/polyester blend in the ground; and an all-cotton pile.
Blankets provide warmth by trapping heat near the body, therefore blankets must be warm, soft and attractive. A blanket’s ability to provide warmth is determined largely by the amount of “dead air” space, which traps body heat and insulates the user. If the blanket has lost its loft or thickness, it no longer serves its purpose and should be discarded.
Napery products are designed to be attractive additions to a table and often complement the institution’s interior decor. Their serviceability depends on retaining their aesthetic appeal. A customer would object to white linens covered with lint, especially if their black pants or clothes become covered with lint while dining.
Lint covering a napery item may not require you to decide to discard it, but it could indicate that other linens in the wash load are ready to be ragged out. Linting of cotton textiles during care and maintenance is a key indicator of excessive wear.Healthcare Laundering: Bob Pfeifer, Sodexo Laundry Services, Lansing, Mich.
The criteria necessary for deciding whether to rag out or keep a piece of linen in service includes some or all of the following:

  • Your laundry’s or clients’ policy on acceptable linen.

  • The type and cost of the item.
  • The type and location of the stain, rip or tear.
  • Your laundry’s adherence to its stain wash process.
  • Patching or sewing would cause an unsightly appearance.
  • The cost of repairs and materials is greater than the replacement cost.
  • Repairs would significantly change the size of the item.
  • Tensile strength loss makes the item unusable.
  • The item is permanently stained and unacceptable for further use.

Discarded linen should be recorded and included with periodic linen inventories. This helps identify accountable and unaccountable linen loss.
I recommend a process that includes a regular wash and stain treatment before an item is inspected for rag-out.
It’s imperative that your mending department is trained well. Employees should understand the “acceptable use” policies of your facility, how to identify types of stains, how to determine whether an item can be treated and returned to service, and how to utilize potential stain-treating chemicals safely.
Additionally, sewing or patching is a means of treating linen items to return to service.
A more important facet of the operation is the process by which stain or rag-out linen is identified.
Many facilities experience an age-old problem: how to segregate linens properly to be treated as rewash or stain. It takes a great deal of training and attention to detail to ensure that everyone follows these processes.
It’s the responsibility of plant operations to manage this process. Perform periodic checks of rewash and stain carts, as well as the mending department, and make management aware if large quantities of usable linen are appearing in discard carts.Linen Supply/Commercial Laundering: Duane Farrington, RLLD, Hancock Co. Laundry Weirton, W.Va.
It’s true that everyone and every facility seems to have its own criteria for ragging out linen. The laundry staff, the nursing staff and the financial department always have their opinions.
First of all, there will most likely be different sets of criteria for different categories of linen. The operating-room linen will have its own criteria, the bed linen another set, and apparel and hospitality linen yet another set.
I’ve found the most effective way to determine these criteria is through a linen committee consisting of laundry personnel, nursing personnel and someone from the financial department. If you’re looking at the operating-room linen, then you must have someone from that department, too.
I recommend that the size of this committee or meeting be kept to a minimum or there could be more confusion than solutions in the end.
Once it’s determined what is to be ragged out, then it’s time to determine who will be doing it. The laundry department should handle this step.
The linen should be cataloged as ragged out and a linen replacement order placed monthly (at least). I also place a linen rejection hamper for the staff working where the linen is used.
If a piece of linen passes the initial laundry inspection and ends up with the end-user, there needs to be a procedure in place to keep that piece of linen from returning in the regular wash and wasting more valuable time. For that, I use a hamper stand with a bag that is a different color than the rest. Also, when these items come back to the laundry, they need to be credited to the department or area that returned them.
As for the multi-step process, I would recommend this only with the operating-room linen. Depending on the type of O.R. linen, it may have a grid to be checked every time the piece is processed. When this grid becomes full, the item is usually downgraded for other use.
For other linen types, a multi-step process could become more expensive than the item itself. The linen committee will be able to help determine if this is feasible.
What can you do with the linen that you rag out? It can be cut up for rags, donated to local community services (veterinarians love old underpads), or sold as rags.Come back on Friday for Part 2 of this story!


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