Long term sustainability4 November 2019
Historically the laundry industry has been slow to adapt to change and new technology. However, the pace of innovation added to increased pressure surrounding global environmental issues is forcing change in the commercial laundry industry
It is a far more complicated business with a wider range of often complex fabrics to clean and far more constraints on water, energy and effluent. Chemical suppliers have worked to up their game in order to meet the demands of these modern fabrics whilst reducing the burden of their products on the environment.
Developments in automation have led to machines taking on more of the workload on the laundry floor thus requiring less skill from operatives. Consequently a skills gap has developed whereby those providing the machinery and chemicals hold far more knowledge on how to obtain best results from the laundry process.
Founded in 1946, Christeyns has grown into a major player on the global chemical market, and serves the commercial laundry industry with state-of-the-art detergents, sanitisers, dosing systems, water and energy management equipment.
“Christeyns is no longer simply a chemicals manufacturer and provider,” said key account director Justin Kerslake. “The firm’s laundry team play a much bigger role covering all aspects of the business from machine and personnel efficiency to improving wash outcomes. As a chemical provider we have become more involved in the total laundry process.”
When a new washer arrives on site, Christeyns will provide and set up the chemicals and also the machine programmes, auto-dosing equipment and provide general wash training and chemical awareness skills for staff.
Prior to the installation of a new machine, the team may well have also carried out research on the laundry systems in place and put forward proposals to increase water and energy efficiency.
With chemical providers taking on more and more of a role and retaining much more influence on the day to day running on the main laundry floor, it is inevitable that a knowledge gap has developed.
The necessity to keep tight tabs on water, energy and time has led to laundries looking more and more to sophisticated data capture programmes that will guide them in the right direction. However in order to be more efficient, this data has to be interpreted and used in the right way.
“Christeyns are being asked more and more about efficiency, for advice on how data can be used to improve the bottom line without effecting wash outcomes,” says Kerslake.
“With our data programmes such as Laundry X-Pert we are well placed to provide advice in this area but as our role broadens, it involves a greater input in terms of time and manpower. For example, not only do the data systems collect information on washing but also on ironing machines, which are not related to chemicals. This is the challenge; how far can we go and how do we gear up to provide this extended service.”
Laundry X-Pert has been specifically designed as a management information system for laundries; it monitors the cost and efficiency of the wash process via one central system.
The Laundry X-Pert software provides real-time information, with data is continuously logged and reports produced at the press of a button.
“For us, the next step is to help laundry managers diagnose this information, to sit down and explain what it means and what can be put in place to improve on the results,” says Kerslake.
“Again this is not always simple as some laundries, such as those handling workwear for example, operate a ‘just in time’ service where wash schedules and efficiencies are dictated by customer delivery requirements.”
Innovation is gaining pace in both the chemistry and the machine technology side of the business. As textiles become more complex, influenced greatly by the demands being put on natural resources, chemical manufacturers are continually working to produce the best blend of detergents and surfactants that will provide optimum wash outcomes whilst being kind to the environment.
It is not that the chemicals need to work harder but that laundry scientists have a continuous role in ensuring that the detergents match the task at hand. As there is also the need to reduce energy and water usage, chemical innovation has had to move up a notch in order to achieve the same results but at lower wash temperatures.
“As a company, we no longer see ourselves as just chemical suppliers,” says Kerslake. “We offer a comprehensive laundry support package, from initial site scoping and solution planning to installation, maintenance and training. Chemicals are merely one part of a multi-faceted service that is constantly keeping pace with change.”
Believe in a wetter future
At Ideal Manufacturing, managing director Phillip Kalli says that there’s some exciting research being done and lots of really positive changes taking place.
“We’ve decided to align our values with our actions by removing any drycleaning detergents from our range. Here at Ideal, we're getting behind wetcleaning. We like it. We believe in it. We’ve seen how good the results can be.
“We all have a choice. We have a choice as a detergent manufacturer. We choose wet, because we’re specialists in the manufacture of laundry detergents – and we genuinely believe that it’s a much better way to clean.
It's better at removing and suspending particulate and proteinaceous soils. Garments smell, look and feel better. It’s safer to work with and the system offers real flexibility; you can still use the same machine to do loads and loads of laundry!”
Over the last three years under the Agua Smart brand name, Girbau UK and its detergent partners Ideal have provided a complete support package to customers looking for a wetcleaning solution. Now, Girbau is continuing that close relationship with Ideal under a new brand identity, Clean Surf. The change has been brought about by the detergent partners expansion into other Girbau subsidiaries across the world. It was felt the time was right to refresh the brand and celebrate its introduction to the global market, says Kalli. There have been loads of articles published about how, when and who can claim to have first invented “wetcleaning”, he says.
“To be honest, who really cares? It’s all about who’s doing it now. Who’s interested in making it relevant, affordable for all, cooler, more transparent and better – and what is it going to take to reach that tipping point!”
