Soiled linen arrives at the launderers'
premises in a number of ways and is often a mixture of articles which cannot be
processed together for a variety of reasons.
The launderer's first duty therefore is to receive soiled
articles, which he will cleanse and finish to an acceptable state, then return them
to the sender, or into a pool of rental articles.
The need to return articles to user or stock will affect
the method of receipt prior to classification and laundering; for example it may
- to apply a temporary mark to items received from
individuals in order to identify them and trace them through the process;
- to count and check against the laundry list those
items which are permanently marked;
- to produce invoices ready for return, often using
- to sort into pool stock without counting; or
- to redirect personalised items often identified
with different colour tags to a different classification area.
Items which have to be returned to sender on the same
day, or within 24hrs, will also require clear identification on receipt, to ensure
Soiled laundry containers may also be used for returning
clean work to the customer and a wide variety of sizes and types are used often
in combination. These include:
- boxes - disposable, plastic, fibre or cardboard
- wicker hampers
- roll pallets and skips
- laundry bags
pull cord - with string through eyelets
press stud - fixlock buckles
pinch clip buckles - zip fastener
soluble tie - soluble plastic bags
article wrapped and tied (sheet, tablecloth or pillowcase)
There are advantages and disadvantages with all types
of containers. The selection of the method of bagging or packaging of finished work
will to a very large extent dictate the type and style of containers selected, the
type and size of vehicle required and the method of receiving soiled returned work
from the user or customer. No single system is correct for all situations or operations
and it will be for the launderer to decide which system or combination of systems
will be suitable for the operational needs of the laundry and the customer.
However, it is essential that this aspect of the operation
be given very careful consideration if the reception, processing and subsequent
return to the user of laundered items is to be seen as providing a timely, efficient
and quality service.
As this report concerns mostly hospital laundry,
bags are commonly used and these will be discussed in some detail.
- Pull cords become tangled in wash.
- Pull cords may be cutt off by customer.
- Nylon/terylene/polyester bags may be torn by 'drag'.
- Water seepage through laundry bags from either wet
articles or external storage, resulting in damage, soil transfer or staining.
- Buckles and studs become damaged.
- Wrong type of plastic bags may be used and may not
dissolve leaving work unprocessed. Unsuitable polythene bags may end up in driers.
- Strings is usually dropped onto the floor and can
become entangled in barrow wheels.
Bags are easily stored in piles or in spare containers
and may be coloured and permanently or temporarily labeled to identify sender. Colours
aid rapid identification by drivers who may:
- unload to different customers; or
- categorise work in predetermined areas or units.
For units processing hospital laundry coloured bags
are used but it may be helpful to describe the colour system used in the UK. These
are white for general soiled linen, and red for potentially infected, blue for personalised
items and green for theatre items.
For easy classification within the laundry, hospitals
and other customers should be persuaded to pre-sort or partially pre-sort in the
hospital central sluice room. Hotels with chambermaid trolley may be able to use
a two bag system on the linen trolley.
Pre-sorting at point of use namely ward level is not
acceptable. However, a certain amount of pre-sorting can be implemented by placing
soiled linen bags of different colours in different areas, e.g...bathrooms, bed
trolleys, kitchens, theatre, uniform, banks, etc. Further co-operation may be gained
by persuading nurses to strip beds in two parts, sheeting and pillowcases as one
category, blankets and counterpanes as the second. Final sorting would take place
in the hospital central linen/sluice room.
Transport arrangements (if
the laundry is remote from the user(s))
Vehicle utilisation can be maximised
by use of containers which can be unloaded quickly and permitting rapid vehicle
- Swap body vehicle or trailer,
loaded/unloaded by laundry personnel. Driver and vehicle used to a maximum. Increased
storage space available at laundry to aid sequencing.
- Roll pallets/trucks. Eases unloading/loading
and promotes fast vehicle turnaround. Requires increased capital expenditure and
more internal space in the laundry. However, bulk packing in the laundry direct
to pallets could also increase output.
- Loose stacked laundry bags. Full
utilisation of vehicle body space possible but slow turnaround of vehicle. Potential
for soiled laundry bags to be dragged or thrown, causing damage to bags or contents.
Internal laundry storage can also
affect reception and turnaround. Monorails slow down storage procedures compared
to stacked laundry bags. Rail systems may also require increased building capacity.
Basic requirements -
to store incoming soiled linen in the most economical and convenient manner and
then to transmit it is a suitable form to the sorting room.
In recent years it has become increasingly
popular in large laundries in the UK and elsewhere to adopt a system of storing
soiled linen in overhead monorail conveyor systems. The theory underlying these
systems is that containers are unloaded from collecting vehicles directly onto the
system; that soiled linen is delivered to sorting and classifying stations as required.
