Two things are required to be an outstanding laundry manager or laundry supervisor: the first is a basic grasp of management skills, which can be obtained from a wide variety of providers. The second is a sound understanding of Laundry Technology, which is only offered by a select few expert trainers worldwide. This month we concentrate on the second area and examine just what knowledge is needed and why it is so vital.

We have selected some questions which are at the level of technical difficulty of the UK Guild of Cleaners and Launderers 'Laundry Supervisor' exam but they have been adjusted to reflect the requirements at laundry manager level. Why not try these out on your own management team and rate the answers they produce.?

Tip: none of the answers demands immediate significant investment (because that might be the easy option, but it is often not the correct one).

Minimising water consumption

Question I:
You are managing a laundry with 50% of your volume going through washer-extractors and 50% through a tunnel washer. Water in your area is disproportionately expensive and for the first time you anticipate seasonal rationing of water which could reduce your daily volume by 25%. You are already utilising your storage and filling it overnight. The owners instruct you to devise a four-point strategy for coping with this 25% reduction without reducing quality or output? Put your actions in priority order.

1. Start with the washer extractors because these historically use around 20 litre/kg versus around 5 litre/kg for the tunnel. The quickest improvement can be achieved by checking the load weights for each classification in each machine for very batch over a working week. Before starting, check the calibration of the weigh scales and adjust if necessary. Tabulate the results and compare with the manufacturer's recommended loading (which should equate to 10 litres of cage capacity per kg for 100% cotton textiles and at least 12 litres/kg for polycotton and 100% polyester). If significant underloading is found , examine ways to improve this by mixing customers or combining classifications, or possibly just by better matching of loads to machine sizes. The reduction in water consumption will be directly proportional to the improvement in average load factor.

2. Get the running dip measured and recorded for each stage of every process on every machine. Tabulate the results and check the pre-wash dips against the recommended levels of 125 – 150mm, depending on classification and machine size. (Dirty polycotton overalls need a higher dip than lightly soiled flatwork ; machines with a capacity of 100kg or more usually need a slightly higher dip than small ones.) Repeat the exercise for the main wash dips, which should be in the range 75 – 100mm. Now identify those running dips which are above the recommended ranges and reduce these in 1cm steps at weekly intervals, checking for any difference in quality (such as creasing of polycotton overalls). Do not reduce any dip below the ranges. Then call in the chemicals supplier to check the concentrations in the pre-wash and main washes; the chemical dosages may need to be reduced slightly, to maintain the correct chemistry in the reduced volume.

3. Now ask the chemicals supplier to check the rinse efficiency, by titrating the last rinse for alkalinity (or another 'marker') on each process on each machine The optimum last rinse alkalinity is such that it is not more than 2 gram/litre (expressed as calcium carbonate equivalent) above that of the incoming soft water. if any machine is found to be over-rinsing, then reduce the rinse dip in 1cm steps each week until the alkalinity comes up towards 2 gram/litre (but no more), checking for any difference in quality (such as brown marks in drying caused by galling).

4. Managing water consumption in the tunnel washer should be done in consultation with the chemicals’ supplier. First, ask for the rinse efficiency to be checked, although this is unlikely to be fruitful because tunnels are not renowned for over-rinsing. They only use around 5 litre/kg for pre-wash, main-wash and rinse! However, if there is a double skin that extends to the centre of the rinse zone, then it may be possible to implement 'split rinsing'. This involves taking an extra recycle pipe from the press tank and injecting this water back into the centre of the rinse zone. This raises the rinse efficiency significantly and should enable the main flow of fresh water to the machine to be reduced by perhaps 1 litre/ kg or 20%.

Question 2:
Your financial director is querying your very high costs for new textile purchases, to replace stock which either disappears or becomes unusable. You are tasked with either justifying the losses or doing something about it? Your job is on the line. What should you do?

1. Select a period, say the last 3, 6 or 12 months, and check the sales records for deliveries invoiced to each of your customers, by classification, for the period. From this you can select, say, the total number of king-size duvet covers processed by the laundry over the 12 month period. Now go to your purchase ledger and determine the number of king-size duvet covers you have had to purchase in order to maintain the service over the same period (i.e. to cover your stock reductions due to losses or wear and tear). If you divide the total number of issues by the number of purchases, you get the average number of wash-and-use cycles that each of your king-size duvet covers has achieved.

2. Compare this figure with the theoretical number that is possible, which is usually taken to be around 200 wash-and-use cycles. In the UK, the average figure across all classifications is often found to be around 100 – 120 cycles, with king-size duvet covers achieving just over go cycles and singles often giving over 120 cycles. These are the figures to quote back to the Financial Director.

3. Getting up to the maximum figure possible then requires knowledge of how many king-sized covers are being destroyed by the laundry (with tears, holes or irremovable stains) and now many are just disappearing. The laundry should be keeping a daily record of how many are being scrapped for the reasons given. This number can be quickly reduced by attention to transport laundry bags, cages and trolleys (looking for sharp edges and points) and by regular inspections of chutes and maid service trolleys. This must be backed up with regular discussions with housekeeping staff, looking for inappropriate techniques (such as filling a pillowcase or duvet with dirty linen and then dragging this along the corridor to the chute or laundry collection point).

4. Whilst all of this is being set up or overhauled, the regular damage to linen in every wash can be controlled by attention to the wash process itself. The key is to get stain removal right first, so that chemical oxidation in the wash is correctly controlled. This can often be reduced significantly by improving control of pre-wash temperatures (to avoid thermal setting of protein stains and soiling), so that aggressive oxidation can be reduced. Skilful use of tiny dosages of the appropriate emulsifier will also reduce the need for chemical severity and this needs to be discussed with the chemicals’ supplier.

Question 3:
Towels from the hotel spa are giving problems. They smell (either of a fragrance or just foul and rancid), they go yellow or grey very quickly and they seem to tear much more easily and have to be scrapped. How are you going to tackle this?

The problems described are typical of the wrong process being used to wash the spa towels. Spa products tend to contain highly refined essential oils with an HLB (hydrophilic-lipophilic balance) value as low as 7. This compares with food oils which might lie in the range 9 to 13 and mineral oils with an HLB value nearer to 13. As a result, standard laundry emulsifiers do not work very well on spa oils, which remain clinging to the towel at the end of the wash. Even after only one or two washes they exhibit spa fragrances. After several washes, the residual oils start to go rancid, smell foul and turn yellow or grey because the heat in drying degrades the oils. The rancid products tend to be acidic, which degrades the cotton towel, so that it tears or goes into holes when subjected to the slightest stress. The solution is to obtain the correct emulsifier with an HLB value to match that of the oils to be removed. These are available from all the leading chemicals' suppliers.


So, what has the aspiring Laundry Manager got to learn? The right training course will explain the meaning of the key words, such as 'running dip', 'galling', 'HLB value' and several more. Laundry managers should be able to pick up the necessary techniques very quickly. A one week course is usually sufficient to cover the nine or ten topics needs — we have only examined three in this article. If you would have struggled to answer the three questions raised here, then you or your staff would benefit from an enjoyable week getting up to date with the latest techniques. They could revolutionise your output and profitability.

  • If you have problem that you think LTC Worldwide can help with, or that you feel would make a good subject for Material Solutions, please call T: 00 44 (0) 816545