Effective laundry processes are based on chemistry, mechanical action, temperature and time. Dr. Herbert Sinner identified these interdependent factors in 1959.

At that time, traditional on-premise laundry used an alkaline- or enzyme-based detergent at a water temperature of 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which was very effective. In an effort to reduce tap water scalds, in 1988 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission began urging all users to lower their water heaters to 120 F, so today water temperatures often are lower.

It was determined that at 120 F, most blood, urine and feces stains can be removed with the proper chemistry, mechanical action and time.

According to detergent manufacturers, chemistry often is set up to get about 96 percent of the laundry clean. This is important in a commercial laundry setting where efficiency is key. Taking short-cuts might be tempting, but will likely result in more problems.

Laundry operations in the commercial setting often require more time than doing laundry at home. A washing machine at home may have a wash and a rinse cycle, while a programmable commercial machine may be set to pre-rinse multiple times and have 10 or 15 steps.

In departments where staff and budgets are shrinking and cleaning times are scrutinized, managers might argue there’s no time for flushing or presoaking. But, those who make the argument may find themselves needing to start the laundry process all over again.

Items that are significantly stained and need to be rewashed often require more chemical and rinsing. Eliminating these rinsing steps will leave stains and chemical residue on fabric. Not only is the result unsightly, but chemical residue can cause skin irritation and discolor towels or sheets.

Using too much chemical like chlorine bleach on an organic material like cotton is likely to degrade the fibers and decrease the life of the material. 

Special Spots

For many facilities using white linens, bleach is a lifesaver, but it’s not a cure-all.

Bleach sanitizes and kills germs and reduces the molecules that reflect color, but the underlying stain substance remains.

While the majority of hospitals are using white linens, towels and wash cloths, Scherberger reports many hospitality facilities have started using pastels, which can be damaged by bleach if used incorrectly.

“Color-safe bleach” is a misnomer, Scherberger added, because it’s not a bleach, it’s an oxidizer and doesn’t have the same effect on stains. Experts agree that it’s important to understand the stain, the fibers involved and the best chemical for effective removal.

Chemical suppliers offer spot removal solutions designed specifically for betadine and medicinal stains. Spot removal solutions also are available for other tough stains, including rust and metallic stains; and inorganic stains such as grease and oils.

Table linens also have spot removal solutions. While most facility linens and textiles are white, table linens are an exception. Linens that decorate dining rooms come in dozens of colors. Unlike sheets and towels, which are a cotton or cotton poly blend, table linens often are 100 percent polyester. To help remove stains from this hydrophobic fabric, linen manufacturers often apply a stain-resistant coating.

One of the newest materials on the market, microfiber requires its own laundry procedures and stain treatments. Often, linen manufacturers will have a recommended wash chemistry formula.

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