A chance encounter with Alan Walker, Blind Veterans UK member and working age voluntary representative for Sussex, led to the question any self-respecting editor of a textile care journal would ask: “Who does the laundry?”. The response to which was: “We have our own laundry.” The next step was to ask to have a look round. Carol Innes, facilities lead (accommodation), with responsibility, among other areas, for housekeeping and the laundry operation at the BVUK Brighton site, was kind enough to extend an invitation to LCN to take a guided tour.

Carol explains that accommodation is provided across 87 rooms – residential, nursing rooms and holiday-hotel accommodation (including five doubles) and respite/training rooms – encompassing four floors of the iconic building on the cliffs overlooking the sea at Ovingdean on the eastern outskirts of Brighton. Completed in 1938 the Art Deco building, dreamed up by architect Francis Lorne is constructed in the shape of an aeroplane with a striking glass feature on the front representing a cockpit with the ‘wings’ on either side housing restaurant and bar, quiet rooms and a large craft workshop/art room, and offices with the ‘fuselage’ reaching back and housing the accommodation floors.

More recently an annexe was added to provide space for an impressively proportioned indoor swimming pool, a sports hall and a state-of-the-art gym.

Carol says: “Complementing the accommodation in the main building, there is another house adjacent that offers a further eight bedrooms which are used mainly for when people come for training and where the more independent members can stay. This includes a room with a double bed.”

Blind Veterans UK laundry processes the following every month:

  • 1,800-2,850 rooms, which amounts to
  • 3,500-4,500 sheets plus associated bedding;
  • 10,000-12,000 towels (including those from the swimming pool and gym);
  • 2,000 items of members clothing; and
  • 1,000 tablecloths.

Because most members have some sight, the table cloths are black to provide contrast with the white crockery and stainless steel cutlery. Table coverings are important as in the large dining room with its parquet floor noise is amplified and tablecloths help to muffle the sound.

On top of these numbers, add on a service that probably not many other residential care homes need to deal with – guide dogs’ needs. According to Carol: “We provide visiting guide dogs with a welcome pack which includes dog bed, a blanket for those members who insist the dog sleeps on their beds (getting the hair out is another story, she adds), poo bags, treats and a dog bowl. And, of course, towels for dog grooming.

“We also provide a dog toy. The first time I put the packs together I bought tennis balls but didn’t know that was the wrong thing to do as you are supposed to keep a guide dog close and not encourage it to run away.” So, chewing toys are now on the list, which she varies quarterly.

The laundry itself can be found on the first floor and runs seven days a week from 8am to 4pm with two shifts of two operators and was re-specified six years ago. The set-up now consists of:

  • Three Lavamac washer extactors with auto dosing
  • An ozone unit – i-zoneO3
  • Three Lavamac tumble dryers
  • Two Silc ironing stations
  • One Electrolux IB4 2316 roller press
  • One Pony shirt finisher

According to Jeremy Pitkin, national sales manager at distributor FowlerUK, who was responsible for specifying and installing the new machinery: “The washers and dryers were replaced due to a fire in the laundry caused by lint build up in the ducting. The Lavamac dryers were chosen as they have reverse action drums, which increases the airflow through the items and reduces the drying time by up to 25%. This improves efficiency and keeps the running costs low.

“The Lavamac washer extractors with their high spin at 400g, reduce the amount of water in the items therefore also reducing drying time. The finishing equipment – two Silc ironing stations, an Electrolux IB4 2316 roller press and a Pony shirt finisher were supplied because of the high standard of finish required for the residents’ personal clothing. This was very important to Blind Veterans UK.” A maintenance agreement ensures the shortest downtime in case of breakdown.

Carol explains the laundry has been utilising ozone in its washing process for 12 years now and says she noticed early on that the linen lasts longer. And there is no ‘care home’ smell in the laundry and surrounding areas or in the residential accommodation. This is due to the reach of ozone as a sanitiser way beyond the washing process, through the dryer and out into the wider environment. “It always smells nice in here,” says Carol.

According to iZoneO3, evidence shows that ozone is more effective for disinfection and deodorisation than laundry operations using thermal or chemical disinfection processes. iZoneO3 says it eradicates 99.9% of viruses such as MRSA, C.diff, E.Coli, Norovirus, Parvovirus and other harmful bacterial infections.

Linen and towels are from Mitre Linen (thicker towels for hotel accommodation and pool) with soft furnishings purchased from Panaz. Staff uniforms are mostly from Alexandra. All are processed on site.

Residents’ and visitors’ personal garments and staff uniforms are label tagged and all linen, towels and facecloths have a heat sealed Blind Veterans UK brand label. There are no drycleaning facilities on site so anything that cannot be dealt with in the laundry is sent to a local drycleaner.