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The Ever-Present Problem: Rewash (Conclusion)

“What is an acceptable level of rewash, and how does one keep track of the rewash amount in their laundry?”

Textiles: Cecil B. Lee, Standard Textile, Cincinnati, Ohio

When I was managing healthcare laundry plants, our goal was to keep the combination of rewash and reclaim linen at less than 3%. Some say rewash can be 2% and reclaim can be 1%.

Rewash is linen that is in need of being washed again after the first wash. Reclaim is basically the rewashed linen that is washed as stained linen and requires special chemical treatment to get rid of the stains. Moving from the first wash to rewash and on to reclaim, the formulas become progressively harsher.

In tracking rewash, it is about comparing what must be rewashed in pounds with the total pounds washed over a period of time. While we scored it monthly, we tracked it by documenting each load that was rewashed by category and pounds as it occurred.

Reclaim percentage is similar in that the reclaim percentage is the total pounds reclaimed compared to total pounds washed.

The goal is to keep this total rewash/reclaim number as low as possible and to maximize useable linen from each process.

It is important that this process is easy and visual. Many times, we would use red flags on carts (or red carts) to delineate that all the linen put in this cart should be for rewash. A similar process is used for reclaim linen.

Furthermore, rewash carts are strategically placed around the plant at different processes to collect this linen as it occurs.

Whenever there is enough rewash linen collected, it is washed. It is tagged and processed again and the rejects from this become reclaim.

The reclaimed linen is washed and processed again. Any stained linen remaining from the reclaimed linen becomes rag out.

An example:

  • 50,000 pounds washed in a day produced 1,500 pounds of rewash or 3% of the total washed that day.
  • 1,500 pounds of rewashed linen produced 500 pounds of reclaim or 1% of the total washed. A thousand of the pounds were recovered from rewash (2%).
  • Five hundred pounds (1%) of reclaimed linen will net out according to what you wash for. It will be less than 1%. This puts you at your goal of a combined <3% for the total rewash/reclaim linen combined.

Purchasing the correct linen with specifications for your laundry situation and working closely with your chemical provider are points that will help to keep the total rewash number as low as feasible.

Equipment Manufacturing: Charles Spencer, G.A. Braun Inc., Syracuse, N.Y.

I would expect that we will have a lot of different answers for this question, as it can vary with the type of laundry you operate. That said, I’ll give you the simple answer and work into more detail.

From 2% to 3% rewash is the number I’ve always worked toward. When you operate a laundry with that amount for a while, it’s relatively noticeable when it creeps up. If it gets beyond those numbers, I’d imagine that you’re seeing rewash everywhere throughout the plant all day.

You’re probably noticing your small washers are becoming overwhelmed, or the tunnel is running an extra half hour a day, etc. That’s not just a rewash problem, that’s a money problem because everything you process twice is generally at a loss.

Before you run out and try to determine if you have a problem, let’s make sure you’re tracking it … all of it. Often, rewash and reclaim are thrown into the same proverbial pile. They are and should be treated as two very different entities.

Rewash should be anything that needs to be cleaned again, using the same wash formula as the first wash, before it can be shipped. It isn’t always a wash process failure. It may be items that have been dropped or hit the floor while being folded, etc.

Reclaim is anything that has a stain or soil mark requiring a higher level of cleaning, more time, temperature, mechanical action or chemical than the first wash. As this process is usually more expensive than just a “rewash” formula, you want to make sure that you’re keeping the two separated, although I always considered these parts of that total rewash number.

I suggest that for most plants, a simple bin/barrel system where the item is processed works to accumulate this through the shift/day, and then it should be weighed and logged by location into a program or manually.

Why do that? Well, if you have a rewash problem on the small-piece iron based on your data, that’s good to know rather than spending time looking at rewash on your large-piece iron, etc.

Some people have particular wash codes dedicated on their equipment and simply pull that number at the end of the shift report. That’s fine, but it rarely gives you the added detail you get by logging it.

Additionally, if it’s a wash problem, the better the data you’re able to provide your wash chemical vendor, the quicker they can respond to help with the problem if it’s in fact a wash problem.

Lastly, and most importantly, you should have a clear quality “grading” system complete with picture examples of unacceptable product so that everyone has the same standard. Otherwise, you may find that your rewash problem is actually a quality control problem.

As with everything, I’ll remind you that the “industry standard,” is not as important as you measuring and recording your data so that you can improve on the “you standard.”

Good luck and have a great month!

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