“Sometimes, we get so caught up in getting the work processed and to our customers that we don’t keep the laundry production areas as clean as they should be. What tasks should we be performing regularly to keep our facility clean? To what degree do we need to clean our equipment and how often?”
CONSULTING: Jim Buchbinder has been the vice president of business development for Turn-Key Industrial Engineering Services since January 2007. Previously, he worked at Arrow Uniform Rental for 23 years, from plant manager to vice president of product development and distribution. He’s a member of the Uniform & Textile Service Association (UTSA) Plant Operations Hall of Fame.
If you keep your laundry facility clean, your plant will be safer, equipment will operate more reliably, your goods will be processed to a higher standard and employee morale will be better.
Let’s start at the top. If you look at your ceiling and everything is looking a little “fuzzy,” you probably have a lint problem. There are several strategies to counteract lint, including circulating fans, lint scrubbers and vacuums.
The advantage of using circulating fans or lint scrubbers is that the lint isn’t allowed to accumulate. The advantage of using a vacuum is that the lint is contained and not blown into your equipment and back into the atmosphere. If you still choose to use the blow-down method to remove lint, make sure that you cover your equipment and clean product first.
Now let’s look down. Look at the bottom of your tubs and drop baskets. It’s amazing how quickly these can fill with debris. I’ve been in plants where the spring-loaded platform cannot fully extend, due to the amount of debris that has accumulated. Imagine what a customer would think of their clean laundry being transported in a cart that is partially filled with trash.
Steam tunnels are another piece of equipment that requires regular cleaning. Lint screens should be removed and cleaned every two hours to ensure proper airflow, which maintains optimum heat efficiency and produces consistent garment quality. Keeping lint screens clean also prevents lint from infiltrating other areas of the tunnel.
Lint should be vacuumed daily from the interior. Depending on your tunnel design, this may require removing the side panels. On a weekly basis, vacuum and inspect combustion make-up air filters, blower fans and motors, bearings and control boxes. Following this regimen will help prevent both lint fires and premature wear and tear on your tunnel.
CHEMICALS SUPPLY: Kevin McLaren directs the CLG (Commercial Laundry Group) Laboratories for the Dober Group, a manufacturer of specialty chemicals. He joined Dober in 1994 after serving 10 years as an applications chemist in the industrial and institutional housekeeping markets.
Keeping your employees motivated and productive is best accomplished in a clean, orderly environment. Nobody wants to work in a filthy building or workstation.
Besides the psychological factor, some individuals are sensitive to dust, lint and other environmental soils that can elicit allergic reactions. Each workstation should be cleaned regularly and can be a function of individual employee ownership of the work area.
In addition to their adverse effects, these soils are counter-intuitive to cleaning a textile. The recontamination of a clean textile after laundering, during finishing and route-ready preparation, only acts to diminish the quality of the entire process.
The automation of the wash floor has resulted in many textiles being transferred out of washers onto conveyors and/or sling transfer systems. Conveyor belts are upward-facing horizontal surfaces that collect dry soils settling out of the air and must be cleaned.
Similarly, transfer bags may be separated between soiled side and clean side, but the same bag may move hospital sheets today and bar/shop/dairy towels tomorrow.
Additionally, the overhead racking and facility structures can all harbor lint and other soils, which can rain down on any textiles staged underneath.
These particulate soils may harbor environmental microbes such as Bacillus and Aspergillus species. Should these contaminants land on textiles serviced to healthcare, food processing, pharmaceutical and/or biotech customers and be detected by quality assurance teams, a cleanliness failure report may result.
Finally, the textile rental operator’s entire premises is a reflection of the work that is being sold. Rationalizing a commitment to quality and cleanliness while walking past storage racks filled with dust bunnies will be noted. The work leaving your facility can never be cleaner than the equipment involved in its processing.
TEXTILE/UNIFORM RENTAL: Steve Kallenbach has been in the uniform apparel and industrial textile business for more than 29 years, from route sales/service to group general manager to regional sales manager. He has been regional sales manager for American Dawn since 2004.
Cleaning is such an important area of operating for three reasons: safety, morale and marketing.
Everyone in your operation should be assigned the duty of basic cleaning of his/her specific area during the last 5-10 minutes of the production day.
Once production is closed for the day (typical industrial laundries work one or two shifts), your maintenance or janitorial department should do a thorough cleaning daily, and one person should be accountable for inspecting and ensuring this task is completed.
Daily cleaning should include dry-mopping all areas and wet-mopping or sweeping all areas. At least weekly (some plants do this daily), blow off all overhead pipes and equipment using an air hose.
Most plants have their production floors sealed so that dry-mopping produces a low shine when done. Also, change or vacuum all doormats.
Some operators have their wash personnel shine the stainless-steel doors and covers of the equipment daily. This is high maintenance, but looks fantastic for potential customers touring the plant.
Dryer baskets are a part of heavier maintenance, and are typically cleaned in continuous cycle and often with grinding equipment to remove plastics and other residue that melts to the inside.
I’ve always believed that a thorough daily cleaning of plant bathrooms and lunchrooms sets the standard for cleanliness and helps boost pride and morale. Management should talk about cleanliness in their meetings, and one on one. I hope you have posters and signs motivating employees to keep their workplace clean and safe as well. This can all translate to better production.