What measures can a laundry manager take to reduce the percentage of stain rewash found in their operation? How can they differentiate stains from soils? What do you consider an acceptable reject/rewash rate to be?
CORRECTIONAL LAUNDERING: Nancy Greene has been laundry manager for the Kenosha County, Wis., Detention Center and Sheriff's Department for eight years. Other experience includes laundry/environmental services work with ServiceMaster, as well as in private hospitals and nursing homes.
The reduction of rewash begins with your standard formulas. By knowing your soil, you’ll be able to create the proper formulas to reduce stain rewash. Designing formulas for the types of soils encountered in each textile type will cut down on rewash.
The cooperation of all staff in identifying and isolating unusual stains prior to their arrival in the laundry (e.g., Hibiclens®), will assist you in pretreating the items to prevent stains from setting.
Soil sorting is the second stage for separating stained textiles versus soiled textiles in a correctional facility.
The normal procedure for collection of soiled textiles at our facility requires that an inmate place all of the allowable turn-in items in one cart for soiled linens. It’s not presorted at the collection site, which is the dormitory, but is sorted down in the laundry.
Once the inmate laundry workers arrive in the morning, we begin the sorting process. Inmates separate based on textile type, keeping a watchful eye out for contraband items that can damage the textiles. Items such as pens, razors and batteries are removed and given to the laundry’s supervisory staff.
Our facility’s position on the handling of items contaminated with blood or other body secretions is strict. All items are first placed in water-soluble bags, then into red bags, and handled first thing in the morning. This procedure, though costly, actually assists the inmate worker in identifying what needs to be handled in a different way.
In a correctional facility, your actual stain and soil types are kept to a minimum. They include body secretions, ink from inmate pens, food that is purchased through the commissary or food that is spilled during meals.
Normal laundering procedures will remove most water-soluble soil or inorganic material. When you begin to get into water-insoluble items, you’ll need to presort them and handle them for each particular soil type. Stains are usually either set prior to washing or are what remains after all normal soils are removed.
Our rewash rate is only approximately 1%, because our formulas are designed for the types of soil we encounter at our facility.
Correctional facilities historically haven’t been concerned with stained items. We designate the textile items that have been treated in the most cost-effective manner as “NR”, indicating nonremovable, for our laundry and correctional staff. This helps prevent them from sending the same item over and over again for rewash, cutting down on our production costs.
Beginning with the proper wash formulas for the soil types that are generated at your facility will influence what your rewash rate will be.
COMMERCIAL LAUNDERING: Richard Warren is the general manager of Institutional Services Corp., Conway, Ark., 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.
How to reduce the volume of rewash? For starters, you need to be using a test piece service, like those offered by the International Fabricare Institute (IFI) or the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM). This gives you a point of reference.
Have a serious discussion with your “Soap Guy.” Let him know your concerns, as well as the concerns of your customers. The technicians are a wealth of information, and they have a vested interest in removing as much foreign material on the first pass as possible.
But one of the best ways to reduce your rewash is to sort properly in the first place. If a clean-side worker finds a dry sheet with the blankets, it’s going into the rewash. If they find a wet towel with the sheets, more rewash. If the sheets go into the wash wheel still folded, you’ll have poor-quality wash, ironer jams and more rewash.
Some chemical representatives will tell you to run all your rewash on a stain or reclaim formula on Monday, and use regular formula the rest of the week. The difference between stained and soiled has been a long-standing issue. As a practical matter, after you rewash on a heavy-stain or reclaim formula, then whatever is left is a stain and shouldn’t be processed again. I know that isn’t foolproof, but it’s practical.
The cost of washroom chemicals is something that’s always considered when addressing rewash. But there’s also the cost of running the machinery, including the boiler, air compressor, lights and blowers. At the very least, you’re doubling your water and sewer charges for that particular batch.
Then there’s the cost of your staff to examine it again while trying to make a judgment on quality, with the hope you end up with what the customer (or end user) will accept.
Remember that the laundry, in large part, is not putting the stain on the goods. The purchaser of the linen may want the laundry to do a “better” job, and it’s a tough sell to convince the customer that most staining could be avoided by altering some user practices.
I’ll use healthcare as an example. Hibiclens® stains linen. The manufacturer explains that on each container, but its use is common. You’ll require a great deal of diplomacy to persuade those who use the product that negative consequences will certainly follow unless some discretion is applied. A Hibiclens stain won’t be removed, and you just drive costs up by trying.
Your chemical representative will be able to minimize the problem by changing your wash formulas. Hibiclens can show up on any category of goods, so you may need to change all formulas.
Some facilities handle the product better than others, and you may not need to change for all customers. A washer-extractor operation can more easily deal with this particular situation because it’s able to customize its operation more readily.
Most steps used to resolve this issue will carry additional cost that may be a concern to you or your customer. This scenario is just one, but it serves to illustrate the complexity of our industry.
How much rewash is acceptable? is another question involving many contributing factors. A figure that’s often spoken of is 5%. Most claim that they have 1%. Some will base calculations on how many carts of soiled linen are received. Some say when their rewash barrel overflows, they know it’s too much.
Customer education is paramount. Stained items, once identified, must be removed from the system. They can be bagged up and returned to the customer. Too many times, they are sent directly back to the laundry and the whole process begins anew.
As confusing as rewash can be to our laundry staff, it’s equally confusing to the customer’s staff that handle the incoming laundry.
The customer must give some instruction to its staff regarding incoming ragout. Most facilities want to record the unserviceable linen in some manner. Many want to see the nature of the damaged goods and possibly determine how the damage could be minimized.
Laundries can’t afford to isolate themselves in today’s market. We are a business partner with our customer. But the question is, “Are we a good partner?”