The role of the chemical supplier is changing. It is not simply a case of providing chemicals to the customers’ requirements anymore. Instead, laundries now rely on chemical suppliers to provide the best possible dosing to machines, be they tunnel washers or washer-extractors to achieve the best wash quality achievable with their chemicals.

Laundering has not really changed; the fundamental elements are the same, according to Christeyns. It has, however, become more sophisticated with the use of integrated technology and intelligent machinery. Chemicals suppliers in turn have had to re-evaluate their role – the supplier now has to look beyond simple supply to offer specialist expertise.

“It is no longer a case of just supplying chemicals,” says the company. “It is being an expert in our field, which incorporates the role of consultant, advisor and colleague. Our expertise goes way beyond chemicals and includes systems and machinery knowledge to support the chemicals in order to achieve outstanding wash results at maximum efficiency and with minimum waste.”

With its headquarters in Ghent, Belgium, Christeyns produces specialist chemicals for several industry sectors including textile care. It provides its laundry customers, large or small, with optimum conditions in the wash process, by using less water, less energy, lowering the environmental impact of the chemistry and helping launderers meet their business and efficiency goals. “We recognise that this needs to be an inherent way of thinking and working and not just a one-problem solution.”


Regulatory pressures

The use of chemicals is influenced by regulatory pressures that are driving change and by the changing textile make-up of today’s garments.

REACH, the European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of Chemicals, which came into force on 1 June 2007, has several aims but fundamentally it was set up to provide a high level of protection to human health and the environment from the use of chemicals. 

The Detergent Regulation has been in force since around 2004, and has gone through a couple of revisions. This seeks to promote the use of more environmentally friendly components, clear labelling and disclosure of the types of ingredients that formulators are using.

“These regulations influence how we run our business but our approach is often a great deal ‘greener’ than standards currently prescribe,” says Christeyns. “Our customers are under pressure to be more environmentally aware and reduce the release of harmful chemicals in waste water and we look to help them reduce their ecological footprint as much as we can.”

Christeyns has spent the good part of the last decade looking into ways in which chemical formulations can be rebalanced to reduce the damage to the environment whilst cutting down on operating costs, such as energy and water consumption. “Perhaps the biggest challenge is keeping the quality of the wash high, if not improved – and not just some of the time, but consistently high all the time.”

Auto-dosing goes a long way towards reducing the amount of chemical used, as does the correct programming. In terms of the type of chemicals, developments in modern textiles mean that more garments can be treated using wetcleaning, as opposed to drycleaning and this involves a different range of laundry chemicals.


Synthetic and synthetic mix fabrics

Greater use of synthetic, man-made fabrics, has led to the production of chemicals that are formulated to deal with the cleaning of this type of garment. It also underlines the importance of knowledge and understanding in that different fabrics require different chemical combinations to provide an effective clean.

Advancements in textile production, now incorporating these more complex structured materials, mean that for many garments wetcleaning is a more suitable option but finding how best to work this into more traditional drycleaning installations and current equipment requires expert guidance.

Cole & Wilson, part of the international Christeyns detergents and chemicals group, is a specialist in the development of products for the cleaning of today’s complex range of textiles, particularly in providing solutions for delicate items. The team offers advice on the best mix of chemicals and dosage, on setting up programs and installing auto-dosing equipment so that there is negligible product, water or energy wastage.

In response to the trend to low temperature washing, Christeyns says that what is required is not more chemical action but rather a more sophisticated, complex blend of chemicals, working in the best possible way with the machinery. For commercial laundering, Christeyns launched Cool Chemistry, a patented innovation that combines equipment and chemistry, to deliver improved whiteness and disinfection even when operating at a neutral pH and reduced temperatures.

“We set out to develop a process that would extend the usable life of textiles, allowing laundries to keep their textiles in circulation for longer,” says the company. “It had to provide both a gentle and flexible approach, for use with temperatures from 40C and deliver improved wash results.”

Conventional chemistry and processes tend to use highly alkaline chemicals and higher temperatures that give excellent cleaning performance but can also reduce the useable life of textiles. Cool Chemistry allows less water to be used for rinsing, and the neutral pH reduces chemical damage to the linen.  The chemical blend is less harsh but still produces excellent results.


Sharing knowledge and expertise

At Ideal Manufacturing, managing director Phillip Kalli says that there’s some exciting research being done and lots of really positive changes taking place, ranging from product formulation, methods of supply to packaging. He says that part of Ideal’s commitment to innovation has been in finding good partners to collaborate with and share knowledge and expertise.

