How to Identify Linen Abuse and Stop It (Part 1 of 5)

In order for my customers to be responsible for linens and garments, I suppose they need to be instructed or reminded about abuse. What steps can my operation take to train them and minimize these occurrences? Is it possible that we’re abusing the linen during processing and/or distribution?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.
When operating an on-premises laundry, you’re closer to the actual abuser than the operators of a linen plant. Your property manager is in more direct control of curbing the abuse.
As a frequent traveler and a former restaurant owner, I confess that I’m a reformed linen abuser. I participated in and witnessed the use of table linens to contain spills on the kitchen floor. I’ve seen cooks use table linens for kitchen wiping. The kitchen staff doesn’t have to clean the linens, replace the linens they destroy or worry about the linen service finding them. Why should they care?
To stop linen abuse, you must identify where it starts. I can guarantee you the kitchen never even thinks about the laundry’s problems. They receive clean linens and towels daily. It must be easy to clean linens since there seems to be an endless supply each day, they think. An education program will greatly reduce linen abuse by employees.
When there is a china problem or glassware breakage problem, educating the sources about per-piece cost or annual replacement costs has proven effective. People don’t want to be abusers. But if they don’t understand how their efforts affect others or their business’ profitability, they will continue down the path of wrongdoing.
As a frequent traveler, I often found myself cleaning my shoes with a washcloth. At one point, my guilt got the best of me and I began to stock shoe mitts in my suitcase. Again, go to the source of the linen abuse. Look at your operation and determine why a person abuses the linen. Likely, the answer is quite simple. In my case, the hotels that provided a shoe mitt eliminated my linen abuse.
OK, maybe it’s not that simple. But solving a problem always starts with defining a problem. Look back to the source of the abuse and identify what’s pushing the abuser.TEXTILES: Kevin Keyes is the Laundry Service Team (LST) leader for Milliken & Co.’s Napery Fabrics Business. His team provides technical and marketing support to the textile rental industry. He’s been with Milliken for 19 years, having served the first 11 in textile manufacturing.
Since your customers use your linen and garments, they should be made aware of abuse and how to avoid it. If they don’t actually own the goods, they may not be aware that what they’re doing is abusive.
First, I recommend making sure that your employees know what’s abusive to your garments and linens. Once they have a clear understanding of abuse, they can pass that knowledge on to your customers or end users. It’s also important not to abuse these items in house.
Understanding abuse requires some basic knowledge of textiles. Both linens and garments are constructed from yarns that may be cotton, polyester or a mixture of both. Cotton yarns don’t like bleach, which literally “eats” away the fibers and causes fabric damage. If the goods are colored, they’ll fade. Abuse in this area usually results from your customers spilling bleach onto the fabric. Other chemicals, such as solvents and cleaners, can also cause damage.
Bleach and other chemicals can also damage textiles that have a cotton/polyester blend. Polyester fibers aren’t damaged by bleach, but color loss will occur. Polyester doesn’t like high heat and can melt. Abuse in this area results from customers exposing the textiles to excessive heat (above 350° F).
Sharp objects can abuse textiles. Anything sharp can cut the fibers and cause damage. Items left in the garments and linens, such as pens, magic markers and crayons, can also cause damage.
Once your staff understands these different abuse factors, they can educate your customers on things to avoid. You can then set up annual training for all of your customers and review these items.
Abuse may also be happening internally. Improper soil sorting can contribute to many of the causes I’ve mentioned. All linens and garments should be checked and separated during sorting; this can save a lot of headaches down the road. Textiles should be washed on the proper formulas. Finally, anything involved in transportation, particularly conveyors or carts, should be checked for sharp edges.
Knowledge is the key. Training employees on proper handling of goods will enable them to then educate your customers on how to prevent abuse to linens and garments.


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