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How Do I Keep My Linens Looking White?

By Rich Fitzmorris

Question: How do I keep my linens looking white?

Answer: Laundries, chemical technicians and chemical companies are under more pressure than ever to hurry up and get the job done. What suffers is the quality that the end-user desires and expects – clean, bright, white linen. I think one of the biggest reasons for the lack of whiteness is that essential washing processes are being cut short. Good suppliers and technicians know the drill – time, temperature, chemicals and mechanical action. But the companies who are paying for the job to be done don’t know anything about laundering. They know how much they are willing to spend for laundry service and then quite often give the business to the lowest bidder — and the linens end up paying the price.

When linen whiteness deteriorates to gray, it is generally the result of poor washing. Whether it is hospitality, healthcare, industrial or commercial laundering, pressure is applied to turn the finished product around and put it back into service quickly, whether it be for profit or for the service use of the linen. All have good intentions, but in the end they are likely to be the first to complain that the linen has lost its whiteness. Many of the causes are the same today as they were 20 years ago, regardless of the new linen products, chemicals or systems available on the market today. Soil doesn’t care.

The bottom line is that it takes a certain amount of time, temperature, chemistry and mechanical action to remove soil. We very well may be making better linen and chemical products, but there still needs to be a balance in order to achieve superior looking white linens. If companies want to use less heat, something else needs to make up for that loss. If less time is used, something else has to be increased.

Herein lies the problem – people are unwilling to give in to higher costs in the cleaning process. The result is redeposition of the white linens. If linen graying is something you have to deal with, examine your wash process starting with this list:
• Low water temperatures
• Short wash cycles
• Inadequate chemistry
• Poor water conditioning
• Overloaded equipment

Keeping linens white requires attention to each of the above areas. It takes time and attention to maintain a high quality of white linens – but it can be done.


Rich Fitzmorris is a veteran of the laundry industry. Rich retired after 42 years at Sunburst Chemicals. Although he headed up various Sunburst business 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.