Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Commercial Laundry Best Practices

March 7, 2012

Being the manager of a commercial laundry plant is a challenging and exciting job.

Commercial laundry plants are modern, automated plants with impressive material handling capacity; they are more like manufacturing plants than drycleaners or coin-operated laundries.

The overall goal of any commercial laundry plant is to have a solid operation and an experienced manager that can offer practical solutions to everyday problems.

A laundry manager can face administration challenges that deal with expensive equipment breakdowns, implementing a linen management program or dealing with rising cotton prices and reducing operating costs.

While most commercial laundry plants are at least 30,000 square feet, some can be larger.

A typical layout includes separate areas for sorting linens, washing and drying, ironing and folding, shipping, storage, utilities and office space.

The typical commercial laundry washes enough linen to fill 10 to 20 trucks per day with clean goods.

A Localized Approach

Commercial laundry plants can serve customers within a 150-mile radius of the plant and are equipped with sophisticated equipment, such as continuous batch washers (CBW) and industrial dryers.

CBW systems use different cylinders or modules for each stage of the wash cycle and automatically move the goods from one stage to the next.

CBW systems use approximately 60 percent less water per pound of linen laundered than conventional washers.

Using less water also reduces the energy required to heat it and, consequently, the amount of chemistry needed to effectively launder the linen.

A CBW system is the preferred operation method for commercial laundries as a result of the energy, water and chemical savings they provide.

In addition, the extraction presses used in sequence with a CBW system remove high quantities of water from processed goods, allowing for dryers and flatwork ironers to consume less energy to dry and iron linen.

Dryers with sophisticated drum designs are able to circulate heat more efficiently than older, less advanced units, and onboard residual moisture sensors save energy by preventing over-drying of linens.

Choosing a chemical vendor is also important to save on utilities, and most of them have a commitment towards implementing "environmentally friendly" laundering chemistry formulas that help to reduce consumption of resources.

Be Mindful Of Maintenance

A strong maintenance program is vital for continuous success with plant production and customer satisfaction.

Having a mechanic as part of the team is more cost effective than the constant need for external vendor support, especially if the machines have many years behind them.

The typical vendor charges high-dollar labor rates plus trip and lodging charges.

It is imperative that detailed recordkeeping takes place with all laundry plant machines and should include the issue resolved, parts used, dollars spent and labor utilized.

Even more important, manufacturer service schedules for preventive maintenance must be followed to assure lifespan longevity of the machine.

Having a just in time (JIT) inventory of key parts and supplies for future repairs will help reduce downtime and eliminate service delays.

Standardizing linen inventory will make operations faster and reduce customer headaches.

Additional revenue can be secured when the laundry wash program includes linen rental.

The ideal customer will use a wash/rental program with the commercial laundry plant versus the client owning their own linen.

Universal linen will allow for a faster operation and program.

Instead of customers having their linens sorted, washed, dried and loaded separately, the laundry plant can focus on all linen as one and each customer as one.

Besides more effective inventory controls, the standardization of linen eliminates customer complaints of "their linen" being lost.

Controlling Costs

The best way to maintain quality, cost equivalence and cost savings is to optimize linen utilization by the end user.

Linen utilization is an overlooked budget item; however, it can completely squeeze already tight resources.

The key to controlling laundry expenses is to shift the mindset from a cost-per-pound mentality to a linen utilization mentality.

The laundry plant can partner with the end user and offer solutions for more effective linen control and utilization, thus reducing customer expenditures.

It is very important to set goals in order to manage linen utilization costs.

End users can manage linen usage effectively by using color-coded bags to prevent throwing linen in the trash and implementing a bed change policy.

Another idea is to consider using linen more efficiently.

For example, the end user places a sheet on top of the bath blankets when patients request more warmth.

This practice warms patients better than a thermal, while weighing a pound less.

In a hospital scenario, end users should ensure that all ambulance companies, nursing homes and funeral homes have some kind of linen program that minimizes linen taken out.

An efficient commercial laundry will be able to provide services and help customers save money.

Whether managing a healthcare laundry facility or a hospitality laundry facility, improving workforce efficiency while maximizing quality and service requires an authority who knows how to motivate, educate and create an environment of teamwork to make it all happen.

Utilization and education programs help raise the quality of a commercial laundry operation while driving down costs.

Dedicated commercial laundries achieve great cleaning results for linens and can help deliver positive outcomes for end users.


David Monk is the general manager of environmental services and laundry at the Valley Baptist Health System. Monk, who received his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Alvernia University in 2004, has over 18 years'' experience in the industry and has done many things to help with cost savings and customer service in his operation. Roberto Villarreal is the ARAMARK laundry manager for Valley Baptist Health System. Villarreal, who has been the EVS/laundry business for seven years, has a Bachelor''s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Brownsville and will receive his MBA in the fall of 2012.