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Reduce Rewash Through Proper Sorting, Formulas, Stain Treatment (Part 2 of 5)

What measures can a laundry manager take to reduce the percentage of stain rewash found in their operation? How can they differentiate stains from soils? What do you consider an acceptable reject/rewash rate to be?HEALTHCARE LAUNDERING: Earl Carter is the director of central laundry for FirstHealth of the Carolinas, serving five hospitals, four outpatient surgery centers, two health and fitness centers, and 12 family care centers. His career began in 1972 as a route operator for National Linen Service.
In the make-believe world of healthcare linen processing, there would be no tape or EKG sticky pads available in the healthcare facility, nor would the nursing service have the ability to borrow or locate any from other facilities. I do realize this would create a few problems with patient care, but it sure would make my life much easier.
In the real world of healthcare linen processing, there are three types of “finished” linen: clean, usable linen; stained linen; and soiled linen. Your first step is to identify each one and know what process or steps need to be taken to salvage the stained linen and soiled linen in the most economical way to be able to stay within your linen replacement budget.
There are many factors in the laundry that can contribute to this stained and soiled finished linen: overloading/underloading the washers, the plant’s domestic water conditions, water temperatures, the ability of your washers/dryers to perform at optimum performance, proper soil-sorting classifications, proper chemistry/time balance and on and on.
Despite these many factors, there’s one tool a manager can use that will assist them in eliminating at least 80% of the rewash, and that’s education, both within the laundry and with the end user.
Your soil-sorting staff has to be educated in proper soil type classifications along with correct wash pocket size and weight.
The end user has to be educated so it understands each item of linen is designed for a specific use. Once it’s used for something it wasn’t intended for, in most cases, it’s either destroyed immediately or we destroy it in the laundry trying to salvage it and get it back into service.
Just like each piece of linen has a specific purpose, each piece of linen also has a specific wash formula, or it should have. If you’re not maintaining your wash formulas to perform at an optimum level, you’re only fooling yourself.
The old saying, “Pay me now or pay me later,” applies to your wash process more than any other place in the laundry. From a cost standpoint (maintaining available linens and controlling linen replacement), each of us must know how to differentiate stains from soils. If you’re receiving unusable linens at the end of the wash process, your soil sorting is doing proper soil classifications and your washing process is at optimum performance, then nine times out of 10 you’ve got “stained linens” and they must be processed as such, not just thrown back in to go through another wash process.
However, if your soiled classifications and wash formulas are not as they should be, then most likely the processed, unusable linen is still just plain, old “soiled linen.” If we laundry managers are to survive in the industry, it’s an area of responsibility we must know.
As for acceptable levels of reject/rewash rates, we all want to be able to say, “Oh, we have zero,” but that’s not living in the real world. The rate will vary depending on if you’re in an industrial setting, a prison setting or a healthcare setting.
I’ve not been able to locate “real” national standards as they pertain to reject rates, so I use history and close contacts within the healthcare industry to set reject/rewash goals. Within our institution, we’ve set our goal at 3% to 5%. We’re currently at 2%.
Remember, the key to eliminating or decreasing your reject/rewash rate is education, education, education.HOTEL/MOTEL LAUNDERING: Neil MacDonald has managed the laundry at the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club since the property opened in 1995. His other experience includes managing laundries at the Ihilani Resort & Spa on Oahu, the Westin Century Plaza Hotel and the Westin Kauai Resort.
One way to manage stains is to provide alternative textile products for your staff to get dirt on.
Service areas are usually heavy traffic areas for all departments. The linen room is usually conveniently close to the service area and elevator. It’s easy for a bellman, houseman, engineer or room-service associate to grab a precious white washcloth from the room-attendant cart and wipe up a spill or take down to the boiler room. I say put stains on utility cloths, not room linen!
Provide your facility with an assortment of utility cloths. I used to see associates wiping sweat from their face with clean, white room linen. I would ask them to please use a rag, and their response was that the rags smell bad. So, I took washcloths that were damaged, dyed them yellow and now provide them as “employee utility cloths” or “sweat rags.”
These cloths are washed separately from other heavy-soiled rags. I place clean, yellow utility cloths at the counter where the employees get their uniforms so they now have an alternative to using clean, white room linen to wipe their brow.
By the way, I believe it has been scientifically proven that a yellow washcloth absorbs more moisture than a plain, white washcloth.
Bellmen were using pool towels to wipe the seats of their E-Z-Go Carts when it would rain. It was only the seat but once the towel was wet, it would end up in the back of the cart and then in some corner of a driveway. The solution was to dye damaged bath towels blue.
Are your housekeepers using the clean terry that belongs in a guestroom to clean glass and mirrors? Provide them with a lint-free or microfiber towel. Save the room’s terry for the guests.
Another measure is to go to the new-hire orientation and do a presentation on utility cloths. Explain the purpose of these cloths, their environment and classification. Its fun, you get to meet new people, and you make a positive impression on your associates.
We have a display of the different utility cloths and their uses displayed near the associate locker rooms. It’s a great visual tool that’s simple to understand.
Provide alternate textiles to lower your rewash to an acceptable level.

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