Ideal works closely with laundries and PTC specialists to develop products and processes. “We work with test houses, trade associations and university labs on special projects,” says Kalli. “We work with numerous other specialist manufacturers and suppliers like Ghidini and Girbau to ensure that we continue to make the very best product we can. We’re keen to work with eco-focused independent linen suppliers, such as Ecoknit and Textiles For Life, to help develop eco wash processes.”

One of the most expensive problems faced by the commercial launderer has been what is normally described as concrete marks or black marks. There is general speculation that these marks are the result of metal salts somehow reacting with the fibre and consequently set onto the fabric resulting in permanent black stains that do not respond to normal processing and are very marginally affected by very highly alkaline detergents or oxidising agents.

It is generally accepted that these stains result in millions of pounds of fabric loss for most of the commercial laundry groups and very little has been done by the major suppliers to address this issue.

Kalli says that Ideal has taken on the challenge by embarking on a government-sponsored project with one of the universities to investigate and characterise the nature of the oxide film. Once identified, Ideal aims to set about creating a new means of effective removal without causing damage to the linen to resolve this issue once and for all.


Developing ozone technology

Another key project for Ideal is an R&D partnership offering ozone technology, backed by Ideal’s chemistry knowledge. Ideal’s new Prozone range provides launderers with eco-friendly ozone specific products for use with both liquid and powder automatic injection systems.

“We’ve introduced incredibly reliable powder and liquid injection systems that minimise error and the need for replacement parts and we can remotely process check and troubleshoot quality issues. We encourage commercial customers, where possible, to purchase in bulk returnable containers to minimise environmental impact,”says Kalli.

However, despite the growing value placed on eco-friendly credentials, the laundry industry still wastes too much water, heat, chemicals and plastic.

Ideal’s founder, Dr Mike Kalli takes up the story: “The major issues that concern the commercial launderer relate to energy, labour, water consumption, effluent charges and the detrimental effects on linen caused by aggressive processing and high temperatures. While we are able to supply both liquid and powder low temperature processing chemicals – with a view to reducing energy consumption – there has always been the final hurdle of validation of terminal sanitation.

“Our research is suggesting that we are able to achieve substantial energy savings, a reduction in process time and the extension of fabric life by using a safe, dissolved form of ozone,” he continues.

The function of the ozone is to enable effective oxidation (stain removal) and sanitation, he explains. “Ozone used properly is the strongest of all oxidants and we are actively creating a complete range of processes that accommodate both oxidation and sanitation. The consequence will be a dramatic reduction in energy costs, a reduction in process time and thus more effective use of labour.”

Other spin-offs from Ideal’s research have been the creation of lower COD and BOD in effluent water, whilst processing at lower pH and lower temperature means reduced water bills (COD or Chemical Oxygen Demand is the total measurement of all chemicals – organics & in-organics – in the water/waste water; BOD is a measure of the amount of oxygen that require for the bacteria to degrade the organic components present in water/waste water).

“Whilst ozone has very effective oxidising and sanitising characteristics, we recognise the need to focus on the right chemistry to achieve outstanding results – whether processing gross soiling or light hotel linen and towelling to guarantee effective sanitation.”

Ideal’s Phillip Kalli says that the company has several innovations in the pipeline. There will be a radical overhaul of the 2019 Ideal Periodic Table of Laundry – “neatly coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the original table’s creation by Dmitry Mendeleev” Kalli points out, as this year will see the launch of the Prozone range and an expansion of Ideal’s Ahoy wetcleaning range. All formulations on the table will be phosphate free.

Ideal has underlined its commitment to sustainability by achieving ISO 14001, commissioning a bespoke on-site water treatment plant and making significant improvements to manufacturing processes and facilities.


Wetcleaning range

Büfa is a leading manufacturer of textile care products. During this month’s ExpoDetergo in Milan, the focus will be on ecological, green textile care and Büfa’s stand design, as well as its displayed products, will reflect this.

Büfa says that its Care 4.0 process will allow a wide range of textiles to be cleaned in one load – for example, outerwear, such as suits with a high wool component or challenging cashmere articles, delicate clothes and linen from care or nursing homes, table and kitchen linen as well as staff uniforms from hotels and duvets.

The system is based upon four key products: Ozerna Polar as a powerful liquid colour detergent; Lizerna Carat as a new developed refiner; Lizerna Citro as a neutraliser; and Lizerna Conditioner as a high-performing finishing agent.