Managing the essential element

31 October 2012

Water is essential to the laundry operation and has been much to the fore in the laundry industry over the past few years.

From both an environmental and cost point of view, the main focus has been on conserving this precious resource to ensure that the industry can remain sustainable.

Consumption has been much reduced both through research and development on the part of equipment manufacturers and through the launderers’ efforts in following best practice.

But this month, LCNi’s Material Solutions column looks at the use of water from a different viewpoint.

The article was written in the wake of a release from the UK Health and Safety Executive warning businesses that they need to do more to protect against the risks of Legionella. But this is not just a UK issue, it is an international one.

Water cooling towers are frequent source of contamination, but, as Richard Neale points out, where these are used in the laundry and drycleaning industries, the risk is now usually well-managed with strict control systems and hygiene regimes.

However, the importance of good management also applies to other water systems. Water recycling and heat-recovery systems can be greatly beneficial to the laundry operation but their increased use also has implications for health and safety and must be accompanied by care to control micro-organisms.

The use of dipslides or swabs is part of best practice for monitoring and managing risks from harmful bacteria and allows compliance with the relevant parts of European standards for biocontamination control.

The article also highlights areas that pose risk in water systems not only from the health and safety point of view but also in terms of results. The presence of iron in the water can accelerate rotting in cotton items, particularly when oxidising agents are used. It can also lead to greying as well as assisting in the forming of micro-organisms.

Hard water is another factor that can lead to greying as it can neutralise the effects of detergent. Many laundries counter this with water softening systems but hotel customers may not do the same and each load of damp towels that is sent in may re-introduce hardness into the system. Time to consult the experts at the detergent suppliers.

The cost of water is ever-rising, conserving it will become ever more important and this reminder of the need for good management is timely.

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