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Panel of Experts: Waste Not, Want Not (Part 3 of 4)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“What would you say are the most common errors in laundry processing that lead to higher-than-necessary energy, fuel or water costs?”

Chemicals Supply: Carrie Armstrong, Ecolab Eagan, Minn.

Optimizing the laundry processes and following the recommendations will help with the reduction of higher-than-necessary utility costs. The following are common errors in laundries leading to additional costs; these are in the order of processing, not necessarily in order of magnitude.

carrie armstrong• Incorrect Sorting, or No Sorting, of Soiled Linen by Soil Content, Soil Level and Linen Type — Not sorting will result in all loads washed in heavier formulas than necessary, which generally requires higher temperatures and more water exchanges and leads to reduced linen life. If heavy-soil contents are washed on a regular soil formula, rewash/stain percentage will increase. This results in additional rewash/stain loads processed, some of which would not be necessary if properly sorted. Reclaim formulas generally feature higher temperature and extended wash times, resulting in added utility costs.

• Not Loading to Optimal Capacity — Under-loading and overloading results in additional washes. Under-loading does not utilize the capacity of the machine, thus wasting utilities. Overloading results in additional rewash due to inadequate soil removal (which can also be the result of under-loading).

• Incorrect Wash-Formula Selection — Wash formulas are developed for the soil types, soil levels and fabrics for optimal soil removal. Each is specific in time, temperatures, water and chemicals for each classification. Not selecting the correct wash formula is similar to incorrect soil sorting.

Selecting a heavy-soil formula for a light-soil classification results in increased utilities, as these formulas generally include higher temperatures, additional water exchanges and extended wash times. Selecting a light-soil formula for heavy soil will result in added rewash.

• Wash-Formula Structures — The formula structure and programming of the wash machines are critical for cost control and require optimization. Times, temperatures and water exchanges may be reduced given the textile types and soil levels being processed. An extensive review of wash formulas may result in changes in flushes, rinses, time or temperature. Additionally, ensuring that all machines are programmed identically will result in more consistent results.

• Incorrect Extract Times — Too-short extract time results in the textile being too wet, thus requiring extended dry times. Extract times that are too long use energy unnecessarily.

• Incorrect Dryer Formulas and Loading — As with incorrect washer loading and formula selection resulting in added utility costs, this same concept carries over to the use of the dryers. Overloading will result in extending the dry times, adding to energy costs, plus it shortens linen life.

• Rewash and Stain Reclamation — Not having an established rewash and stain reclaim program results in increase of utilities. Rewash encompasses textiles that have fallen on the floor, mis-feeds through folder/ironer, are still dirty, etc. Stain reclamation is the category for which the wash formula has not been adequate to remove the stain. A reclaim formula generally requires higher temperatures and extended times.

• Postponed Equipment Maintenance — Leaking drains, water valves, steam valves, etc. result in added utility costs.

• Chemical Program — New technologies and laundry product programs are available that can offer customized solutions to reduce water and energy costs. Lower-temperature washing, sanitizing and disinfecting products can shorten processing times.

At each point of the laundry process, errors occur that can increase utilities cost. Continued monitoring and training of personnel will help keep these in control. In addition, your chemical supply representative can consult on ways to help with laundry efficiency.

Long-Term-Care Laundry: Gary Clifford, Pines of Sarasota, Sarasota, Fla.

From my experience, the single most wasteful error is the improper loading of washers and dryers. If you run your machines under-loaded, you will waste not only energy, fuel and water but also chemicals and time.

gary cliffordIt doesn’t take any more time or effort to load at the proper levels if you just do it! I realize that everyone wants to be busy, or at least look busy at all times. However, it is clearly beneficial to accumulate and process the correct size loads. The time spent waiting can then be appropriated to wherever you need it.

As an example, the first time I did a late-hour check on laundry at my first OPL in healthcare, the night washer was not sorting everything, just throwing whatever was in the bags in the washers and washing them on the setting for heavily soiled linen. He figured he could eliminate a step that way and save himself a lot of work.

Maybe he did save time and effort, but what a terrible waste of chemicals and utilities. After the proper sorting and loading procedures were reviewed with him, along with the reasoning behind them, it was never a problem again and our chemical expense dropped noticeably.

For those of you working at long-term healthcare facilities, make sure you have adequate washes for heavily soiled linens. A separate setting for this is essential in eliminating rewashes and quality-control problems. Even if you have to hold heavily soiled linen in the sorting cart for a while to get a full load, you can certainly save a lot by doing so.

You will also find it helpful to schedule a recovery load for trying to save badly stained linens prior to taking them out of circulation. Even if you only save half a load, it is linen you may normally would have thrown out.

It is also important not to overload the washers or you will waste your chemicals and utilities on rewashing. It is a bit of a balancing act, but one that can be easily accomplished with education, cooperation and teamwork.

Be sure that you do not ignore proper loading and temperature settings on your dryers. Over-loaded and under-loaded dryers waste a lot of energy and fuel and can also lead to lost time and excessive wear of your linens. And be sure your temperature settings are correct for the loads you do. Too much heat is as bad as too little heat for your linens and is extremely wasteful. Today’s dryers feature multiple settings, so be sure to use them correctly.

Involve your representatives from your laundry chemical, linen and equipment companies to help you fine-tune everything to get the best, most efficient results for your investment. They will be glad to help with this important task. With their help and your attention to the details, you can be sure you are not wasting energy, fuel or water.

Tomorrow: Answers from the commercial laundry and equipment manufacturing sectors.Click here for Part 1.Click here for Part 2.

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