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Lessening Linen Replacement Through Today’s Technology, Usage Strategies (Part 1)

Proper use, maintenance vital in avoiding linen loss via machinery, say experts

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.


Washing requires four elements: mechanical action, chemistry, temperature and time. Identifying which aspects cause excessive linen wear is important in figuring out how to minimize or eliminate unnecessary wear.

“All elements need to be managed to protect your linen,” says Ryan Kelley, applications engineering project supervisor for Pellerin Milnor Corp. “For the wash aisle, temperature and chemistry go hand-in-hand, as too much temperature will cause a negative chemical reaction and damage goods. If the temperature is too low, then the chemistry will not activate and therefore will require the goods to be overprocessed unnecessarily and eventually wear out the linen.”

Washers can feature highly programmable controls and automatic chemical injection. That means every textile type could have its own program to ensure a high-quality clean with minimal fiber loss. 

“Everything from rotation action, G-force extract, rinses, baths, water temperatures and chemical injection are preprogrammed by item type,” says Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales and customer services for Continental Girbau. “This eliminates the possibility of chemical overuse and resulting damage to fabric. Operators simply load the washers, enter a program number and press start.”

Kelley says Milnor’s washers employ many features that help with protecting linen from excessive wear.

“One way we ensure that conditions are optimal is by setting parameters for each module in the control system so that chemistry is not added until certain preconditions like (water) level and time are met and will allow for optimal chemical activation,” he says.

To ensure bath and chemical separation, Kelley says Milnor uses a combination of double drum construction, solid welded partitions and a perforated load chute. With all of these tools employed, the tunnel washer is able to scoop up the goods, leaving behind the dirty water from the previous module, and therefore keeping the baths separate and maintaining the chemical integrity of each module.

The final wash element that can cause premature linen wear is mechanical action.

“Mechanical action is a necessary evil for washing to get the wash liquor to equilibrium; however, the mechanical action can be damaging to linens,” Kelley says. “By minimizing the wash time, you minimize the time that your goods are exposed to mechanical action and therefore minimize unnecessary linen wear.”

“Lavatec has the philosophy of washing your linen as gentle as possible for the specific linens or soiled content,” Ware says. “Various sizes of baffles in the washers can control mechanical action and improve rinsing zones to remove impurities from the linens.”

In the washroom, Kannegiesser tunnels and washer-extractors use a “care wash” drum perforation that allow gentle contact with the textiles, according to Tony Jackson, director of national accounts for Kannegiesser USA.

“In addition, the tunnel uses an effective ‘lift and drop’ action in which the batch is lifted with the ribs and dropped into the liquor to create a compression of the chemistry deep into the fibers during the ‘mechanical action’ washing process,” Jackson says. “Textile surface damage is minimized with this action, as well as limiting the tangling and twisting of the linen, or ‘roping effect.’”

Another mechanical action that can cause linen degradation is extraction. Once the goods leave a washer, they are then subjected to an extraction device, either hydraulic or centrifugal.  

“While the forces that your linen experiences are great in both applications, hydraulic presses are the biggest causes of linen degradation due to the issue of hydrobursting,” Kelley says. “Hydrobursts occur primarily in high-thread-count and barrier-type fabrics when pockets of water form and have nowhere for the pressure to escape as the ram is applying pressure to the goods.”

Fully programmable presses provide careful treatment while exerting pressure appropriate for the goods, says Kelley. To remove water pockets and minimize hydrobursting, the membrane can tamp the goods before it applies final pressure, and even control the rate of pressure rise on descent. 

Check back Thursday for the conclusion, with tips for dryers and finishing equipment.

19060 69098 hospital worker with dryer web

Educating employees on the proper use of laundry equipment can help lengthen linen life. (Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

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