Of all the fabric terms that the reusable textile industry has wrestled with over the years, “linen” is second only to “muslin.” Despite the arguments about their being more expensive and harmful to the environment, those marketing disposable surgical gowns and drapes had little if any problem selling against what they referred to as muslin.
As the nonwoven industry’s use of the term muslin diminished, it was quickly replaced with linen. Associating it with the laundry in the mind of the users, the term again proved to be quite effective. However, and for whatever reason, NAILM [the National Association of Institutional Linen Management] replaced “laundry” in its name with “linen.”
(Editor’s note: More recently, in June, members of the association voted to rename it the Association for Linen Management, identified by the acronym ALM.)
Nevertheless, once again, the reusable textile industry has been successful in getting professionals in the user community to replace linen with the term “textiles.” As evidence of that, the new term is now being used as a point of reference in documents published by groups such as the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) and the Association of Operating Room Perioperative Nurses (AORN). It should be noted that the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC), of which ALM is a sponsor, refers to the items that laundries process as textiles.
The question that logically arises is why ALM continues to use linen in its new name as well as in its notable educational program, the American Laundry and Linen College (ALLC), and refer to its graduates as Registered Laundry and Linen Directors (RLLD).
Perhaps they have yet to realize that the textile items they are processing are made of a totally new generation of textile technology. Furthermore, it is totally inappropriate to refer to them as linen since technically they are not made of flax fibers and yarns.
There is a new movement afoot in the healthcare community to “green” the environment. Its commendable objective cannot be accomplished by any segment of its laundry services that will be looked upon as only a “linen” processor.
Nathan L. Belkin, Ph.D.
Founder, Past President, American Reusable Textile Association