The conveyor systems may be fully powered; fully gravity assisted; or a combination
of both, depending on the operational or building constraints.
The operation of the system required
fully integrated distribution system of transport and containers to operate effectively.
Difficulties will occur where these aspects have not been fully considered.
It has been noted that in almost
all situations where overhead monorail storage is used, an essential item of equipment
is a long pole! This indicates one of the numerous problems that can arise using
the monorail system for storage.
An alternative to the monorail storage
is to stack the incoming soiled linen containers on the floor of the reception area.
This is the most common approach in large South African laundries. This system presents
- The cost of the conveyor system
is avoided. This includes the support system which, if suspended from the roof,
necessitates considerable strengthening of the fabric of the building.
- Roof heights can be considerably
reduced which also can be reflected in lower building costs.
- Although standard containers
are desirable they are not essential since the system does not dictate their use.
- If it is necessary to segregate
certain containers for priority processing, these can be separately stacked and
are thus immediately available as and when required.
- Area for area, much more soiled
linen can be stored. As an example: 11 tonnes of soiled linen can be stored in four
stacks to a height of 1,5m on a floor area 15m x 8m allowing 1,8m circulation space
around the stacks. An equivalent mass stored on a single tier monorail system would
require a conveyor of about 15m x 19,5m.
If a floor storage system is adopted,
means must be devised for drawing of soiled linen for classifying. This may conveniently
be done by providing a wide flat belt conveyor linking the reception/storage area
with the sorting area and discharging it's load directly onto a sorting conveyor.
Such a link conveyor needs to be at a low level so that the contents of the soiled
linen bags may easily be emptied onto it and it should be of sufficient length to
provide a buffer stock of soiled linen in order that the work of the sorting operators
shall not be interrupted.
The advantages of such a system are
- Soiled linen received in any
form other than standard containers can be handed forward with equal facility.
- The engineering maintenance commitment
with flat belt conveyors is usually considerably less than with more sophisticated
overhead monorails with their complications of carrier wheels, points, switches,
- Floor stacking is a speedier
operation than monorail conveyor loading and hence vehicle turnaround times are
reduced, leading to improved vehicle utilisation.
Sorting, Classifying and subsequent
Basic requirements -
To sort the incoming soiled linen, received as a random mix, into classifications
appropriate to subsequent washing and finishing processes and to store the classified
linen in sufficient quantities to allow the washrooms to function without interruption.
There are many ways in which soiled
linen may arrive at the sorting room. There are some instances where containers
are simply emptied onto tables or floors. For large laundries consideration should
be given to the situation where a stream of soiled linen flows along a band conveyor
or where it is deposited in discrete piles on individual sorting tables. Sorting
and classification has, at present, to be manual operation where the skills of the
operator are employed to identify fabrics and types of articles and segregate them
according to process needs.
The containers into which linen is
classified may be either fixed or mobile and the latter are to be preferred since
the linen must ultimately be transported in some way to washing machines and a mobile
container will obliviate one additional handling operation. The broad options for
mobile storage are wheeled trolleys of appropriate design or a conveyor system.
Trolleys have the advantage of being
totally flexible in their use; as few or as many as are required being used for
a specific classification in the particular batch of work being handled. Being free
moving, they can be moved to storage positions as required.
Conveyor systems for classified work
(as distinct from special conveyors serving specific washing machines, for example
continuous washing units) are frequently of monorail type having bags designed for
storage of loads awaiting washing, and depending upon the siting and type of washing
machines to be served, may discharge loads directly into washing machines or into
associated loading hoppers.
Although such conveyor systems can
effect some savings in manual effort particularly in favourable washing machine
loading situations, they can be restrictive.
The handling of bulk work constitutes
by far the largest proportion of a laundry's total input. Items such as staff and
patients personal work involves additional requirements but, in general, this small
portion of the load can be fitted in alongside the larger systems with little trouble.
Classification of work
Classification of work for processing
is an area of critical importance to the efficient operation of the laundry washing
and finishing process and to the level of quality achieved in the finishing process
and to the level of quality achieved in the finished work returned to the user.
The need to classify work correctly becomes very apparent when the various
factors affecting the handling of textiles requiring laundering are examined. These
factors should be used both to develop an effective sorting and classification system
and to assist in the development of effective wash processes. As it will be recognised
that not all textiles react the same way to a wash process and that not all textiles
are received in the same state of average dirtiness, it is necessary to start with
the largest common denominator which is the fabric type.
Different fibre types should be processed
separately and subdivided as follows:
White work should be classified as
- Light soiling e.g hotel sheets,
towels, bath mats
- Medium soiling e.g. table line,
hospital top sheets, rental pillow cases, flakes cabinet towels, vests, pants.
- Heavy soiling e.g. work wear,
hospital bottom sheets, tea towels, contract towels, flaked cabinet towels.
