Taking Charge of Wash Quality  


By Rich Fitzmorris —

Many times if you ask who is responsible for wash quality, owners, GM’s, production managers, department heads and team members will answer – the chemical company.

Although chemical companies supply chemistry, often program the washing equipment and sometimes have service technicians offer ‘value added’ help — a chemical company is not the source of a laundry’s textile quality. 

The overall quality of finished textiles is the responsibly of the laundry – the laundry’s ownership, manager, production manager, supervisors and team members.

Many things factor into the quality of a processed textile – wash water, wash times, chemistry and temperatures. But it all starts with the textile itself.

City Laundry   

Let’s consider a fictitious commercial laundry, City Laundry. City Laundry supplies textiles to their customers. They purchase from various textile suppliers to meet their goal of attaining competitive pricing and textile longevity.  Two of their largest produced goods are sheets and terry products. Upon a price increase from their supplier they ask for competitive bids.    

Several companies make proposals while highlighting the benefits of their textile products and why they are better than the competition.  Each vendor submits pricing based upon annual purchases and quantity buying amounts. 

A lower bidder gets selected based upon the laundry’s specifications including thread counts, mix of cotton and polyester and textile weight. 

A few months later problems develop.  Customer complaints begin rolling in to City Laundry.  Sheets are thinner and duller with visible staining. Terrys are greyish and no longer soft.  Customers aren’t happy.

Seeking a Solution

Laundry management meets to discuss the problem.  Maintenance asserts that the water has been stable in temperature and softness. Production shows that it has not increased load sizes or made changes in procedures. Yet supervisors agree that they are seeing rougher terry not as bright, plus an increase in sheet static. 

The GM wants answers, not excuses, so fingers point to the chemical company.  But City Laundry’s chemical company has been testing on a regular basis and there has been no change in volumes of the chemistry, other than an increase in stain loads particularly over the last few months. And if the chemical company increases the oxidation/bleach bath in the wash formula, long term results will be worse.

So what happened?  City Laundry chose a less expensive supplier – and their textiles are paying the price.

You Get what You Pay For 

What could City Laundry have done to maintain their quality textile supplier?  One option would be to ask if the price increase could have been spread over a longer period of time.  Another would be to explore the possibility of a longer term contract to ensure minimal increase? 

If that failed, City Laundry should have embarked on a selection process for their new textile manufacturer.  What would that entail? 

Selection Process

It is always a good idea to test goods from new suppliers.  City Laundry should have required each prospective vendor to deliver test textiles – at no cost to City Laundry – so they could get a better understanding of how the goods would hold up in the wash.   

Then, City Laundry would mark each the supplier’s products to distinguish them from each other and put 90% of each supplier’s textiles to a test of about 25 wash cycles.  The remaining 10% of each supplier’s ‘new’ textiles should be held out of the wash cycle for later comparison.  

Upon completion of the test wash, samples of each prospective supplier’s textiles along with the unwashed textiles would be sent for evaluation by a testing laboratory for tensile strength, and whiteness retention. There are a number of such laboratories in the country. 

This procedure helps any laundry decide which products are going to deliver the lowest overall cost for them and their customers.

About the Author

Rich Fitzmorris is a veteran of the laundry industry. Rich retired after 42 years at Sunburst Chemicals. Although he headed up various Sunburst rsz_rich-fitzmorrisresizebusiness sectors throughout his career, prior to retiring, Rich was Senior Vice President Professional Textile Chemistry where he oversaw the company’s Large Laundry Division, laundry product development and chemical technology. Presently, he is putting his experience to work consulting in the areas of industrial and commercial laundry wash processes, chemistry, production, utilities, formulas and cost reductions.

Rich Fitzmorris can be contacted at RFitzmorris62@gmail.com or (612) 845-6268.

 

Top image caption: (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / Irabel8