By Dan Rodriguez, Meese
In Part One of “Selecting the Right Laundry Cart,” we looked at different types of laundry carts available on the market today. In Part Two, we reviewed various cart characteristics. Today we’ll discuss specifics on how to buy laundry carts that even experienced laundry professionals and purchasing managers may overlook.
It’s important to know that not all plastics are created equal. Each type of plastic material confers different characteristics to the carts. Though most laundry carts feature polyethylene plastic, the material is offered in several types to suit different products and applications.
- Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) offers bendable flexibility with resistance to cold temperatures and direct impacts.
- Linear Low Density Polyethylene (LLDPE) offers even more bendable flexibility than LDPE plus higher puncture resistance but it also tends to stretch out under stress and high temperatures.
- High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) delivers high strength and rigidity with superior resistance to cracks and corrosion yet at a lighter strength to weight ratio.
For most light-duty linen handling needs, carts and utility trucks may be molded using any of these plastic materials or with fiberglass. All are waterproof and clean with common chemical cleaning agents. But for heavy-duty, commercial linen transport where bulk linen carts routinely suffer punishing drops from tailgates and daily bumps and bruises from walls, doors and other linen carts, substantial strength and rigidity are needed to handle the pounding and last year after year.HDPE offers the rigidity to keep cart sidewalls straight and stiff without bowing out or warping when loaded to full capacity. Yet it’s the strength to weight ratio where HDPE excels because it allows the same amount of linens per cart to be delivered at a lighter overall weight per route truck. This saves fuel, reduces wear and tear on trucks and makes work a little easier and more ergonomic for staffers. HDPE is also an easily recycled material, so it’s an environmentally friendly choice.
Also consider that if the HDPE isn’t 100% virgin material or if it includes off-grade or wide-spec material then the strength and rigidity of the finished cart may be compromised. These quality issues need to be addressed before signing a purchase order.
In many cases, the manufacturer or distributor selling the carts neglects to specify the material, other than stating polyethylene. It doesn’t necessarily mean the company is hiding it from the customer. Rather, it’s more likely that many customers fail to consider it an important factor when buying carts so the company hasn’t considered it important to name the material.
Assessing Molding Quality
Put three or four laundry carts in a similar size and shape side by side, all from different cart manufacturers. If we hide the manufacturer’s logo or nameplate, many people who buy laundry carts would have a difficult time telling them apart. It can be even more difficult to tell which carts were molded to higher quality standards than the others since key factors that determine how well a cart performs and for how many years are hidden behind the cart walls or otherwise not readily visible.
Anyone who has worked in the laundry industry knows to check whether the sidewalls bow out when fully loaded. That’s a very visible way to check cart quality. But far fewer people understand the importance of a consistent wall thickness throughout the entire cart body because it isn’t as easy to notice. If the molder fails to use enough plastic material, blends in second quality material or uses worn out tooling, then the plastic material will be distributed unevenly and cause some areas to be thinner than others.
These thinner areas create weak spots that invite cart failure. Carts that fail from a wall breaking or collapsing can cause very dangerous situations. These weak spots are hard to see but depending on the color of the cart, any weak spots in the wall thickness may be revealed as patches of translucent or slightly lighter coloration. In assessing the molding quality of fiberglass laundry carts, it’s important to understand the inherent challenges in molding the material. For example, the resins used in manufacturing often continue to cure for weeks after production. This curing process can distort the shape of the cart and create internal stresses that may ultimately lead to cracks and cart failure so it can be helpful to accept the long lead times.
For another sign of pride in quality workmanship, look at how covers, doors, locks and accessories open, close and fit the cart. Do they fit neatly within the laundry cart body instead of lying over the outer edges? Does the front cover open without hitting the ground? If the lid and door are intended to protect linens from theft and inclement weather than a sturdy, rotomolded lid and door that shuts tightly offers far more protection than a weak assembly that leaves openings when closed. A tight seal also guards against water infiltration and cold temperatures to prevent the laundry inside from absorbing water and freezing. This allows the cart to be placed outside in locations for route drivers to service. In short, the more valuable the linens, the more important this quality check of the carts becomes. And remember to check that the cart comes with a warranty against defects.
In Part 1, we addressed whether and when to use shelf carts to transport linens as opposed to using bulk bins. But there’s more to shelf cart and shelving selection to be considered. Shelf carts are typically offered in a choice of removable or non-removable shelf designs with a choice of plastic or wire metal shelves. Most carts with removable shelves enable the cart to be switched from clean linen delivery to bulk bin return mode by moving the shelves from a horizontal to a vertical position. Switching the removable shelves can take a few minutes, and many times, once shelves are removed they often disappear. Matching shelves to their carts also can be a challenge, especially when a variety of cart sizes, styles and brands are used in the same cart fleet.
Plastic shelves clean fast and easily, whether fixed or removable, and are compatible with automated cart washers. They’re waterproof and smooth. To combine the advantages of plastic shelves with the convenience of a non-removable design, a recent shelf cart innovation features a non-removable, plastic shelving design that allows the shelves to be switched from the clean linen delivery position to the bulk bin position in six seconds or less.
Given that there’s so much more to a laundry cart than the size, shape and material of construction, talking to colleagues at other laundries and to the salespeople who help specify laundry carts every day offers insider knowledge that isn’t otherwise available. Some companies will have representatives who visit and tour a laundry plant to understand the workflow and measure the route truck dimensions and the locations of the wheel wells. He/she will be able to provide guidance on the cart model and style that would best meet the needs of the operation. To make sure you’re selecting the right cart, test it in the plant as part of the process – or test a number of different carts at the same time. This is the surest way to feel confident when choosing laundry carts.
About the Author
Dan Rodriguez is national sales manager for Meese (www.Meese-inc.com), overseeing a nationwide team of knowledgeable, local sales representatives. Meese manufactures laundry carts, trucks and baskets in five large plants and is ranked as the 16th largest rotational molder in North America by Plastics News. Rodriguez can be reached at 800.829.4535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meese (www.Meese-inc.com), a member of the Tingue family of companies, manufactures laundry carts, trucks and baskets in five plants nationally using 25 rotational molding machines, including the Leonardo automated rotational molding system. The company can be reached at 800.829.4535 or email@example.com.