The increasing pressure on operational costs is leading laundries to adopt wash systems and chemicals that save resources to maximise both business and environmental efficiency.
Christeyns points out that chemical specialists, such as itself, are developing products that operate at low temperatures, providing more accurate dosing systems and are also broadening their expertise to include energy and water management systems. This specialist knowledge is essential to a successful textile care operation.
With sustainability one of the main themes at this year’s Clean Show in June, the manufacturers of detergents and washing additives demonstrated how the development of effective low-temperature processes is making a significant contribution to the reduction of energy consumption.
The cost of linen and of cotton fabrics in particular has increased dramatically over the last few years, says Philip Kalli at Ideal Manufacturing.
Economic conditions do not allow the launderer the luxury of price increases to accommodate the rising costs. This means that the chemical manufacturer and/or supplier has an increasing responsibility to work with the launderer to prolong the life of rental linen by implementing accurate and effective processing.
Andrew Thompson, managing director at CHT UK, says that the launderer’s continuing need to use less water and energy has resulted in the development of more complex and sophisticated chemical products. Detergents are being designed to provide low temperature emulsification and suspension with the minimum amount of foaming. "Environmental legislation has also demanded changes in the chemistry used for laundry processes," he adds.
Changing environmental pressures are constantly influencing laundry processing, says Steve Tolley, chemicals support manager at Alex Reid.
The company has had to be smart in the way it has designed its range of laundry chemicals so that it can provide its customers with the correct products and combinations to be able to wash synthetics and synthetic blends, says Tolley. He explains that the make-up of garments is changing and the use of a mix of natural and synthetic materials puts greater demands on the chemical manufacturers.
He adds: "We have to provide our customers with a range of products to cover every application including the use of specialised products to use with workwear, which covers garments with reflective and flame-retardant properties. This requires chemical products that can remove mineral oils and other deposits.
Tolley agrees that customers now expect their chemical supplier to help them manage water and energy costs. "The trend to move to lower wash temperatures increases the demands made on the wash chemicals to ensure that the laundering process can remove soiling and contaminants.
"With the reduced wash temperatures, we need to be aware of the risk of infectious contaminants being carried over and of lingering malodours" says Tolley.
Kalli says Ideal is aware of the specialist needs of sanitation when washing at lower temperatures and has developed products and processes that meet the stringent requirements for hospitals, nursing homes and care homes.
He points out the importance of remembering that the process and chemicals must do more than removing visible soils. "There is the serious issue of carry-over of pathogenic bacteria and other infectious contaminants at lower temperatures. It is essential that the media in which a process is carried out is capable of removing soil, bacteria and also of eliminating possible lingering residual odours."
If bacteria are not effectively removed then, under certain conditions, they can multiply at the rate of 10 to the power 27 in a matter of 24 hours. When they run out of natural nutrients, they can eat into the cotton itself, says Kalli.
He also explains that spiralling cotton costs have led companies to review their ragging or disposal policy.
Using specialist chemicals, Ideal has developed a process that enables a high recovery rate for items that previously would have been taken out of circulation prematurely because of what the industry describes generally as "concrete stains" or "black marks."
"The replacement of abused or stained linen stock is a costly burden for the commercial launderer," says Kalli, adding that it is a waste of resources if work has to be reprocessed because staining has set on the fabric or it has metallic or concrete marking.
Working closely with its partners in the commercial laundry industry, Ideal found that it could collect such stained articles and apply a special one-off regeneration process that enabled the majority of the stock to go back into circulation. Ideal is confident enough to ask launderers to contact them and ask for a test sample of its new product formula and a process to apply to specific problems.
The system includes a one-stage black mark recovery process (to remove metal oxides); a mildew treatment wash; a wash that treats dye transfer and unidentified stains and a professional rust treatment.
Kalli says wetcleaning is growing rapidly, with drycleaning businesses now providing both a traditional drycleaning service and wetcleaning. "Developments in chemical technology are making it possible to wet wash almost all types of linen and garments without the risk of distortion or shrinkage," says Kalli. "The finished articles are cleaner and free from any microbiological contamination. All this is achieved by intelligently managing the ratio of temperature, mechanical energy, time and chemistry."
Ideal has now developed the Ahoy range of wetcleaning chemicals, along with the Ashore range of drycleaning products. The company is currently putting together an expert training programme to assist the end user with the correct use of these products.
Ideal will also relaunch its "Periodic Table of Laundry" in a revised edition for next spring.
This guide lists all the fabric types that laundries can expect to handle, the most common problems and the likely causes. It then suggests solutions using Ideal’s range of products.
