||Use laundering logic and clean up on profits
|Laundering logic lengthens linen life. Try saying that three times. The truth is, the way you clean and care for your linens can set the stage for a lucrative, less-laborious livelihood.|
Let’s start with a basic fact: if food stains were all you were faced with, stain removal wouldn’t be a major issue. Typically, regular wash formulas, properly selected based on the linen fabric, color and soil classification, will remove ordinary food soils.
“The cleaning process is made up of four factors,” says Chuck Irwin, technical support specialist at ECOLAB, St. Paul, Minn. “Those factors are time, temperature, mechanical action and chemical action.” If all four factors are in balance, most stains will be removed in the washing process.
But that is not always the case. Many times, non-food soils, such as silver compounds and rust, may permanently stain linens.
“Most wash formulas can remove stains from linen use, but not from linen abuse,” says Brady Corbridge, A.L. Wilson Chemical, Kearny, N.J.
Customers have been known to use good linens to wipe grills, clean ash trays and polish shoes. Unless protected by a damage waiver, rental companies must either suffer the loss or charge back the customer. The best way to help prevent such abuse is to educate the customer and make rags readily available, says Corbridge.
Other problems arise when the linen is stored improperly. For example, linens should never be placed on the floor. This is especially true for bare cement floors, since wet, soiled linen absorbs concrete particles — ultimately forming stains. When linens are placed on a floor, there is a risk they will be stepped on or run over with cart wheels, adding dirt and grease to the soil mixture.
Setting up a system to get soiled linens to the laundry as soon as possible is one of the best ways to combat staining. Stains that might have been easy to remove become much more difficult once they have set in. Mildew can also become a problem when linens are allowed to sit too long.
But even the best-run laundries face stained linens. Rejects in the food and beverage industry run at about 15 percent. Since party-rental standards are much higher, rental laundries may experience higher percentages.
“Effective stain-removal products are within your reach,” says Corbridge. “And most will remove stains as though they have never been there.” Stain removers that are designed to address specific problems such as oil, rust and general food stains are now available. Along with being easy to use, most professional stain removers are safe and environmentally friendly, says Corbridge.
Stain-removal products can be applied to the fabric stain prior to washing or immediately after. The key is to notice them during sorting or while unloading the washer so they can be treated before the linen is ironed.
“We find stains are easiest to spot at the ironer,” says Adam Pearle, general manager at A-1 Tablecloth Co., Hackensack, N.J. “Once identified, the stain is treated with a stain remover and allowed to sit overnight.” If the stain persists after rewashing, the item is sent to reclaim, says Pearle.
When employing stain-removal procedures, it is imperative to enlist the full cooperation of your chemical representative to not only monitor products, but to help train your staff to maintain your level of quality.
Unfortunately, stains are not the only issue that laundries must consider. Fabrics — especially white fabrics — often become discolored. This problem normally begins in the sorting area. White linens must always be laundered separately: lights with lights and darks with darks. If white linens appear gray or dingy, the wash formula and water quality should be checked. Too few or poor rinses, as well as hard water, could be the cause. Linens that have a buildup of fabric softener may also discolor.
Mildew is a major enemy of laundries. Chlorine bleach has proven to be the most effective method for killing mildew on white linens. But it is not recommended for use on colored fabrics. Another alternative — although expensive — is to invest in a mildewcide and use it during processing.
Reclaimed linens also include those needing repairs due to holes, rips and tears. The decision about whether or not to repair depends primarily on the size and location of the damage and the philosophy of the rental operation.
“We very seldom, if ever, bother to repair linens,” says Steve Novich, owner of ASAP Linens, Paterson, N.J. “Unlike the restaurant industry, party rental people, as a whole, will not accept repaired linens.”
Running reclaims intelligently is the key. Be prepared to rag some of your linens. Larger items can be cut down and made into overlays and napkins. This approach is much more economical in the long run. Using $5 worth of stain-removing chemicals — not to mention water, detergent and labor — to save a $2 item isn’t smart business.