CHICAGO — Linen replacement is a top recurring operational cost for the healthcare and hospitality industries.
Unfortunately, the equipment used by laundry and linen services can contribute to linen degradation.
“(Linen loss) is caused by the mechanical action of all washers and high pressure from extraction presses,” says Keith Ware, vice president of sales for Lavatec Laundry Technology. “Overdrying in a dryer can be a potential cause of linen damage. Not properly titrating your chemistry in the washers and routinely monitoring for residual chemical, especially bleach, can also cause linen damages.”
Fortunately, today’s laundry equipment is engineered to maximize laundry throughput and reduce other factors like labor and utility usage. That includes linen loss.
“Technological advancements over the years have contributed to unit and linen longevity,” says Rick Murphy, sales manager for Whirlpool Corp. Commercial Laundry. “In turn, high-efficiency washers are manufactured to provide a powerful, yet gentle, wash performance, while dryers are engineered with features to help reduce dry times—helping to increase linen life and reduce utility costs.”
These technological advancements in washers, dryers and finishing equipment, coupled with proper usage, can help ease wear-and-tear on linens and lengthen linen life.
“The industry expectation is to increase garment life by approximately 20%,” says Jeff Frushtick, CEO of Leonard Automatics.
In a dryer, the two main things that can cause unnecessary wear to linens are plastering and overdrying, according to Ryan Kelley, applications engineering project supervisor for Pellerin Milnor Corp.
To combat plastering, the first variable to adjust is to maximize airflow, he says.
“We achieve maximum airflow due to our basket perforation; therefore, hot air flows easily through the basket,” Kelley says. “We also use a dryer seal that runs circumferentially around the basket to ensure that all the hot air passes through the basket and doesn’t escape into the shell.”
The other important variable when it comes to plastering is basket speed, he says. When the goods are drying and getting lighter, they will behave differently inside the basket, and the basket speed should be adjusted to ensure the proper airflow through the goods.
“Features like reverse-tumble have been incorporated to help reduce dry times on large items, such as sheets and blankets, by constantly reopening/detangling the larger, bulky items,” says Murphy.
The main cause of linting is overdrying, and this is due to simply setting a time and temperature to dry goods.
“By overdrying textiles, laundries are reducing linen life significantly,” says Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales and customer services for Continental Girbau. “Our drying tumblers offer highly programmable controls and moisture-sensing technology to eliminate overdrying. Dryers automatically go into cool-down mode once the interior drying cylinder reaches a preprogrammed moisture level.”
Murphy says dryers with residual moisture control sense the amount of moisture in a load and reduce the heat input while the tumbler continues to run, ensuring linens aren’t overdried. This helps to extend the life of the linens, which can be costly to replace.
“We use dry-sensing to ensure that the goods are dry and not being overdried,” Kelley says. “Dry-sensing monitors both incoming and exhaust air to predict the level of dryness in the goods in conjunction with a modulating gas valve. The modulating gas valve can maintain an inlet or outlet temperature within 1% of the set point.”
Implementing infrared sensors in dryers can eliminate overdrying of linens, by measuring the actual linen temperature and not the inlet/outlet temperatures, according to Ware.
“So will recirculating a portion of the air to improve drying times, without increasing burner temperatures, as well as utilizing the line burner to reduce flame size and heat the entire length of the drum,” he adds. “This prevents hot and cold spots in a dryer.”
Kelley says Milnor microprocessor dryer controls allow field programming of up to 200 drying formulas, to handle both full and partial loads for 100 different types of goods.
“It is important to have custom dry codes for all of your different types of linen, as they behave differently,” he says. “For example, longer goods like sheets should have a program where the basket stops and reverses direction over a set period of time. This is good, with the exception that when the basket stops, so does the air flowing through the goods and the constant, unnecessary rotation, mechanical action, puts a lot of wear and tear on the goods.”
Kelley says a common cause of linen wear in a dryer can, oddly enough, be prevented before the goods enter the dryer. Better extraction will minimize dryer time, he says. Whether it is a centrifugal extractor or a hydraulic press extractor, if possible, a higher extraction force, longer time at pressure, or both should be applied to minimize the unnecessary mechanical action and time seen in the dryer.
“Manufacturers engineer high-efficiency machines that help maximize throughput, while also helping to contribute to overall efficiencies,” Murphy says. “For example, multi-load washers with high spins, such as 350 G-force, extract water in the washer instead of the dryer, allowing linens to dry more quickly and gently.”
Jorgensen agrees that as dry time increases, so does linen loss and wear-and-tear. He says Continental/Girbau Industrial (GI) soft-mount washers reach extract speeds of up to 400 G-force, while most hard-mount washers only reach speeds of 100-200 G-force.
“Thus, the soft-mount washers remove more moisture per load and cut resulting dry time by up to 50%,” he says. “Less time in the dryer means less linen loss. It also bolsters laundry throughput.”
“Our machines process garments extracted to dry; we have increased the extracted wet-to-dry capabilities of our equipment to increase production,” Frushtick says. “This allows the garments to bypass the dryer, avoiding the tumbling and garment fabric friction. This extends fabric life, increasing the profits of the garments.”
As textiles tumble against a dryer cylinder, they experience wear-and-tear due to contact. Jorgensen says Continental and GI drying tumblers feature annealed stainless back plates with mirror-polished finishes. The smooth cylinders help reduce friction and resulting fiber loss.
“Eliminating dryer time is even better,” he says. “Ironers allow laundries to skip the drying process altogether. Rather, textiles move straight from the soft-mount washer into a flatwork or heated-chest ironer.”
He says the ironers automatically remove moisture while pressing linens, and the result is a high-quality finish, longer linen life and ramped-up throughput.
In addition to the washroom factors already mentioned, Tony Jackson, director of national accounts for Kannegiesser USA, offered some thoughts on flatwork finishing improvements and techniques to lessen linen degradation.
“On the pickers and spreader/feeders, we use larger grip surfaces on the clamps to create a gentle transfer of the linen to the next surface or area,” he says. “The feeding process also measures the linen spread distance of each item, so the spreader clamps don’t overextend the linen and stretch the fibers.”
On the small-piece folders, Jackson says Kannegiesser believes it is still important to use air on the primary folds, as it helps lessen linen wear. In many folder models, Kannegiesser uses a reverse belt technology where possible instead of mechanical blades to allow for precise and gentle folding.
While all of the technological improvements and usage ideas shared can be helpful, Murphy believes there are two factors that laundry operators need to be conscious of to lessen linen degradation.
First, operators should properly train staff to ensure all employees have the knowledge to use laundry equipment appropriately. Secondly, it’s important to implement a regular maintenance program.
Ware offers one final tip: Make sure the laundry or the customer has adequate linen inventories.
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