In order for my customers to be responsible for linens and garments, I suppose they need to be instructed or reminded about abuse. What steps can my operation take to train them and minimize these occurrences? Is it possible that we’re abusing the linen during processing and/or distribution?
EQUIPMENT DISTRIBUTION: Scott McClure is vice president of sales for Pellerin Laundry Machinery Sales, Kenner, La. He was hired as CAD engineer in 1992 and became the Louisiana sales rep in 1996, winning numerous awards while in the post. He became sales manager in 2003 and VP of sales the following year. He oversees sales in a seven-state territory.
It’s very possible and, many times, costly to damage linen during processing.
Whether you’re a small on-premise laundry with one or two small washers or a large central plant processing millions of pounds of linen, it’s important to be aware of potential problems.
The first step is to choose washing, drying and finishing equipment that is flexible to meet your process needs. You want to select a washer-extractor that’s fully programmable so you can adjust the time, temperature, mechanical action and chemistry.
If you don’t have programmable machines or if you’re not using these features, you could be adding excessive chemistry to your heavier soiled linens and causing premature linen damage. Overloading washers can also cause poor dilution and mechanical action.
For larger facilities, automated continuous-batch washing systems may be the right choice for processing. Automatic loading and unloading of linens requires less handling, which increases linen life. It’s also important to select a dryer with flexible microprocessor controls and auto-drying features.
If an ironing system is required, size it to process the linen directly from the washer-extractors without the need for preconditioning in dryers. Preconditioning requires extra handling of the linen and, in many cases, results in overdrying before it reaches the ironer.
Improper use of flatwork ironing equipment can cause quality and linen damage issues. Improper speed differential between ironer rolls, dirt and rust on chest surfaces, and poorly maintained padding, belts and guide strings can all result in poor quality and linen damage.
Proper machine preventive maintenance (PM) is a must to avoid linen damage. For example, a leaking water valve or dump valve can cause incorrect titration values and linen damage can occur. Most equipment manuals include PM schedules for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly maintenance duties.
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.
Abuse of linens and garments is seldom an intentional act, as only the most malicious person would deliberately attempt to deface or damage a textile provided to them for their job.
Rather, abuse often results from the haphazard use of a textile in a manner inconsistent with its functionality, or improper processing by the launderer.
Misuse is often borne out of an employee looking to speed up an operation or take a route of convenience. The careless or unintentional use of a textile item can result in excessive staining, leading to increasing stain rejects, elevated rewash costs and often textile replacement.
Similarly, deviating from proper laundering and finishing techniques can also result in elevated operational costs. The manner in which textile replacement costs are passed to the customer, or absorbed by the launderer, can become a point of contention.
Garments are designed to be either a piece of daily apparel, a piece of specialized protective apparel or to impart a specific comfort property.
Similarly, linen items may be designed to exhibit a specific soil-release characteristic, contain an antimicrobial property or possess a specific aesthetic functionality. Yet despite these specifically engineered, manufactured and selected functional attributes, and the financial investment in selecting and providing these items, these textiles may end up being misused and abused:
• Tablecloths make wonderful drop cloths when painting.
• Dinner napkins are ideal for use when polishing silver and dinnerware.
• Pillowcases make ideal laundry bags and roll very well on cement flooring.
• Shirt sleeves and tails can be used as wipers to clean up or wipe down a surface.
Outside of these common misuses, it seems that all rental textiles tend to gravitate to the floor. Once an item has found its lowest level, it becomes prey for even further abuse. Two common results are shoeprints and boot prints, and tire marks left by carts either at the laundry or at the customer’s site.
Processing linens, bulk items and garments on the correct wash formula will minimize overwashing or subjecting a fabric to ill-advised laundering conditions. Not all garments need to be laundered on heavy-soil classifications.
Habitually laundering textiles on an improper wash formula often leads to premature wear and rag-out. Similarly, the manner in which textiles are dried and finished can have an abusive effect should the fabrics be overdried or subjected to elevated temperatures in a finishing tunnel. Thermal melt and burn are simply a result of abuse and neglect.
Training both your customers and your production team can directly serve to minimize misuse.
By sharing examples of textile misuse with your customers and staff before they are found in your inventory, you can educate all parties about the ramifications.
An ideal means of communicating the import of proper textile use is showing your customers examples of damaged fabrics removed from service. Customers presented with a crayon-stained napkin can readily make the connection between proper and improper use of a textile item. Couple this with a financial charge and you may have just dispensed some preventative medicine.
COMMERCIAL LAUNDERING: Richard Warren is the general manager of Linen King of Central Arkansas, a commercial laundry that provides COG, rental and linen distribution services for healthcare clients. His experience also includes OPL and industrial laundering, linen supply, and leather/fur cleaning.
Wow, that’s a minefield! If you’re running a commercial laundry, use extreme caution in your approach to instructing your customers about their careless and abusive handling of their own linen.
First, it’s always possible that the laundry can damage some linen. That, of course, is what all laundry companies hear constantly. And, frankly, the industry is defensive on the subject. But we all know a towel or a sheet is destroyed once in a while, and it’s a poor manager who doesn’t correct the malfunction quickly. Hopefully, we’re constantly on guard for excessive grease that can be transferred to the linen as it’s being processed.
What is your de facto policy for clearing jams? Some machine operators say, “If I can’t pull it out, then two or three of us can.” Others know full well that management wants maintenance involved in clearing jams.
Does linen get snagged in the same place frequently? Are there sharp or jagged surfaces that contact the linen? All these things need to be resolved quickly.
However, when a customer complains about missing or damaged goods, they’re not talking about one or two items. They’re talking about a trend, or a cart full each week! To be quite candid, it’s usually a breakdown at the customer’s facility that causes most of the grief.
Customers do more damage to their goods than they can imagine. But I would be cautious in approaching one with that news.
Once, when I worked for another company, my chemical representative and I worked up a demonstration to illustrate just how easily a commonly used skin cleanser can ruin linen.
Our premise was that if the users of the product were aware that irreversible damage was being done to their linen, they might try to save their facility thousands of dollars by making a few simple changes.
The result was rather ugly. The facility was offended. Staff felt we were trying to manage their operation and rationalize our own failures.
That disaster notwithstanding, we as an industry are obligated to bring things that contribute to the customer’s welfare to their attention. Every laundry can supply a great deal of information to its customers. The trick is to get them to ask for our help.