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It Pays for Laundries to Have Clean Facilities, Equipment (Conclusion)

“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?”

Commercial Laundry: Brian Polatsek, EcoBrite Linen, Skokie, Ill.

First, facility cleaning.

Keeping your laundry clean, whether it is on-premises or commercial, is paramount in order to maintain a safe environment for infection control. Bacteria and fungus thrive in a dirty environment. This can cause contamination to clean linen, which can be dangerous in the healthcare environment.

It’s also important for employee safety. A cluttered and dirty area increases the risk of injury and worker’s comp and other liability claims. From an operational perspective, a cluttered work area slows down employees and impacts workflow.

Creating a system for cleaning as a process is the only way to ensure a clean facility. Having a checklist with daily and weekly cleaning schedules, as well as inspections, is the best way to manage this. 

The floors should be cleaned daily, but depending on the use of space, the type of cleaning can vary. In a small on-premises laundry where the same areas are used for clean and soiled linen, the areas should be washed and disinfected daily. Areas that have complete separation might not have the same requirement. Broom-sweeping the pack-out area of a commercial laundry may be sufficient. However, here, too, there should be a washing and disinfecting schedule in place. 

There are guidelines for this, such as TRSA Hygienically Clean or HLAC. The most important thing is following them. In a larger commercial laundry setting, having a dedicated employee will ensure that the facility will be cleaned and not shoved under the rug due to workload and deadline challenges to operations.

Second, equipment cleaning. This is really part of the preventative maintenance program. 

A good practice is to blow down thoroughly, daily (some equipment may require twice a day). Also, inspect for any buildup daily and clean as needed. The best practice if you don’t have a system is to inspect and see how often each cleaning task is needed to maintain proper operation. The cleaner the equipment, the smoother your process. Your operators will treat the equipment better if it always looks clean. 

As with facility cleanliness, having this as part of a process and assigning it to an individual will ensure that it gets done. It is always good to get manufacturers’ best practices and recommendations. 

The most critical things to look at include anything that is combustible and near a heat source, specifically lint. Dryer exhaust ducts should be inspected regularly, and lint buildup should be avoided at all cost. Rooftop exhaust locations should also be watched, as lint buildup can also be hazardous outdoors. 

Healthcare Laundry: Richard Engler, John Peter Smith Health Network, Fort Worth, Texas

It can be challenging to remember that getting the linen out on a difficult day is really the low-water line for the operation. Just accomplishing that is “borrowing” from the operation’s tomorrow; you will have to make up the other incomplete actionable items in a future that is not necessarily going to be easier than today. While it is difficult to keep perspective under duress, your obligation to your program is to improve on it to some small degree every day, especially the tough ones.

As a former EVS manager and working in healthcare laundry, I consider the necessity of a clean facility every day a requisite for safe and efficient operations. We simply must not shut down and go home before we are satisfied with the cleanliness of the facility and the equipment within it.  

As far as what tasks should be performed regularly, it is to your advantage to put all of your cleaning tasks on a regular schedule to stay ahead of the potential problems, as well as to ensure a good presentation of your facilities at all times.  

Each facility will have different needs and frequencies, but basic high and low dusting to remove lint from equipment and environmental surfaces is a daily task to keep lint at bay. Wiping dirt, oil and grease from any surface will help keep it off of linen and hands that touch linen. Trash removal, sweeping and clearing the floor of reject, stain and rag materials, and then a disinfectant mopping or auto scrubbing of the floors, will assist in keeping things safe, sanitary and neat. These actions will also help reduce the amount of materials that have been misplaced and may be lying idle in the dark corners of the production areas.

Equipment cleaning specifically can be based on the preventive maintenance schedule. Do a complete wipedown after maintenance has finished with their PM to ensure that you do not have any residue on the panels, beltways and control surfaces. Otherwise, the equipment is wiped down whenever lint or dust is visible at end of day using a disinfectant detergent in a spray bottle and a cleaning cloth or rag. We also use a degreaser when faced with oily material, and stainless-steel cleaner polish when wiping these surfaces.  

Based on this scenario, there should be enough time spent on the floor while pushing processing on completing production demands to see things noticeably in need regarding the cleanliness of the plant. All of these items are on the table for corrective action that day before the team goes home. Larger tasks should be scheduled for corrective action as soon as preparation to perform is completed.  

Remember that the importance of the condition of the facility is something your team will follow your lead on, and they will feel respected and appreciated more if it matters to you that they work in a plant that you are all proud to show. 

Other Institution Laundry: Todd B. Jenson, Ramsey County Correctional Facility, Maplewood, Minn.

Whenever I worked with my dad while growing up, the first thing he would have me do is clean up the area where I was going to be working. He would tell me, “A clean workplace is a happy workplace.”

I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the value of a clean workplace; however, the need to meet a deadline and get the product out the door sometimes causes one to underestimate or overlook the importance of a clean, orderly workplace. 

I understand that all facilities are different, but here are some ideas that have worked for me.

Have you ever had someone drop by your house unexpectedly, and you were embarrassed because your house was in shambles? Been there, done that. I have found that keeping my workplace at a level of cleanliness as though I were expecting my clients to stop by at any time is a huge plus. 

I do this by appointing one person to clean, and that is all they do. I will make a list of things that need to be cleaned daily, weekly and monthly, and I will sit down with that person and go over my expectations with them. When the busy times come—and they will—I know I still have someone doing the cleaning, and I can always find five to 10 minutes out of the day to inspect and make certain the cleaning is meeting my expectations. 

If we do get extremely busy and fall behind in our cleaning of the facility, I will call for a voluntary field day. I run a small facility, so I ask for five or six volunteers to stay after working hours one day and clean the whole area from top to bottom, and then reward them with pizza or a cookout. We have many tours in our facility, and having my area of the building clean and orderly not only makes a good impression, but also helps the morale of the workers.

The machines we use are an investment—a very expensive, necessary investment. Why would we not want to take care of them? Maintenance and cleaning is a must so the machines continue to work properly and for our ROI to come to fruition. 

I have set up a daily and monthly schedule for maintenance and cleaning of all washers, dryers and carts. Daily maintenance and cleaning includes, but is not limited to, cleaning of the lint traps, cleaning all carts that contained soiled laundry, wiping down the outside of all the machines, and making sure there are no clogged air vents or filters. The monthly maintenance is following the maintenance schedule of the manufacturer.

I run a small facility and realize that most of these ideas will not work in a large facility, but my hope is that some of the ideas will help someone’s operation run a little more efficiently.

Miss Part 1 with insights from hotel/motel/resort and equipment manufacturer experts? Click here to read it.

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