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Failure to Keep Laundry Facility Clean Turns Customers Off, Threatens Quality (Part 3 of 4)

“Sometimes, we get so caught up in getting the work processed and to our customers that we don’t keep the laundry production areas as clean as they should be. What tasks should we be performing regularly to keep our facility clean? To what degree do we need to clean our equipment and how often?”HEALTHCARE LAUNDERING: Richard Hoelscher is the associate director of linen services for Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas, and oversees the laundering of more than 10 million pounds of healthcare linen annually for four hospitals. With three supervisors, he’s responsible for 75 workers in production, repair, packing and distribution.
It’s vital that we keep the facility and equipment clean so as not to spread infection to our employees or patients. Note how often MSRA has been in the news lately.
It’s also important to keep the facility clean to maintain a positive image to customers and employees. Equally important is keeping the equipment clean to maintain the warranty, value and dependability, as well as to prevent damage, recontamination and staining of the linen.
Obviously, the cleaner, the better, to a point of diminishing returns. You wouldn’t want a housekeeper constantly underfoot.
Equipment, floors and walls exposed to soiled linen or clean linen should be cleaned whenever soil is visible. Horizontal surfaces are usually cleaned more often than vertical surfaces. Most should also be cleaned daily or weekly, depending on the amount of contact with contaminated or clean items, type of material/finish, and likelihood of contact with people.
Most disinfectants require surface contact of 5-10 minutes and can be damaging to some materials. Take note that it’s possible to over-clean equipment, wash grease out of bearings and damage fabrics, plastic, paint, belts, etc.
Any surface, such as a cart, that is exposed to soiled linen must be cleaned and disinfected before it may be used with clean linen. All cleaning equipment used in a soiled environment must be cleaned and disinfected before use in other areas.
Areas where linen is processed or stored should be kept clean of unfinished wood (such as pallets), cardboard, food, water, drinks, etc., to minimize hiding places and nourishment for insects and other vermin.
Overhead structures, pipes, ducts and fixtures should be blown down to remove lint on a regular basis. This should be done often enough to minimize fire hazard and keep lint from falling down into clean linen, equipment or employee workspaces. Some facilities have automatic blow-down on a nightly basis, while others are able to schedule this on a monthly, quarterly or semiannual basis.
Rest rooms and lunchrooms should be cleaned on a daily basis, more often if visibly soiled.
Walk around. Look at things from the perspective of your customer, boss and inspector. If it looks, smells or feels dirty, it probably needs to be cleaned. LINEN SUPPLY: Bill Kartsonis is the president of Superior Linen Supply Co., Kansas City, Mo. He’s the immediate past president of the Kansas City chapter of the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) and is a Master Hotel Supplier certified by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA).
Our mission is to reliably provide clean linen on a timely basis to our customers. If we let housekeeping slide for a day or two, our customers don’t care. But we’re much happier if we keep things tidy. Cleaning of production areas can be divided into three categories:Operators – Each person should maintain his or her own workstation, and dust, vacuum and wipe. All machine surfaces that can be safely reached by hand or wand should be wiped down twice a day: before lunch break and before the end of the shift. Areas over, under and around equipment, including aisles, should be vacuumed and dust-mopped.
Operators take pride in their work. Management lets them know that cleanliness is a part of their job; we do not litter and wait for the cleaning crew to fix the mess.Mechanical Maintenance – Certain areas need routine cleaning but cannot be safely cleaned by operators. Trained maintenance personnel need to remove covers and access machine interiors after lockout, according to safety plans. Computers and control cabinets need to have lint removed, but you don’t want to chance damage by taking improper action. Metal surfaces of ironers or cabinet presses need careful attention as well. Some areas need daily cleaning, while others will be scheduled weekly, monthly or less frequently.Janitorial – Again, proper training is essential for good results. Hand a new hire a broom and you never know what the result will be.
Primary responsibilities are the emptying of waste collection receptacles, heavy cleaning of floors, cleaning of rest rooms and changing of walk-off mats. Equipment blow-down can be assigned to a properly trained environmental services worker, but use of compressed air is otherwise assigned to mechanical staff. Some areas can’t be accessed during production and must be cleaned during off hours.
Once we accept this paradigm, we are able to keep a plant clean and have little need for special, semiannual cleaning weekends (like we used to). EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURING: Kim Shady is vice president of distributor sales for Alliance Laundry Systems’ UniMac brand and has more than 19 years of commercial laundry experience. He started and ran a successful restaurant business for a number of years before joining the laundry industry.
Everything in your property should have a maintenance schedule to help ensure its trouble-free operation. We recommend you perform a variety of tasks:Washer-extractor – Every day, staff should make sure the supply dispenser is clean and free of leaks. Door gaskets should be wiped clean as well and inspected for foreign matter that might tear the seal and cause a leak. Seals have a habit of collecting sand and mold. Just remembering to wipe them down will help prevent the need to replace them. Doors should be left open at the end of the day to allow moisture to evaporate.
It’s also a good idea to inspect drains regularly to ensure they are clean and sealing tightly. Occasionally, silverware, small pieces of linens, pens and paper clips could get lodged, causing water usage to go up. Audit reports showing sudden increases in water usage could signal that the drain isn’t sealing tight.Tumble dryers – Lint is the enemy of efficiency and safety, so staff should be diligent in clearing it from tumblers. Make sure the lint compartment is cleaned daily. It’s a good idea to inspect exhaust ducts and intake areas and remove lint buildup monthly.
Staff should vacuum air vents on motors and any lint in and around the tumbler monthly. Lint on internal components such as the thermostat acts as an insulator and can cause the tumbler to overheat. Make sure all components are clear of lint.
Basic cleaning should include keeping the area around the tumbler clear of combustibles and lint. Cylinders should be inspected before each load to ensure objects such as paper clips, stir sticks, pens and other items aren’t present. Foreign objects can snag linens, causing damage, or melt and leave permanent residue.

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