CHICAGO — There’s a dirty word in the laundry and linen service industry: rewash.
“Large rewash volumes waste time and resources from … laundries,” says Mark Moore, vice president of REM Co., a Versailles, Ky.-based distributor. “The national average reject rate is roughly 3% to 5%.”
However, rewash can be reduced by implementing a few process changes and creating proactive strategies regarding equipment, chemicals, soil types and more. In addition, these strategies can also aid in achieving maximum linen life.
1. LAUNDRY SIZE STRATEGY
Jared Johnson is president and CEO of Dirty Laundry Linen Service in Slidell, La., a specialty laundry that services party rental companies, caterers, wedding and reception venues, event venues and boutique hotels. He says that at Dirty Laundry, the company has production goals to meet, but it is also focused on providing exceptional quality.
One key to raising quality and reducing rewash is to have a solid strategy for quality based on the size of the laundry.
“I have worked in both small and large laundries and now being a partner of a specialty laundry can see some things in larger laundries that make rewash a challenge,” Johnson says. “Large laundries have to be very competitive within the market and have to push out large volumes of laundry to be profitable.
“At the end of the day, you must have a good balance between quality and quantity.”
Sometimes this results in reducing the amounts of certain chemicals used or decreasing the time in the washer, he says. Both will have an effect on the cleanliness of the linens, resulting in increased rewash.
“We are more ‘hands on’ than most laundries and it has paid off for us,” says Johnson.
2. EDUCATE THE CUSTOMER
Many of the tips provided to help reduce rewash involve education. That includes educating the customer about handling linens.
“When we are setting up an account, we will educate on things like not storing linens in a tied-up garbage bag, keeping wet linens separate from the rest, not letting the linen sit too long before getting to the laundry and keeping any stains they notice separate from the rest,” Johnson says.
3. GOOD SORTING
In the laundry, it’s important to train employees on proper sorting for soil classes.
“We train our soil sorters to inspect the linens as they are being sorted into three categories: light soil, heavy soil and rewash,” Johnson says. “If all of the linens are sorted into the same cart/sling and washed on the same formula, you are creating more rewash for yourself.”
He says that Dirty Laundry has several formulas set up for different soil classes. The regular wash formula is used for lightly soiled items. The heavy-soil wash formula is used for the heavier-soiled items, and the rewash formula is used for items that are stained or may have mildew on them.
Johnson says that if there is a stain that needs special attention, employees will spot the stain by hand before it is washed.
“The most critical step to take in reducing rewash is pre-sorting like items and soil level,” Moore says. “While a high percentage of facilities are already doing this, it never hurts to remind employees and make sure new employees are well-trained on this.”
4. PROPER LOAD SIZES
Mechanical action plays a huge part in the cleaning process, so that means laundry workers need to be properly trained on load sizes.
“Right size each load,” advises Moore. “Review that staff is well-informed on just what a full load looks like in the washer.”
Johnson says that if the washer is underloaded, the linen will remain suspended, drastically reducing the mechanical action of the load.
Moore adds, “Underloading will mean too much chemical is being used, which isn’t good for linen life.”
If the washer is overloaded, says Johnson, the linen will not have enough room to move in the wash wheel, reducing the amount of mechanical action necessary to obtain good wash results.
5. APPROPRIATE MACHINES
There is an old adage: “The right tool for the right job.” In a laundry, that means having machines that have the mechanical action and controls needed to wash linens.
“Equip the laundry with machines that feature flexible controls,” Moore says. “Flexible controls—the ability to tailor wash process to the specific soil level and linen type—are quite important. Rewash often is born of a laundry ‘generalist’ mentality, which is all loads get the same wash program.”
Johnson prefers conventional washers over tunnel washers.
“It’s my opinion that conventional washers provide better agitation than tunnel washers,” he says. “In the wash wheel, it’s all about time, temperature, chemistry and mechanical action.”
6. CORRECT WASH PROGRAMS
Soil sorting and load size won’t help laundry quality all that much if correct wash programs aren’t being used on the proper soil and linen types.
Flexible controls on the equipment to shift wash programs is only the start, according to Moore. As with training staff on sorting and load sizes, managers need to make sure staff is trained on what wash cycles should be used with specific linens and types of soil.
“This is where equipment networked to a laundry management system is valuable,” he says. “Managers can review reports to gain a view of what cycles are being selected.”
7. CORRECT UTILITIES
A laundry can have the proper equipment, the correct wash programs, and soil and loads ready to go, but if the laundry’s utilities can’t provide the necessary power, effectiveness is reduced.
That’s why Moore recommends double-checking that the laundry has the right utilities to match the chemicals.
“For instance, chlorine bleach requires a hot water temperature of 140 degrees (F) to be effective and color-safe bleach requires a temperature of 160 degrees,” he says.
Laundry operations can put a lot of time and effort into processing linens properly, but there is still a way they can end up with increased rewash: a dirty plant and dirty carts.
Maintaining a clean plant and carts will help minimize the amount of rewash a laundry experiences.
“You must clean the production area daily to keep the cleanliness of the plant under control,” Johnson says. “Clean your carts after soiled linen has been transported in them. This will help to reduce incidental rewash as the linen is being moved through the plant.”
It takes diligence to maintain equipment and wash formulas in order to produce quality goods and reduce rewash—and save money.
“Work with your equipment distributor and chemical company to fine-tune wash programs and chemical dosing,” Moore says. “Keeping the proper balance is key to delivering excellent results.”