ROANOKE, Va. — As I stated in a column earlier this year, my major project for 2014 is to research and purchase more energy-efficient textile products for my laundry and customers. In researching products, I was not willing to sacrifice any of the current linen features that my customers prefer.
I have deliberately not mentioned any specific manufacturer or linen company while writing this column, as I do not believe it is my place to advocate for one company or another. My goal is to investigate and advocate for possible product and/or operational changes that can benefit the laundry industry. I am searching for longer-lasting, low-linting, color-fast, energy-efficient products.
I began by looking at bath blankets, thermal spreads and knit contour sheets. I have been unable to find an acceptable bath blanket with more than a 50% cotton/50% polyester mix. While I haven’t yet found one, I continue to be open to possible alternatives.
We tried three different 100% polyester fitted sheets to replace my current knitted fitted sheet, which is 55% polyester. The first sheet we tried was a polyester microfiber sheet. I was excited about its feel, and colleagues were eager to try it. Unfortunately, the trial went downhill right from the start. The item would not run through the production equipment we normally use for contour sheets. They had to be hand-folded instead of machine-folded.
Also, the design of the contour sheet did not lend itself to easy application at the bedside, and because it was a little oversized, the sheet bunched up and wrinkled under patients. The housekeepers and laundry personnel complained about the product because it seemed to generate a lot of static electricity.
The final flaw with the sheet was its very poor air permeability. This made for a hot, uncomfortable environment for our patients. We abandoned the trial after 30 days of using it at three different locations.
We are now in our fifth month of undergoing trials of a 100% polyester knitted sheet. In my research, I found two companies that were marketing this type of sheet. I have samples of both going through my system, with no complaints. This sheet can be handled just like the previously used cotton/polyester knitted fitted sheet, has a nicer hand, and since it is woven, should be resistant to holes caused by pins and clips. Our plans are to continue to purchase this item and begin to reduce the dryer times early next year.
I found one potential product to replace our 50% polyester/50% cotton thermal spread. When I was searching for this, many companies told me they had products in the works, but only one company actually had a 100% polyester thermal spread on the market. We wash-tested a number of these blankets and found that they processed through our system exactly like our currently used spread.
However, the challenge with this spread was the lack of an acceptable color and length. We were able to work with the company to design a modern color that would meet the demands of the internal design department and create a length that would meet the expectations of all our customers.
This item is in production and should be available this month. Since it’s still a custom item, we had to commit to a year’s worth of the product in order to get the company to make it. I am comfortable with this decision because of the extensive field testing we have already completed.
In about six months, we will be able to begin to make adjustments to the dry times on the loads of thermal spreads. Though we are still in the beginning of the fitted-sheet trial, we’re anxiously awaiting the start of the thermal-blanket trial this month. I hope to be able to update readers again in six to nine months to let them know how this journey is progressing.