In your experience, what are or have been the most stubborn stains to remove? What tips can you offer those of us who must contend with these most difficult substances that find their way onto and into our textiles?
A technical support specialist for the Textile Care Division of Ecolab Inc. in St. Paul, Minn., Dan provides technical support to the company’s service personnel and customers regarding specific applications of laundry products and wash processes.
There are two major types of stains normally encountered in the laundry – those that one can do something about and those that cannot be removed. I will focus my answer on the recoverable stains first. For me, that has been working with redeposition problems.
Redeposition first appears as a yellow to off-color stain on the fabric. After that, it turns a stubborn, tenacious gray. Most of the time, graying from redeposition cannot be completely removed from the fabric.
The sad fact is that redeposition can be prevented with proper laundry procedures. Too many shortcuts can undermine the success of laundry production and run up high costs of recovery or linen replacement.
One should always proceed with caution when choosing to add more fabric weight to a load. Cutbacks in laundry chemistry should never be done without first consulting the chemical supplier. Aside from the discoloration, redeposition can leave a soiled odor and an oily feel to the fabric.
Recovery from redeposition is a slow process. One must use copious amounts of wash chemicals for many repetitions just to partially restore the fabric. If a laundry has relatively small machines, replacement of the fabric may be the more viable option.
For those stains resulting from dryer soot, activated charcoal, wet cement, and graphite lubricants, forget it. These must be addressed at the source, as there is not a practical wash process to restore the fabric.
Bob, president and co-owner of Cincinnati Laundry Equipment, served 20 years as vice president and general manager for C&W Laundry Equipment, Cincinnati.
Stains are the laundry manager’s worst nightmare when it comes to linen. You process those pieces every day and send them to the customer, hoping that when they return, you just have to process them again and send them on their way.
Of course, this is not a perfect world, so sometimes you will get stains. Then it’s time to call your new best friend, the chemical salesperson. These are the folks who know what formulas have to be installed in your wash system to break down the stain.
Replacing linen can be expensive, so trust in your chemical rep to come through for you and solve the problem.
I talked with a few laundry managers about this situation. More than one mentioned a particular problem stain that is caused by Granulex®, a topical ointment. It appears on linens and towels as a brown, grease-like stain. After weeks of trial and error, one laundry manager identified a stain remover that was effective. Trust in your chemical rep. They know what they’re doing.
Richard is general manager of Institutional Services Corp., a Conway, Ark., commercial laundry serving the healthcare industry.
Betadine® is always a problem if it comes into contact with chlorine bleach. Some hospitals use substances containing methylene dyes. There are different colors, but blue, green and orange are most predominant. This stuff is a nightmare. One towel can tint an entire load of white goods, and customers are seldom pleased.
Oily substances like shoe polish are also bad. Polyester absorbs oily substances like a sponge, so problems can arise often with this combination.
Hospital personnel will oftentimes make a “block” out of sheets or towels. These are taped to hold them together. The adhesive left behind after the tape is removed is a laundry problem.
There are formulas to remedy almost all of these situations, but many times there is no warning that these substances are present. If you wash as though they are always present, the cost will be prohibitive.
Dealing with these stains is a real problem. Pressure is constant on the “soap guy” who is expected to make the problems go away. The real solution is to keep them out of the linen in the first place. Disposables or throwaway rags are highly recommended and used almost universally, but there are always a few things that slip through the cracks.
Healthcare, hospitality or food-service facilities should provide education regarding what certain products or substances will do to the linen, and how to properly handle the linen goods to reduce the chances of ruining even more items.
Most operations don't think it's a big deal if some towels are ruined . . . until they have none to use, or they must replace the ruined goods. Then, it is far more rewarding to beat up on the laundry than it is to change procedures.
And these end users certainly don't want ot sit still while the laundry manager points out things that they should already have known.
A great deal of tact is needed to change the situation. Laundry managers need to know what they are talking about, and they must also develop skills to communicate that knowledge effectively without insulting others. Some professional organizations offer excellent courses that deal with these stain and communication issues on one level or another.
Managers need to research what is available and educate themselves. It is also helpful on an industry level as well as a personal level to have much of your staff educated in this manner.
It is not easy to address, but it is rewarding when the user or customer learns that a few little changes can produce significant results.