Kalli says that Ideal embraces a culture of positive change and continuous improvement throughout the business. “The acute climate crisis means we all have a serious obligation to improve the way we do things in this industry; manufacturers, suppliers, launderers, textile care professionals and all of their customers in turn. In short, everyone!”
None of Ideal’s products contain phosphates or phosphonates. The company implements its own 12 guiding principles to responsible detergent formulation so that the formulation of every new product we make is challenged rigorously from the outset.
“We are determined to become the most eco-responsible manufacturer of professional laundry detergents that we can be, which means constantly reviewing modern surfactant technology to optimise efficiency, and to build detergents with a focus on functional economy and sustainability,” says Kalli.
“We are addressing this by constant formulation review and the ongoing rationalisation and improvement of our Periodic Table of Laundry (see panel), along with a serious, searching and considered packaging review.
“We will also be looking to challenge traditional methods of supply with a view to operating a truly circular model that generates much less – and ultimately, no – waste. In turn, machine manufacturers and laundries must continue to improve the efficiency of machinery and reclamation systems – whilst looking to address major problems such as filtration of micro-plastic fibres on an industrial scale.”
Kalli explains that Ideal has embraced the spirit of collaboration by opening up dialogue with numerous sustainable textile manufacturers and suppliers over the last few years. “Our young, talented and highly qualified chemists are constantly testing new wash processes at our in-house laboratory using the latest sustainable and responsibly sourced textiles to help us design the most benign processes possible.
He continues: “We are working with our partners to be able to continue to innovate in the area of problem stain removal and linen recovery. We are part way through a very exciting three-year project with a university research associate to help us deliver serious innovation to this sector that we think will be a huge benefit to the industry.”
Ideal is also doing a lot of work on low temperature washing – “but much of it has to remain top secret for now, whilst we continue our r&d phase, says Kalli. “What we can say is that our team are all very well aware of the various ozone systems available in the market today, but we remain sceptical of some of the pseudo-science and over-zealous claims being made. We are exploring many avenues in an attempt to optimise this technology, but we are yet to be convinced that any of the systems currently available offer ALL of the benefits that they promise. Explorations continue…”
Kalli agrees that in the modern laundry environment, the chemicals supplier very often has to be expert in so many areas. “Of course, with our experience and expertise, we can help a laundry in so many areas, but we’re most proud to be well known as a real independent expert in professional laundry chemistry and a family run British manufacturer.
“For this reason (and many others), we deliberately don’t employ traditional sales people. Launderers don’t want to be sold to. Nobody wants to be sold to nowadays. The laundries we work with need the confidence that anyone who attends their site knows what they’re talking about and can roll up their sleeves and help. Therefore, our unique and very well respected field team is made up of qualified chemists, engineers and experienced laundry experts.”
Removing sunscreen stains
Ecolab Textile Care division has developed a medium to high temperature washing process for the removal of sun cream stains on linen, free from pure solvent boosters.
According to Valentina Fontana, European hospitality segment manager Ecolab, laundry operators have had to face the inevitable extra costs associated with a second wash to effectively remove the sunblock stains.
For the past two years, the Ecolab Textile Care team has conducted thorough studies and developed a solution based on the EU Ecolabel-registered washing program OxyGuard40 to remove these challenging stains, without compromising quality or adding to the overall cost of operations.
Ecolab says OxyGuard40 works efficiently on sunscreen cream stains by acting on different levels – both on their grease component and on the filter part of the sunscreen – which allows for the removal of both components from the fabrics. The work conditions of the platform at a low temperature (40C) allow to achieve outstanding results that are even better than at medium-high (50C+) and higher temperature solutions.
The fabrics appear free from yellow or pink stains and show excellent levels of whiteness together with a superior softness. The time of washing cycles does not increase, if compared to the conventional process and it is not necessary to add additional surfactant or solvent boosters.
Eliminating single-use plastic
Based in Northamptonshire, Ideal has been formulating and manufacturing innovative, bespoke chemical solutions for the professional laundry industry since 1980.
“A few years ago, we realised that even though we cared about environmental sustainability, we weren’t doing enough to demonstrate it,” says managing director Phillip Kalli. “Since then, we’ve made a number of changes at Ideal in an effort to align our actions with our values for environmental sustainability in a bid to eliminate single use plastic.
“That decision has involved a number of initiatives: from achieving ISO 14001, developing eco product formulations, partnering with like-minded organisations, launching Fill Refill products, developing an on-site effluent treatment system and helping to establish the STCC (Sustainability in Textile Care Committee).
“We know that as a manufacturer, supplying products in single use plastic packaging – we are part of the problem. Therefore, we are trying to shift all of our packaging materials away from single use plastic, choosing more sustainable options whenever and wherever possible.
“We have introduced the new and improved Periodic Table of Laundry this year, commemorating the International Year of the Periodic Table whilst focusing on our commitment to sustainable formulations.”