Dyeing, Mending Useful Tools in Formula to Extend Textile Life

Bruce Beggs |

CHICAGO — The formula to control textile replacement and keep those costs down is really pretty simple—the longer that a laundry service can keep a reusable item in circulating inventory, the less expensive it becomes based on its useful life.
But things that happen during the course of wear or use—severe staining or fading, or a significant tear—can render a towel, garment, mat or other textile unusable.
Or, if the item happens to be unique to a specific user and your service loses that customer for whatever reason, you could find yourself stuck with a batch of textiles that doesn’t appeal to the next guy.
So, do you throw those textiles in the trash and chalk them up as acceptable losses? Every situation is different, of course, but the smart operator can often find a way to revitalize those goods and keep them in the mix. That’s where dyeing and mending come in.RAINBOW OF POSSIBILITIES
KeyColour, Bonneau Co., California Textiles and Paul Dyeing are just some of the companies offering professional laundry dyes that can give a vibrant, new look to an old textile. There are dyes on the market for 100% cotton, poly-cotton blends and even nylon.
What are the possibilities? Well, how about a worn-out yellow hospitality towel being transformed into a red car-wash towel? Then, once the towel is no longer suitable for that role, it can be transformed again into a blue shop towel.
Logo walk-off mats are a popular textile rental item, but when the customer who used them is no longer around, the laundry provider is left with a batch of mats that no other company wants. The solution: overdye the mats black to make them universal.
Some prisons color-code jumpsuits to match differing levels of security risk.
A chemical company recently phoned Rick Purcell, technical director for KeyColour, on behalf of a uniform company that had a large number of brown, cotton-poly uniform pants. “They don’t rent a lot of brown, so they can overdye them and make navy pants at a fraction of the cost of buying new pants,” he explains.
Purcell estimates that a laundry could in many cases dye a textile item for 35% of the cost of purchasing it new. Plus, laundries can perform the task on-site using their own personnel, he adds.
Launderers who’ve never tried dyeing before are a little uneasy at first, he says, because “a little bit of dye in a laundry can wreak havoc.”
Vendors have tried to simplify the dyeing process as much as possible, packaging some products in premeasured, water-soluble packets.
Administrators looking to save money often think dyeing is a great concept, but it’s the operators, the ones who do the work or oversee the process, that have to be convinced that it’s worth the effort, according to Purcell.
“Not as many people do it as could do it,” he says.ON THE MEND
While a commercial laundry or drycleaning operation is more likely to have a sewing operation that includes alteration or tailoring, an institutional laundry is likely to have a mending operation.
Patching material and proper repair instructions are available from most vendors. If the instructions are followed, the fabric’s integrity can be re-established and the useful life extended to the expected number of washes.
And the operational costs are low compared to the savings that can be realized by the proper repair and turnaround of items that could not be used.
If your laundry processes reusable surgical linens, for example, a light table (for locating tears and holes), a sewing machine, patching machine, supplies and a skilled operator quickly become cost-effective when a single barrier-fabric item can cost from $18 to $120.
A former member of the American Laundry News Panel of Experts once explained that his Florida medical center repaired, on average, 75 surgical gowns and drapes, 100 fabric drapes, 50 precaution gowns and 50 patient gowns per week. If the items were discarded instead of repaired, the net estimated value if purchased new would have been about $6,000. Since the items were in washed condition, he halved that to $3,000.
Fifty-two weeks a year yielded a net work value of $156,000. Employee wages and benefits for a seamstress, along with depreciation of mending equipment, amounted to less than $30,000 a year. His example demonstrated a benefit-to-inventories ratio of 4 to 1.
The potential to “get more mileage” out of textiles makes exploring options such as these worthwhile.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.


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