Release Date: 17 October 2012
Businesses such as hotels, hospitals and care homes with on-premises laundries are coming to realise they can make significant cost savings and promote better sustainability by changing the way they operate. This is partly enabled by the latest generation of laundry products that can be used with modern machines to support superior fabric cleaning and disinfection at lower temperatures.
Any business that uses lots of fabrics like bed linen, towels, table cloths or work wear understands that it needs to look after them properly to prolong their usefulness and reduce replacement costs. Cleanliness also helps to create the best possible impression about the business. The uniforms worn by staff or the linen seen and used by guests and customers have a part to play. Research published by Sealed Air’s Diversey business earlier this year revealed that cleanliness of bed linen and towels were among the most important factors guests considered when judging hotels and making recommendations.
In many applications there is also a need to disinfect fabrics such as clothing, towels and bed linen that might otherwise assist the spread of infections. Most organisations need to be aware if only to protect their business and its reputation. But it is critical to organisations such as hospitals and rest homes with a duty of care to frail or vulnerable people.
Laundry operators have traditionally maintained the brightness of white fabrics in particular by washing at very high temperatures (upwards of 70oC) using detergents with bleaches and brighteners. This also proves to be effective for disinfection of many microbes as long as temperatures are maintained for specified periods.
Businesses now have different requirements. In particular, they want to save costs and be more productive but are not prepared to compromise on cleanliness and hygiene. They also want, and be seen, to be more sustainable. Suppliers have responded with innovative laundry and fabric care products that are effective at lower temperatures and shorter wash cycles.
This has not been easy. In some sectors the prevailing recommendation (if not strictly a legal regulation) is to wash items at high temperatures to achieve disinfection. This presents a challenge to suppliers who have worked hard to demonstrate the efficacy of their products at lower temperatures. Very few are able to prove their case with independent evidence.
Hotel laundries are particularly energy-hungry. Towels, robes and sheets make up more than 75 per cent of all laundry items and are typically washed at 60oC or higher. The higher the wash temperature, the greater the energy consumed. Government statistics for domestic machines suggest that washing at 40oC rather than 60oC can save 40 per cent of energy while reducing associated CO2 emissions. This will depend on the heating efficiency of the washing machine and is adversely affected by hard water scale, a common problem in the UK.
Lower temperatures save costs because less energy (gas or electricity) is needed to heat the water. Standard wash programmes tend to heat water inside the machine, rather than using external supplies, which takes time. This means the wash cycle can often be completed more quickly at lower temperatures. All else being equal any machine can wash more loads in the same period which means better productivity for the operator with reduced costs. Lower temperatures and shorter cycle times normally results in less scale deposited on a machine’s heating elements which improves equipment efficiency and lifetimes.
Modern laundry products contain a wider range of ingredients than their predecessors. The objective is to make laundry operations quicker, simpler and safer. Formulations are less likely to contain bleaches and whitening agents but instead incorporate innovative actives to perform specific functions with greater subtlety. These are generally less damaging to the fabric which means garments and linen last longer and need replacing less often. Many also support sustainability by enabling shorter wash cycles and lower temperatures. Additional sustainability benefits such as fewer chemical miles, reduced wastage and less packaging are achieved when super concentrate products are deployed with effective dosing or dilution control.
A Diversey hospitality customer wanted to assess potential energy savings across its estate of on-premises laundries without compromising quality of wash or adding significantly to product cost. Diversey proposed a single-site trial using alternative products including Clax Bright, its low-temperature destainer that was once a finalist in the National Energy Efficiency Awards. This provides excellent hygiene at 40oC and has been shown to be kinder on cotton than typical peroxide destaining processes, extending the life of fabrics by up to 35 per cent. It is used with existing detergent systems in the same equipment and simply replaces the old destainers so no capital expenditure is required.
The machines on site were reprogrammed to reduce the temperature of the three main wash cycles by around 20oC. The hotel saved almost £200 in monthly energy bills during the trial. Shorter cycle times allowed more washes to be completed than was possible at the original higher temperature. Overall energy consumption was considerably lower and the energy per wash cycle was reduced by 49 per cent. The replacement products were slightly more expensive but the difference was more than offset by the energy savings.
Savings were equally significant in a separate trial conducted in a care home using similar products. The customer wanted to reduce wash temperatures from 71oC to 40oC but maintain quality while ensuring MRSA and C. Difficile were eliminated from fabrics including bedclothes and towels. Machines on-site were reprogrammed for lower temperatures when using Horizon Bright and Horizon Light from Diversey’s extensive range. This combination has been shown to deliver highly effective bacteria kill at low temperatures and been tested to the EN1276 and EN13704 standards at 40oC and 60oC. The system has no corrosive classified products, peracetic acid or fumes, caustic or peroxide based agents, or chlorine bleach which helps make it safer. The trial site reduced costs by around 65 per cent which equated to hundreds of pounds each year with no discernible effect on fabric cleanliness and quality. These savings quickly add up to very large numbers across multiple sites.
The cost and time-saving benefits of lower temperature laundry are clear for businesses with a mix of items such as towels, robes, bed linen, clothing and table cloths. In most cases the changes required amount to little more than choice of innovative products, simple reprogramming of existing equipment and some basic staff retraining. This means little or no upfront investment is needed before the savings start to build up. Reputable product and equipment suppliers will be able to advise on the right approach and provide evidence to support their claims.