In many cases it is desirable
that classification by soil type is also employed, the three main groups being:
It may be necessary to include other
soil types depending on known work loads and end user activity.
These methods of classification aid
the correct selection of the wash process to be used.
Allied to this will be the need to
monitor and control rewash levels. This will be a further aid and allow the wash
processes to be used or adjusted to suit varying needs.
Coloured work should be classified by colour and separately
from white work but categorised as in the previous section, making allowance for
the fact that soiling on coloured work is often not as noticeable as on white work.
Woollens should be classified into
garments and flat work and according to colour. Not all wool is suitable for machine
washing especially in pocketed, or large diameter, fast running machines. "Hand
washing" may be necessary.
Work wear garments
Work wear garments should be classified
according to colour, fibre content and type and degree of soiling as indicated previously.
It will be necessary to classify also by end user or customer. This is particularly
so with recent changes in requirements for food industry clothing where strict segregation,
specific processes, finishing and packaging have been dictated by the customer.
Foul or infected work
Ideally, arrangements should be made
for foul or infected work to be delivered in sealed bags which should be of a type
which will dissolve during washing or in plastic bags with a soluble panel or stitching.
Modacrylic items should be classified
separately, and washed correctly.
Flame retardant Fabrics
These should be classified separately
in order to avoid the use of:
- hyper chlorite bleach
- soap or soap-based detergent
- sodium metasilicate
- starch or any finish which imparts
a dressing to the surface of the fibre.
NOTE: Provided water of zero hardness
can be guaranteed then sodium metasilicate may be used.
Polyester fabrics should be classified
separately due to their low moisture retention properties.
For machine washing, glass fibre
articles should be segregated and never washed with other work.
- Asbestos residues
Strict legislation relating to the
handling of asbestos contaminated work now applies in the UK.
Chemical soiling may present a potential
hazard to either the laundry operator or to the environment. Classification commences
with a specialist assessment prior to acceptance of such work
Finishing process requirements
In addition to the above, classification
of work should also be carried out to ensure that garments or articles requiring
different drying and finishing processes are not washed together which will otherwise
require a separate post-wash sorting to be carried out. For example 100% white cotton
sheets and towels can probably be washed at the same time but require different
finishing i.e. calendering or tumble drying.
Although there is no "correct"
number of classifications, as this will depend on the nature and size of the laundry
operations, it is considered that the largest number of classifications possible
should be used to allow the most efficient and cost effective processes to be applied
in both washing and finishing areas.
It is of course accepted that against this ideal, are
a number of factors which may dictate some compression of an individual laundry's
ideal number and these will include:
- the availability of items to make up economic loads
- the customers requirements for quick turnaround
- the need to maintain a balance between washing and
- the size and nature of the operation.
However it is an observation made by FCRA on many occasions,
when investigating problems for launderers that a large number of these are traced
back to poor, inaccurate and often total lack of a classification system within
the laundry operation.
Good classification of work can greatly
assist and improve the cost efficiency and quality levels of a laundry operation.
Within the laundry industry a variety
of marketing systems are used, primarily for one purpose, which is, to identify
the ownership of an article being laundered.
Reasons for marking are numerous.
For hospitals includes
- to identify ownership
- to aid security of the article
and assist in loss prevention
- to ensure the laundered returns
the correct article to the user
- to aid sorting, washing and finishing
Marking will take two basic forms
- temporary marking
- permanent marking
1. Temporary marking
Temporary marking is normally applied
by the launderer upon receipt of an article from a customer to ensure that after
laundering it returns to that customer. The mark is temporary because the launderer
cannot apply permanent labels to articles without prior consent of the customer.
A well known method known as the "Polymark" system, where coloured, numbered,
label is applied with an adhesive which will withstand laundering without affecting
the fabric. The weave of the label 'sufficiently loose' to permit soil release from
the fabric below the label and the adhesive is only applied to approximately
75% of the label area, leaving a loose flap to facilitate easy removal of the label
A variety of label colours is readily
available with a sequencing of numbers to uniquely identify each customer's work
through the process. Alphanumeric codes are also used.
2. Permanent marking
Permanent marking can assume a variety
- pre-printed launderers fabric
heat seal adhesive
- pre-printed launderers paper
heat seal adhesive labels
- computer printed heat seal tape
- dye set prints direct to fabric
- woven badges for 'sew-on' application
- embroidered marks - monogram;
- indelible pens
- transfer marks
- bar code labels
- radio frequency tags
The advent of SUPER TAG will hopefully
provide solutions to many of the problems associated with marking systems listed
above. This miniscule radio transponder would be integrated into a visual marking
system chosen by the user. Visual marking systems should always be used for manual
sorting and identification. The choice of system used will depend upon the fabric
and the user organisations' needs and preferences.
This information courtesy of Division
of Building Technology, CSIR.