It will be available on request as an A1-sized poster and for downloading from Ideal’s website.
The products are presented in categories like groups of chemical elements. These include ancillary powders, auto injection liquids, auto injection powders, destainers, drycleaning and spotters, eco friendly laundry emulsifiers, final rinse liquids, general wash liquids, general wash powders, heavy soil alkali powders, liquid bleaches, liquid starches, oxygen and enzyme powders, powder starches and special-use products.
Each product is given a chemical symbol, a code in the form of an atomic number and a category. Liquids are shown with a drum icon and powders with a bag icon.

More mixed fabrics
Christeyns notes that textiles are changing and the use of mixed fabrics is increasing.
Fabrics with two or more colours are becoming more popular and these require specific chemistry, such as that provided by Christeyn’s Smart Colour additive, to prevent bleeds. The company says that all these factors have proved to be a real challenge for chemical suppliers.
Christeyns also notes the general trend towards mixed synthetics for flatwork. Responding to rising cotton prices, textile manufacturers have added more polyester to fabric blends so laundries are encountering more problems with greying.
Producers of healthcare uniforms and workwear are increasingly using high-tech fabrics such as microfibres and the company says that using a specialist finisher such as its Osmafin Aquablock Plus can refresh a fabric’s water-and stain-repellant properties with each wash cycle.
The company says that it is also encountering more desizing problems and these are not caused by synthetic fibres but because sizing formulae are constantly changing and the desizing process is not always adapted accordingly. Textile manufacturers may also increase the amount of sizing agent used and this also causes problems.
The trend to lower temperature washing means that more chemical action is needed to remove contamination. This does not necessarily mean that more chemicals are needed, says Christeyns but that a different type of chemistry is required.
The use of lower temperatures also affects wash hygiene as the loss of thermal disinfection means that this must be replaced by chemical action.
The reduction of water consumption means that the level of soiling in the wash liquor is more concentrated. Bleaching products must therefore be reformulated to stay efficient and prevent soil redeposition to maintain whiteness.
By adapting the water flow, reformulating the chemistry and even changing the point in a process at which the chemicals are dosed, it is still possible to obtain optimal quality in these changed conditions. To meet these demands head-on, Christeyns has developed its Cool Chemistry concept, which is due to be launched this year.
Thompson at CHT UK also says that the use of new synthetic fabrics requires careful consideration of the chemistry needed for the wash process.
He warns that using chemicals that are unsuitable for use on synthetic fibres will often result in poor soil removal and poor finishing in the ironer.
Referring to the "Sinner’s circle" (time, temperature, mechanical action and chemical action), he says that the removal of temperature from the wash process requires additional chemicals or mechanical action to replace the void within the cycle.
"This is not resolved by simply adding more traditional chemicals," says Thompson. "The new products fill the void by using more efficient chemistry."
Thompson says that the chemical supplier must develop an on-going partnership with the laundry, providing equipment, chemicals and knowledge of textiles being processed.
He adds that an understanding of the textile chain allows the chemical supplier to avoid many of the problems caused by the chemicals used during fabric manufacture.
CHT has devised the BeiBleach Laundry Process, which the company says can achieve cost-efficient laundering, including disinfection, at temperatures of 40 – 60C. It has been registered for listing at the Robert Koch Institute both as a 40C and a 60C process and can be used successfully in tunnel washers and washer-extractors.
The modular system uses four liquid products, Beiclean NFG, Beipur ANP, Beibleach Power Active and Beiclean 2004, and each has a particular function.
The 40C and 60C wash processes use the same detergents and auxiliaries but in different amounts.
Alex Reid, with its parent Christeyns, has launched its Caretex brand to include ranges for the OPL, care home and hospitality sectors.
Its own brand Caretex laundry chemicals are available alongside established ranges from Kreussler and Procter & Gamble. The company already supplies Primus laundry machines and Brightwell dosing systems.
Alex Reid successfully trialled a range of core products and these are all available in 20litre containers. The range includes a non-biological liquid detergent for cotton and polycotton fabric; fabric softener; chlorine bleach, supplied at 14 – 15% concentration; an emulsifier/booster that is designed for use with the main wash detergent; a non-caustic alkali booster for extra suspension and removing hardness salts; natural liquid starch with PVA to help adhesion; hydrogen peroxide that removes stains on coloured linen at up to 90C; a one-shot detergent to deal with all soiling types and levels without the need for boosters; a softener/sour and a liquid destainer/disinfectant that can be used on most fabrics, except for nylon and wool, and can also be used on coloured materials.

IDEAL GUIDE: For 2014, Ideal Manufacturing is revising its Periodic Table of Laundry to take account of developments