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The Ever-Present Problem: Rewash (Part 1)

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

Consulting Services: David Graham, Performance Matters, Fort Mill, S.C.

Good day, ALN readers! I hope that this article finds you all doing extremely well. The word on the street is that the forecast for the near future for linen, medical and healthcare, is awesome and the forecast for industrial facilities is solid. A great time to be alive in the laundry business.

With growth comes expenses to be sure. One of the ways, and it is simple, is to reduce expenses by paying strict attention to and limiting rewash. Here’s how.

Most laundries handle their soil differently. Some count, inspect and sort (CIS) while others simply sort their soil by classification. Both have their plusses and minuses.

In CIS, you can identify goods in need of rewash versus goods that need to be charged for damage/abuse specific to a customer.

If damaged, you bill that customer for that damage/abuse. Even though you return the damaged item that you have billed, the customer can argue with you. This takes up a customer’s time, a route service rep’s time, plant time and creates undue stress on the relationship. You will credit the charge anyway if the customer is adamant, and you might lose the customer if you are unyielding.

Try to be fair to your customers—if the good is salvageable, rewash it. Rewash must be done in batches, and items that are still unacceptable after rewashing need to be ragged. The problem you have here is that you lose your ability to charge the customer for the non-usable item as you stuffed it into a batch of everyone’s goods.

The second approach is to simply dump and sort your soil. However, you need to ask yourself, “Am I potentially losing revenue this way although I am saving on labor and avoiding the angst associated with weekly customer confrontations as outlined above?”

The answer could be “yes” unless you have an automated solution to bill your client a charge on each delivery that covers damage and abuse. You cannot bill the charge without pre-notifying the customer of your intent and getting their agreement.

If you do not inform them, then you face the same negative consequences as outlined above in CIS. Never be afraid to talk to your customers in a reasoned and educated manner even if the topic is uncomfortable.

Michael Dodge is an accomplished process engineer with Performance Matters LLC. He states that a laundry’s average for rewash is between 3% and 7%. Note here that different laundries have different mixes of product, thus soil levels, so a range is needed.

Also, pay attention to the damaged type of products, as the cost for a new mat is much more than a shop towel, and a 54 by 54 tabletop costs more than a bar towel. I know this sounds simple, but I have seen many overlook this and many that have not updated their unit loss/damage/abuse charges for years.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and far be it from me to tell you what your rewash definition should be. Your market and your customers define it.

Once defined, please post samples of unacceptable items by product. A written definition should accompany these physical samples. Inspect the results regularly for understanding and consistency.

Your employees and customers deserve to know what that definition is so you can maximize in this key area.

Chemicals Supply: Campbell Dodson, Lavo Solutions LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio

The question of “what is an acceptable % of rewash” has been one of the most common from laundry operators, and yet it truly can be one of the easiest problems to solve.

Simply put, proper soil and linen sorting and formula selection will solve most issues for those who suffer from elevated levels of rewash. Yes, there are other factors like soil type, soil level (heavy, light, etc.) and length of time the stains have been on the linen, but to start the process off in the right direction, linens must be sorted correctly.

The soil sort room is one of the most important areas in every laundry. Whether you perform a manual hand sort or you use some sophisticated electronic sorting system, start the process of sorting by getting specific linen items into the properly marked soil bags, carts or bins.

Poor soil sorting and separating can lead to mistakes. One small mistake could ruin a load or multiple loads of linen and be very costly in the end.

It is very important to check pockets for any foreign items like pens, markers and other substances that will damage linens and cause staining. Certainly, this takes time, but taking the extra few minutes to sort can save a laundry hundreds of dollars in the end.

Whatever method of sorting you decide to use, sorting soiled linen is key and is a game-changer when it comes to the quality and cleanliness of linens.

As you know, each type of linen is unique. It typically has its own soil classification and is normally processed accordingly on a formula designed to treat it in specific ways during the wash process.

Light colors and light soiled products are not processed the same as darker colors and heavily soiled items. Cotton or terry items are typically not processed with blended linens or 100% synthetic items.

During the initial sorting stages, items are typically classified as what they are and the level of soil they contain so they can be processed on the correct formula. In some cases, a pre-stain treatment and then processing using a special stain formula developed by a chemical supplier is necessary.

This can also aid operators in reclaiming once-stained and non-useable items back into stock. Proper formula selection and a good reclamation process can have a positive impact in the reduction of linen replacement costs.

The bottom line is laundry operators should have a plan of continual education with their employees in the soil sort and wash aisle departments. Keeping the process of proper soil sorting and formula selection at the top of their minds will have a very positive impact on the processing of linens and reduce the amount of rewash and stains.

Operators who understand and are dedicated to this will have very low rewash and stain rates and also very low replacement rates, saving them time and money in the long run.

Check back tomorrow for rewash advice from experts in textiles and equipment manufacturing!

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].