It Pays for Laundries to Have Clean Facilities, Equipment (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“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?”

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Phil Jones, Vistana Signature Experiences, Orlando, Fla.

It’s always easy to keep a laundry clean when occupancy is lower and fewer pounds are produced, but the challenge becomes greater when you are at 100% occupancy and are running all of the equipment 18 to 20 hours per day. 

What I have found is that we tend to be so focused on production out the door that we stop doing the simple things, like picking up trash from the floor, or linen that drops on the floor, as soon as it happens. We bought and put up signs throughout the laundry that has a towel and trash with a circle and line resembling road signs so that no matter what language, our team understands the message. Our daily meetings with the laundry team also reinforce the message of keeping the laundry clean. 

We operate two shifts per day, and each shift has the last 10 minutes with all team members assigned to clean up around the equipment and floor areas. This includes sweeping and quick mopping around each area. We do have a custodial person who does deeper cleaning, but it is the responsibility of each team member to clean their area before leaving. The supervisors will monitor and coach individuals to make sure we are completing these tasks daily. 

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Phil Jones

Phil Jones

In my meetings with my supervisors, I remind them not to be so focused on production; however, that cleanup time is eliminated to produce more linen. Our facility is one of the areas on almost every tour of the resort that is included, so we need to be “show ready” at all times, as most tours are smaller, unscheduled tours that just show up.

Our laundry has all conventional washers and dryers, so we are manually loading linen. The washdeck team has the same 10-minute cleanup time at the end of each shift, which includes around the front of all machines. 

The mechanics are responsible for cleaning behind and under any of our equipment, and the mechanic from each shift is assigned a specific rotation for both the cleaning and maintenance. They keep a log record of all work and cleaning performed, and it is checked by the supervisors as having been performed. 

A full blowdown of the facility is performed once per week by our second-shift laundry team, with spot blowdowns every other day. Facility blowdown is one area that should never be compromised, as it is a serious fire potential if regular cleaning does not occur.

Every laundry is different, from the size of the laundry or the number of custodial staffs that are utilized. In conclusion, each laundry may have different ways of keeping its facility clean, but you must always create an atmosphere among your team that believes in, and takes ownership of, plant cleanliness. It has to be just like taking care of your own house, and that is what we instill in our team members every day. 

Equipment Manufacturing: Keith Ware, Lavatec Laundry Technology Inc., Beacon Falls, Conn.

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Keith Ware

Keith Ware

When asked about the need for general housekeeping in laundry, I always ask a single question: Have you ever seen a laundry operation that was too clean?

Housekeeping is not an option for laundry operators; it should be a mandatory part of a plant’s operating parameters. Many of these cleaning tasks are required as part of your laundry certification for healthcare processing. Your laundry operation should have a written schedule for each department of the plant that assures a level of cleanliness with established standards. A routine cleaning schedule should include the following:

Daily Equipment Cleans — Work should be performed by hourly employees as part of their daily routine and cleanup at the end of each shift. Self-maintaining the work area helps to instill pride and ownership in their work environment. Management and the hourly team should develop a process, whether done daily, at each break or weekly, and decide who is responsible for the assigned tasks.

Sorting — Sanitize the sort belt on a daily basis, and clean the sort hoppers and cart dumps. All trash should be cleaned up and disposed of. Most laundries should do a better job of washing their sorting slings or bins to prevent bacterial growth.

Washdeck — Keeping washers and the load area clean and free of spills and splashover of wash liquor. Routinely cleaning the drain trough screens and lint screens helps to keep your waste water from clogging up heat recovery of the main sewer drains. Remember to not use abrasive cleaners or pads on stainless-steel components.

Dryers — Keeping the dryers free from plastic within the drum helps prevent reduction in dryer efficiency and, most importantly, prevents potential fire hazards. Cleaning lint screens and lint blowdown nozzles should be a daily or by-shift task. Too often, plants do a poor job of sorting their linen and trash. This leads to some dryer baskets often blocking upwards of 70% of the airflow, causing less efficient dryer operations.

Finishing — Each day, wipe down the equipment and sweep up all lint and linen on the floors. Clean all photo eyes and belts. Employees should be trained on where and what to clean, and in proper lockout/tagout of the equipment so no one is injured cleaning a machine.

Ductwork — This process may require the hiring of a professional duct-cleaning company on a quarterly basis to properly and safely clean your ducts.

Break Rooms and Bathrooms — This area shows a manager’s dedication to plant cleanliness, but it also displays how a company treats its employees. If the employees’ break room or bathrooms look like a toxic waste site, why would your staff take interest in keeping the plant clean? General cleanliness of a bathroom or break room belongs to the employees themselves, but if you provide a poor environment that shows a lack of concern for their comfort, it will be difficult to expect a clean production floor.

Docks — Loading docks tend to be the junk collectors of the laundry. Routine cleaning by drivers and the loader should remove all trash, unnecessary carts or equipment.  

This process does not cover the detailed cleaning that should be handled by engineering in detail blowdown, high-level lint removal and deep cleaning of the equipment, such as dryers, ironers, folders, etc.

In a past management role, I assigned each tunnel system in the plant to individual teams. We had them name their equipment and created a competition amongst the teams to see who maintained their work area and team’s equipment better. These teams went above and beyond in keeping the equipment they were assigned clean. Maybe it was pride of ownership, or maybe it was the internal competition, but to see bright, shiny tunnels every day was a great result. Staffing your plant with a proper janitorial staff is key to keeping the plant tour-ready every day. 

Check back tomorrow for thoughts from commercial, healthcare and other institution laundry experts.

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