Quick ID, Treatment Vital to Remove Difficult Stains (Part 2 of 2)

“In your experience, what are or have been the most stubborn stains to remove? What tips can you offer those of us who must contend with these most difficult substances that find their way onto and into our textiles?”Consulting: Tom Mara, Victor Kramer Co., Oceanport, N.J.
Industry practices used to prevent or minimize stains, or to remediate them, are extensive. I highlight important elements of the practice in this article, but I encourage operators to seek the help of competent technicians, consultants and peers. There is much to be gained by mastering the science of stain prevention and removal.
To prepare this article, I sought the experience of some of our consulting and management teams.
Joe Lee, a senior consultant and a thoroughly knowledgeable healthcare operator with unique washroom chemistry expertise, has convinced me and our clients that there is no reasonable justification for accepting any level of stain.
At a typical 400-bed hospital, reduction in stain work of just one part in three can save more than $35,000 a year in replacement expense.
Lee recommends working through a linen advisory committee to change those practices that contribute to an identified staining problem, undertaking an economic analysis to quantify relevant values, identifying suitable alternatives, and evaluating any opportunities in the laundry to effectively deal with the stain.
Chlorhexidine gluconate, Lee explains, is a perfect example of this type of issue: an effective antiseptic used in hospitals for surgical scrub, preoperative skin preparation, and cleansing wounds, chlorhexidine gluconate is combined with an adhesive to help promote the longevity of its antimicrobial and antiviral attributes.
The compound is clear and colorless, its adhesive qualities make it nearly impossible to remove from the surgical linen fabrics during an initial flush, and it turns brown when reduced with chlorine bleach. The stain can’t be removed, hence it must be prevented altogether. This can be achieved, according to Lee, by washing all surgical linens with a high-temperature hydrogen peroxide formula.
Another senior consultant, Ben Feldman, says tannic acid-based stains are particularly onerous.
Though they are difficult to detect before age or heat causes them to turn brown, these must be identified during spotting and properly treated before cleaning or washing or else the stains can become virtually permanent.
T.C. Mara, also a senior consultant, says concrete and mildew stains are some of the most difficult to remediate.
Mildew stains on polycotton food-and-beverage goods can be effectively removed using a high-temperature formula with an extra alkali flush and a high concentration of surfactant, or costly enzyme-based mildewcides.
It still seems as though an oxalic acid wash is the only effective way to remove concrete stains, so the best advice in this case is prevention: don’t allow your customers or employees to set the goods on a wet, unsealed concrete surface.
New compounds used in the production of skin lotions and sunscreens can cause a streaked yellow stain on spa linens and beach towels, says Sheldon Anderson, a Crothall regional manager. These can be effectively removed, he says, using a formula that includes a 10-to-15-minute, cold-water, detergent flush (nonionic surfactant) as a first step. Spa oils and lotions are especially difficult to wash out of microfiber fabrics.
Hydrogen peroxide-based formulae and flush-water intercoolers are the best ways to avoid Betadine and blood stains in goods processed in a tunnel washer, says Ian Bigelow, a Crothall unit manager who is also corporate energy specialist.
Feldman reminds us that a mineral oil, astringent and oxalic acid formula can be effective in the removal of sterilizer tape residue from surgical linens, or chewing gum from walk-off mats.
Rust-reducing sours must be used when the iron concentration in fresh-water supplies is significant, and don’t forget the old standby: an overnight bleach soak.Equipment Manufacturing: Dan Goldman, Wascomat Laundry Equipment, Inwood, N.Y.
The most difficult stains I encountered when I sold laundry chemicals were, for the most part, avoidable.
Concrete stains deeply embedded into perfectly good bedsheets and tablecloths, just like eating utensils somehow making their way into the drain of the property’s laundry washers, were usually indicative of poor housekeeping practices.
To prevent cement stains, care should be taken to ensure damp linen doesn’t come into contact with concrete.
That being said, my remedy when confronted by such stains was to use oxalic acid, a colorless, crystalline, toxic organic compound belonging to the family of carboxylic acids.
Oxalic acid is widely used as an acid rinse in laundries, where it’s effective in removing rust and ink stains by converting most insoluble iron compounds into a soluble complex ion. But instead of using the oxalic at the end of the formula to neutralize the alkalinity from the built detergents, I would use it up front.
A 30-minute hot wash at low level with four high-level rinses (first two rinses are hot and second two are split temperatures) seems to work the best for me.Equipment Distribution: Bill Blumel, MHS Reliable Equipment & Engineering, Ogden, Utah
The occurrence of “stubborn stains” on reusable textiles is based on the use and abuse by various types of customers. Some examples: oils, fats and soy sauce in food-and-beverage linen; cosmetics and body fluids in hospitality room linen; medications and body fluids in healthcare linen; and chemicals in industrial uniforms and shop towels.
Laundry management determines the percentage of total poundage that remains stained after processing, and the washroom staff maintains it with help from the chemical vendor.
However, depending on the level of post-sorting prior to drying and finishing, it’s feasible to reduce the rewash percentage when stubborn stains are caught and processed in a special wash program or formula.
Even more beneficial is the ability, depending on the level of presorting prior to washing, to reduce the rewash percentage by catching stained items and processing them in a special wash program/formula up front.
Laundry management also has the ability to determine, when presorting is used, in what washroom equipment each sorted textile classification is to be processed.
Usually the preponderance and types of stains, along with maximizing productivity, are taken into account. This equipment selection is also predicated on the desire for optimal mechanical agitation and the availability of higher-than-normal water-heating capability.
In most cases, the chemical vendor’s personnel will welcome the challenge of solving the stain problem by customizing a stain formula/program for each classification being processed.
The bottom line for measuring success in maximizing linen life is making sure that the reusable textiles remain reusable, and keeping the linen replacement costs at or below the laundry facility’s budget.
Laundry management has the ability to minimize staining by not only eliminating it in processing, but also by educating customers about proper textile use. Abuse is unnecessary when the appropriate reusable textiles are available (bar mops and floor mops for cleaning instead of towels and blankets, for example).Click here for Part 1 of this story!


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