Running a Tight Ship With Laundry Services

images (2)Laundry services, whether in-house or off-site, can make the best use of money, time, manpower, and natural resources by implementing a few key efficiencies in their day-to-day operations. We will look at some recommendations from experts in the industry. Whether your business handles hospital linens, diapers, uniforms, or some of everything, these recommendations can lead to improved efficiency.

Proper Load Size

Under-loading a washer will cause the laundry to float on the water’s surface, while overloading can result in some of the items not getting properly clean, or even wet. Overloading can also cause jams, which are time and manpower consuming. Optimal load capacity varies depending on the type of material being washed, and its moisture content. If the items have large moisture content, you can increase the load to over 100 percent of normal capacity.

If you are not certain how a particular type of fabric will react in the wash, start by loading at 70 percent capacity and fine tune as you see the results. By determining the appropriate load size for each type of linen, you may be able to increase the amount of laundry you wash by as much as 25 percent with no additional time or equipment.

Turnaround/Hold Times

Turnaround time is the time between the completion of a wash cycle and the start of the next load. Having the next load prepared, labeled clearly, and ready to go reduces this turnaround time.

If you have tunnel washers rather than conventional washers, look at your hold time. Running a tunnel washer faster than the dryers can handle the linen causes the tunnel to go on “hold.” It is better to lengthen the tunnel wash time per pocket than to allow it to constantly go on hold. If you properly schedule the linen mix going through a tunnel, you can help keep the equipment running smoothly.

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance of laundry equipment can help maximize performance, minimize down time, and extend the life of your equipment. Some new machines have built-in maintenance messages to remind laundry managers when daily, quarterly, and annual maintenance in needed. If your equipment does not have that, follow the manufacturer’s preventive maintenance guidelines.

Extraction Rates

It is crucial to extract as much water as possible from laundry before drying it. Regularly check for and remove drain valve obstructions. When items come off of clothing, tablecloths, or medical linens in the wash, they can get trapped in a washing-extractors drain, keeping it from completely closing.

A machine spinning at 500 to 600 RPM is less efficient at extracting water during the spin cycle. A washer-extractor operating at 800 RPM reduces the amount of moisture by nearly half, cuts drying time by more than forty percent and reduces gas usage by at least 35 percent. That is why it is important to know what your machines’ extraction rates are.


If you suspect a leak, listen for water entering the drain during a wash cycle. If you hear it, something is keeping the drain open. This maintence issue can cause thousands of gallons of water to be wasted. Some modern washers have automatic leak detectors that signal when there is a blockage and an advanced control that can be programmed to conduct leak tests and send a message remotely if one is detected.

Energy Efficiency

You can lower energy use and expense by implementing chemical reducing solutions. Softening water reduces energy usage, chemicals, and the amount of water necessary to wash linens.

Dryers can be a key culprit when it comes to energy waste. You can improve energy efficiency in your dryers by using heat exchangers, and ensuring that the machines have proper airflow and temperature.



Commercial Laundry Providers Are Focused on Infection Prevention

images (1)Infection prevention is the number one concern in hospitals today. At any given time, 5 percent of patients are forced to extend their stay or become gravely ill because of infections they contract while in the hospital. Naturally, healthcare providers are doing their best to reduce the rate of infection, but they cannot do it alone. Fortunately, many medical facilities have a powerful ally in their fight against infections: their commercial laundry providers.

Textiles Can Contaminate

Considering that a patient’s critical care environment can consist of up to 90% soft materials, the role of a commercial healthcare linen launderer is a crucial one in the battle of infection prevention. Textiles are some of the first things a patient comes in contact with while in a healthcare facility, and they are some of the most likely to spread infections and contaminants to the patient. Even if your disinfecting protocol leaves every stable soft surface in a room sterile, you must consider that doctors, nurses, other patients, and visitors can carry contaminates on their clothing and transfer them to your patients. Though you can’t sterilize everyone who enters your doors, a commercial laundry provider can start you off with clean linens and help to maintain them so that you can prevent healthcare-associated contamination.

Super-Powered Disinfectant

In addition to blasting your healthcare linens with high heat that tends to kill most microbial threats, most commercial launderers use high powered laundry disinfectants that can kill within 0.001 percent of the top pathogens that your hospital is concerned might spread. By using these impressive disinfectants, your commercial laundry service is able to kill more potential infections than even an in-house team could.

Infection Prevention from First to Last

Your healthcare laundry provider is obsessed with infection prevention, and has set up their entire operation around this concept. Their process starts with the initial sanitation of your medical linens, and then continues throughout the entire life cycle of your textiles. They sanitize at every step, sanitizing their laundry carts, conveyor belts, delivery trucks, and your storage facilities. This obsessive sanitation ensures that your textiles are completely sterile when your staff and patients finally encounter them. Your medical laundry service will also provide sanitary disposal areas for used linens throughout your hospital so that staff can easily remove used, dirty, ripped, or damaged textiles and send them on their way to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced.


