CHICAGO — Michael Reilly, president of Clean Cycle Systems in Seguin, Texas, got into the laundry and linen service industry about 30 years ago.
Reilly’s company manufactures lint collection and exhaust air systems for all types of laundries. Back then, he called on many laundry plants, and he didn’t see a lot in the way of dust and lint control.
“They would have lint collectors or lint filters on large dryers, big industrial commercial dryers,” he says. “That was common, but that would be the extent of it.”
Secondary lint collectors and fans to optimize airflow weren’t normal features. And smaller on-premises laundries (OPL) didn’t have systems in place to deal with lint.
The result? Dust and lint buildup in and on equipment, and up in the ceiling and rafters.
Besides up above, the common areas in a laundry where Reilly sees dust and lint buildup include dryers, ironer lines (feeder-ironer-sheet folder), small-piece folders and garment rail systems.
This buildup creates a dangerous situation.
“The lint builds up in the dryer duct, and it slows the performance, there’s more resistance in the dryer, and it’s a fire risk,” says Reilly. “It can overheat the dryer, and, obviously, lint will combust very easily.”
Steve Marcq, director of business development for General Linen Service LLC, with corporate headquarters in Somersworth, N.H., and locations in the Northeast, has seen the results of dust/lint buildup firsthand.
“I’ve seen an ironer burn up from lint and grease catching on fire years ago at a company I used to work for,” he says. “Needless to say, preventative maintenance became more of a priority afterward.”
“Lint in the dryer/finishing area of a laundry is generated from the drying process in a dryer, as well as lint created in handling linens when processed for use,” says Bryant Dunivan, vice president of sales and marketing for Energenics Corp. in Naples, Fla., which provides dust and lint solutions to the industry. “Typically, the lint that is visible comes from ironer/folder operation.”
The threat of fire and loss of efficiency is real when it comes to dust and lint in a laundry. Fortunately, the industry has embraced systems to help reduce this dangerous situation.
MORE SYSTEMS IN PLACE
Reilly says that he’s seen development and expansion in dust/lint control over the years. Laundries have more lint collection for dryers, not just on the large systems, but even secondary systems to collect any pass-through dust and lint.
“In the last five years, what we see more on the tumbler dryer lint sector, you see a lot more OPLs, even from small laundries, guest laundries, mid-size hotels, fitness clubs, almost anywhere that has several dryers where they’re looking at installing secondary lint collectors and booster fans so they can optimize the airflow,” he says. “This is very critical because of what happens in dryer exhaust. A lot of the lint builds up in the duct, and it has to be taken care of. Typically, they would hire an outside service to clean the duct.”
Reilly says his company has sold secondary systems to nursing homes and hotels and motels over the years, but in the past, that market was a small percentage of his sales.
“That market has really increased in the last five years, as far as OPL putting in more lint- and dust-control devices,” he says.
Another change during the past few years Reilly has seen includes systems that make dryers perform optimally. He says the systems help optimize airflow.
“You want to have an equal airflow, from the dryer all the way out to the exhaust,” he says. “It used to be maybe the only reason a laundry installed a filter device or a collector unit was because they had a complaint, maybe the neighbor, the fire marshal, whatever.”
According to Reilly, more laundries today are seeing advantages to being proactive, rather than waiting for a complaint.
“They see they can reduce fire risk and optimize the drying times, which is significant, not necessarily with labor, just the energy cost,” he says.
Dunivan says that dryer exhaust contains a large volume of lint. Prior to being exhausted outdoors, it is necessary to collect the lint.
“An inline lint filter designed to collect 98% of lint produced, like ours, is the optimal method,” he says.
The majority of filters are “dry type,” according to Dunivan. The filters are self-cleaning, using compressed air and are cleaned automatically at an optimum back pressure that allows the dryer blower to operate most efficiently.
A “wet type” filter is a continuously cleaning filter that utilizes a water curtain to wash the lint from dryer exhaust and store it in a collection bag, says Dunivan.
Another area where Reilly has seen advances in dust/lint control is devices that help filter the air in the laundry where dust collects.
“It’s not connected, necessarily, on a machine like a dryer, it’s just a type of blower or vacuum system that will filter the air where lint and dust is prone to fall,” he says. “There has been this type of device out for a couple decades, but it’s much more prevalent in the last five years, especially in the commercial laundry business.”
Marcq, too, has seen more air filtering equipment that runs continuously in problem areas like dry-fold. He’s also seen more air-circulation turbines that keep it in suspension and not collect up high.
Some laundries have fan systems that blow the lint down, says Reilly.
“Ceilings are notorious collection points, on top of equipment as well,” says Marcq. “We utilize SonicAire units up in the ceiling to keep air circulating and find they work well.”
Once the dust/lint is blown down from the high points, employees might manually sweep it up, or there might be a vacuum system that helps remove the dust and lint on the floor.
“If they don’t manually blow it off with an air hose and then sweep it up, they should have some type of device, like a vacuum or a system that blows it down,” Reilly says. “You don’t necessarily want to operate it while the operator is there. You don’t want to blow dust or lint down on the operator.”
Dunivan says that to assist with compliance to OSHA directive CPL-03-00-008 against combustible dust explosions and fires act of 2008, his company offers a lint scrubber.
“Removing airborne lint results in cleaner rails for sling loading/unloading systems and facilitates smoother operation, less operator intervention and less cleaning labor,” says Dunivan. “Lint accumulating in the ceiling is reduced for a safer environment. On the floor, it helps keep lint from accumulating and fouling expensive linen-handling equipment.”
Dunivan says removing airborne lint reduces cleanup labor costs and vastly improves laundry air quality. He adds that it is safer and better for the employees, improving morale.
Besides dryer ducts, on machines and up in the ceiling, Reilly says that lint and dust also collect on linen carts and storage areas—areas that operators may not consider in their dust control system.
KEY COMPONENT: PERSONNEL
Devices and systems are essential to helping control dust and lint in a laundry. However, the key component in the system is laundry personnel.
“Nothing is really fully automated,” says Reilly. “There aren’t robots and drones that are going to sweep up the dust and lint. No matter how good a device is, like a filter or blower or vacuum, it has to be overseen and maintained by personnel. That’s always the key.”
Reilly relates that he’s toured plants where the dust/lint systems and devices weren’t even turned on. Or, they weren’t operating properly because a dirty filter hadn’t been changed.
“It’s really critical that personnel oversee the devices they have,” he says. “It’s not like a lot of maintenance. They have to be checked to make sure that they’re operating properly.”
Essential checks personnel need to make, according to Reilly, are to ensure that the dryer ducts are sealed properly and then to make sure the dryer has the proper airflow within the original manufacturer’s range.
Finally, Marcq says having a plan for employees to follow is key.
“Install SonicAire, or similar, units and institute daily, weekly and monthly blowdown schedules, which increase in area covered and amount of cleaning,” he says. “Maintain strict preventative maintenance schedules, and have a good plan in place.”