Finding Ways to Conserve Valuable Resources is a Never-Ending Quest for Launderers

by Steve Kovacs

A constant challenge for today’s launderers is improving their current operation and making choices that increase productivity. Two priorities that should drive laundry care operations are efficiency and effectiveness. To achieve these goals, management must regularly review its laundry procedures to find ways to maximize performance, protect linen investments, improve cleaning results and ultimately, provide cost savings and customer satisfaction.

In today’s tough economic climate, it’s crucial that management establish and update policies and procedures. Following are best practices to help launderers evaluate and improve their commercial laundry operations to boost efficiency and effectiveness.

Choose the Right Detergent
There are two major types of detergents—alkaline and near neutral. Alkaline detergents have a high pH formulation, which is effective in removing body soils, grease, and the like; however, linens require multiple rinses or the use of an acid rinse to return the pH as close to neutral as possible. Alkaline detergents are also corrosive, cause safety concerns in handling among employees, and cause linens to retain mineral encrustation (creating stiff, rough-feeling fabrics) resulting in greater wear and tear, which leads to more frequent linen replacement needs and costs. Near neutral detergents can also provide effective cleaning to remove soils. Cleaning products that are phosphate-free with a near neutral pH formula can extend linen life and make fabrics noticeably softer to the touch. With a near neutral pH detergent, there is no need for pH correction through use of an acid, there’s less wear and tear on fabrics, and it is noncorrosive and safer for employees to handle.

Extending linen life can result in greater cost savings as linen replacement needs decrease. In one example, testing has shown that a leading detergent with a near neutral pH helped reduce operational costs by providing up to 55 percent savings in linen replacement costs due to worn fabrics.

When choosing the right products, consider choosing a total laundry system that works together for effective cleaning to get the job done right the first time. A laundry system should encompass a complete suite of commercial products from near neutral pH detergents for a variety of cleaning needs, to fabric softeners, to stain fighters. Together these products can rejuvenate, protect and extend the life of linens, while producing familiar softness and freshness on fabrics. This, once again, also results in reduced replacement costs and helps laundry efficiency over time.

Stain Removal
Before washing, housekeeping staff should treat tough stains with an appropriate stain remover. There are multi-purpose stain removers to treat general stains, rust stain removers to remove stubborn stains like rust, tea and coffee as well as stain fighters designed to treat food service linens by helping prevent “locked-in” grease stains. Be sure to utilize the appropriate stain treatments for your industry, spot check any tough stains on clothing and linens, and apply the treatment before washing. This will help keep your laundry looking like new.

Sustainable Cleaning
Every laundry operation should have a sustainable laundry care program, which can be accomplished in several ways. By simply doing things right the first time, housekeeping staff can reduce rework and repeated use of products for cleaning the same linens. In fact, source reduction is usually the most cost-effective approach to sustainable cleaning. Concentrated detergents are important as these smaller, concentrated bottles mean using less product for each load, less packaging per bottle, and ultimately less trucks on the road transporting products for sale.

Make sure laundry care products do not contain phosphates, known carcinogens, APEs or NPEs, or other reproductive toxins and that they meet the California Code of Regulations maximum allowable volatile organic compounds (VOC) levels. Management should also ensure that laundry care products are safe for employees to use. Alkaline detergents are corrosive, and can cause safety concerns in handling among employees while a near neutral pH detergent is noncorrosive and safer for employees to handle.

Commercial launderers should use energy-saving equipment and features to help boost performance and utility conservation. Make sure to have procedures to ensure equipment is running at optimum levels and remember that preventive, routine maintenance is a must. This will save time, effort and money down the road.

Another consideration of being “green” is social sustainability. One way to be socially responsible is to donate “unusable” linens to local shelters and other charitable organizations. This can be a great way to give back to the community and further extend the use of the linens.

Ensure Ideal Wash Conditions 
Create and utilize proper procedures for ideal wash conditions: review and follow linen guidelines, pre-sort laundry properly and treat soiled items immediately. Keep rewash rates below five percent by setting wash times and temperatures correctly. Load linens and fill the water properly as under filling or over filling can reduce cleaning efficacy. Keep linen inventory levels up to help extend linen life. Inventory levels that are too low result in linens being washed too frequently, causing fading and wear and tear at a more rapid pace. Make sure you have the proper amount of linens in stock and have a process in place to re-order when needed.

Make a Good First Impression
You only get one chance to make a good impression. Consider customer service in every aspect of your laundry operation. Do not send unacceptable pieces of linen to guests or customers that could potentially be returned and give a bad impression. It can also cause unplanned rework and a potential bottleneck in overall laundry operations.

Train housekeeping staff properly and provide checklists to keep things running efficiently. Employee training does not start and end with the hire. Effective, continual education on following proper procedures can be the key to achieving productivity and results that keep customers satisfied.

For all of these reasons, facility managers must take a good, hard look at their commercial laundry operations and work with their suppliers and product manufacturers to ensure the best results. By establishing effective procedures and using the latest innovations in laundry care, management can decrease operational costs through a reduction in linen replacement needs and labor costs, plus enjoy the benefit of customer satisfaction by providing bright, white and fresh towels, bedding and clothes. 

About Steve Kovacs
Steve Kovacs is R&D Section Head at P&G Professional, where he leads product development and customer understanding for cleaning product solutions provided for the Hospitality, Healthcare and Building, Cleaning and Maintenance businesses. Prior to joining P&G Professional, he held numerous R&D positions at Procter & Gamble with consumer understanding, product design, and technology development responsibilities spanning many of P&G’s leading brands, including Tide®, Dawn®, Cascade®, Pantene®, Olay®, Ivory®, Pampers®, Always®, Crest® and Vicks®. Steve also has extensive global operations experience which includes assignments in Germany and England. He holds bachelors and masters degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of Louisville and a MBA degree from Xavier University. He is an inventor on seven U.S. patents.