Eliminating Odd Soils From Linens

download (16)Professionals in the medical laundry services business are constantly faced with challenging stains. By recognizing them, separating the items out, and treating them quickly so that they do not become permanently set in, laundry companies can help protect their valuable inventory of medical linens. We will look at a few stain-causing soils that anyone dealing with healthcare linens has probably faced, or will at some point.

Chlorhexidine Gluconate

This is an antiseptic found in many hand sanitizers used for surgical scrub, preoperative skin preparation, and cleansing wounds. It is also sometimes included in bed-bath kits for bedridden patients. A common brand name is Hibiclens®, but there are others. It is a challenging stain to get out of hospital linens because it has adhesive qualities that make it nearly impossible to remove during an initial flush. Then, when it comes into contact with chlorine while being laundered, it turns brown and becomes permanent.

If any of your clients use a product with this antiseptic, ask your chemical supplier for a peracetic acid/peroxide bleaching system. Hibiclens also has washing instructions on its website. Since this antiseptic is used in so many surgical procedures, it is a good idea to wash all surgical linens with a high-temperature hydrogen peroxide formula or switch to an oxygen-based bleach.

If chlorhexidine gluconate stains are still a problem on your hospital linens, it could be because the chlorine level in your area’s water supply is high enough to react with the chemical and set it into a yellow stain. If this is the case, there are chemicals you can add to neutralize the chlorine and prevent most discoloration caused by this pesky stain-maker.


Activated charcoal is used in emergency rooms because of its absorption qualities to treat patients who have suffered a drug overdose or ingested a poison. If it is spotted in the sorting, it can be treated with a metasilicate blend for the alkali to 1,500-2,000 parts per million (PPM) and then washed in an emulsifier detergent before going through with the regular wash. Ask your chemical company for detailed directions if you find you are getting enough of these stains that it is worth going through these extra steps.

Therapeutic Massage Oils

Massage oils and lotions used by physical therapists in hospitals and other medical facilities are especially difficult to wash out of towels, sheets, and hospital garments. Because therapeutic massage often involves pressing the patient’s body into the massage table, the stains can be partially set in before you ever get the linens. Medical laundry services with physical therapy clients are all too familiar with these oil-based stains.

As with chlorhexidine gluconate stains, it is important to recognize these oil and lotion stains before putting the linens in with regular wash. You need to do an initial washing with a degreaser before the main wash. Some experts recommend citrus-based products for removing oil-based products. Generally a silicate alkali works best as an emulsifier on oils.

Setting Reasonable Goals for Stain Removal

The secret to a highly efficient laundry operation is not to have zero stains, according to American Laundry News. The generally accepted percentage of rejects in the healthcare linens laundry industry is 3.5 to 5.5%. The only way to get it below that is to subject lightly-soiled items to extra mechanical, chemical and processing treatments that could damage them. However, the more you know about the soils you can expect to encounter in your operation, the better you can be prepared to remove them. Work with your chemical supplier to design the best combination of sorting classifications and wash processes.



Sustainable Best Practice Standards

download (15)There is a big development currently in the works in the laundry service industry. ASTM (International Technical Committee D13 on Textiles) is in the process of developing a new international standard concerning laundry cleaning best management practices. If successful, the standard will in effect identify and define clear practices with which businesses in the field should be aiming to meet regarding their environmental impact. The goal is to increase energy efficiency and reduce consumption in all respects. Thus, the new development can be seen as a comprehensive effort to target wasteful practices worldwide and eliminate them in due time.

The Environmental Impact of the Laundry Industry

The laundry service industry (i.e. medical linen and hospital laundry service organizations) has a major environmental footprint. These companies use billions of gallons of water each year as well as tons of detergent as they process a vast number of linens in their facilities each and every day.

That being said, ASTM is committed to an overhaul of the ways in which businesses are currently operating. They hope that their new eco-friendly standards will lead to a significant reduction in water usage and promote long-term sustainability of the industry at large. As it currently stands, the newly proposed international standards have a good chance of passing. Once this has happened, commercial laundry facilities will be assessed and subsequently evaluated on a performance scale to determine whether they meet the mark.

A List of ASTM’s Best Practice Standards

ASTM is serious about its efforts, and this is demonstrated by the extensive list of areas which are to be included in the proposed international best practice standards. They are all geared toward promoting eco-friendly operations. This includes the implementation of water reuse technology, boiler heat recovery, wastewater heat recovery, using eco-friendly low temperature detergents, as well as installing energy-efficient lighting in facilities and having an energy audit performed to provide a thorough assessment of a company’s current performance. ASTM is also pushing for the promotion of alternative energy forms, namely the use of solar energy systems to reduce consumption.

If successful, the international best practice standards will be a monumental step in the laundry industry. It will likely take some time for the certification process to go into effect, but we will probably start seeing many businesses making the move to using eco-friendly technologies as a means of preparing themselves for review. ASTM encourages owners of these facilities to support WK35985.