Know What You Want from Textile Purchasing

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Eric Frederick |

Veteran laundry manager shares several key ‘rules’ for purchasing

ROANOKE, Va. — I wrote an article in 2003 on this subject. I feel compelled to update the article this month.

Recently I have been approached by at least three companies selling a new line of textiles that will decrease bed sores and nosocomial infections. I have done some research into the handling, washing and presentation of these textiles, and I have not been impressed. 

Often, the laundry professional is the last to be told of these products because the sales technique is to market it to the CEO or head of infection control. They want us to purchase their textiles and perform a study to prove their textiles actually work.

These companies are trying to develop a better product but are rushing it into the market far too quickly. Sometimes, these products are solutions looking for a problem to solve. This is not to say that there are not honest and hardworking salesmen and textile companies that are trying to engineer superior healthcare textiles. I have personally dealt with many excellent sales companies that I feel are beyond reproach.

In 2003, I declared that the textile purchasing field was typified by the saying, “Buyer Beware.” What makes the textile industry such a hazardous place for the novice or experienced textile purchaser? Perhaps it is the constant state of flux in the industry. Thread counts were fairly standard with classic 140 and 180 threads per square inch dominating the marketplace.

Today, polyesters dominate the market, either in blends or as stand-alone fabrics. Thread counts now vary from 128 to 600, with almost any combination of cotton polyester fibers available in each thread count.

Into this confusing world enters both the novice and the experienced buyer. There are several key rules for survival in this marketplace. The first is to know what it is that you want. It is not enough to know that I want a “66 by 90” sheet. This information is essential, but does not narrow the choices sufficiently.

The terms “percale” or “muslin” have lost their distinction (128 to 159 threads per square inch equals muslin while 160 to 600 threads per square inch equals percale).

Once the thread count is determined, then the fiber mixture needs to be determined. How much polyester and how much cotton? Other factors that will need to be considered are the hem size, finishing treatments, color and whether markings applied at the mill are desirable. Each factor could easily fill an entire article by itself. 

Once you determine what it is you want to buy, require a sufficient number of textile samples to determine whether or not the samples meet your specifications.

Too often I hear of new products that were purchased in hopes they would work and in the end caused patient dissatisfaction and higher replacement costs. Watch for more from me on textile purchasing next month.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Eric Frederick served 44 years in laundry management before retiring and remains active in the industry as a laundry operations consultant. You can contact him by e-mail at elfrederick@cox.net or by phone at 540-520-6288.

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