With Natural Gas Price Projections for Summer, It’s Time to Switch to a Commercial Laundry Service

The price of everything is rising, and natural gas is no exception. Natural gas prices are projected to be at an all time high this summer, and that increased cost per therm is going to translate to more expensive laundry for your business. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid having to deal with the increase in natural gas costs. If you hire a commercial laundry service, you can avoid seeing the bill spike caused by natural gas prices and you can reap all of the benefits of having professionals tend to your linen needs.

Gas Heats Everything

For the majority of businesses (and homes, for that matter), natural gas is a major part of the laundering process. It heats everything: your hot water and your dryer both rely on it for their heat, and you must have both working at their best to ensure that your linens are sanitized. There is simply no way to cut corners to try to save money on natural gas as long as you are operating gas water heaters and dryers-and converting everything to electric will cost you heavily initially while not saving you much in the long run.

Convert to Commercial

Instead of converting your business’s laundering facility into one that does not rely as heavily on natural gas, why not switch over to a commercial laundry service instead? Their bulk business ensures that they receive the lowest possible prices on gas, and they are able to pass those savings on to their customers. Their super-efficient facilities also are able to process far more of your linens per load than your machines can, creating another opportunity for savings.

True Sanitation

In addition to being able to save on the price of natural gas (and the other costs of running your laundry facility), when you switch to a commercial laundry service, you will gain the benefits of having your linens truly sanitized. It is very difficult for businesses to sanitize their linens properly when they handle all laundry duties in house, but it is very easy for a commercial laundry to do so. They have specially formulated detergents that are high powered enough to sterilize and sanitize linens from healthcare facilities, which means your linens will be completely clean. They also have specially designed best practices for handling, transporting, and storing linens to ensure that they stay sterile once they are in your facilities.

Ozone in the Laundry Industry

When it comes to cleaning linens effectively, many companies that work in the laundry industry swear by using ozone. Businesses have been using this chemical in their cleaning operations for many years, primarily due to the fact that it allows them to reduce their energy bills.

The main benefit of ozone is that it allows linens to be washed in cold water. Taking into account the sheer number of fabrics that laundry services process daily, it is easy to see how lucrative this option can be. The amount of money saved annually on heating and water bills is substantial. Most laundry companies also state that not only does ozone minimize costs, but it also cleans better and ensures the longevity of fabrics greater than traditional soap and hot water wash cycles.

The Benefits of Ozone

By adding ozone into the equation, the amount of detergent needed is kept at a minimum, due to the natural chemical reaction that occurs. The oxidizing potential of this compound is what makes it attractive, as this is what allows the ozone to quickly and thoroughly sanitize and disinfect laundry. It does this by actively working to eliminate bacteria; it is also known to oxidize more organic and inorganic compounds faster than weaker compounds. Chlorine, for instance, is widely used in most pools and hot tubs as a disinfectant agent, but it takes much longer than ozone in regards to contact time with bacteria. One downside is that because it dissolves quickly, the chemical must continually be inserted to maintain sanitation levels.

The Disadvantages to Using Ozone

Make no mistake; ozone is a dangerous chemical that is harmful to humans. This is why laundry workers are required to take proper precautions when processing linens in the facilities that use it. This means limiting the amount of exposure employees have to the fumes, both with respect to the length of time they are near the chemical and the amount of ozone being used.

Healthcare linen cleaning companies are required by law to have adequate ventilation systems in place to minimize fumes in the workplace. In addition, OSHA necessitates that large-scale laundry firms have ozone monitors in place to constantly regulate chemical levels and to alert personnel if these levels exceed safety standards.

The cost and cleaning benefits of ozone make it clear why many laundry facilities have made the shift to using this chemical over traditional hot water and detergent. In order to keep employees safe, however, adequate safety measures need to be implemented.

Textile Processing Cost Benchmarks

In the laundry processing business, many facilities fail because they cannot manage to meet simple processing cost benchmarks. Others have difficulties making decisions or justifying upgrades because they do not understand these benchmarks. Up until recently, little effort had been put into consolidating the necessary data into understandable terms that facility managers and executives will be able to put into practice. Fortunately, there is now a comprehensive study available that aims to do just that.

Cost per Pound (Processed and Delivered)
The study, compiled by American Laundry News, forecasts that laundries will reach an average per pound cost of $1.10 in 2013. However, that number is not reflected in the study as data was only available through 2011. The cost per pound (processed and delivered) for the study ranged from $0.78 to $1.05.

Processing and Production Benchmarks
Within that $0.78 to $1.05 per pound cost are several different aspects that must be accounted for, including processing and production. For an efficient facility, the study determined that these costs should be between 48 and 69 cents per pound. Here is how those benchmarks break down ideally:

Processing cost: this is the direct cost of labor and the benefits associated with hiring and maintaining labor (e.g. health insurance, retirement pensions, etc). This should be between 18-23 cents per pound processed.
Administrative costs: the costs of non-production employees and management. This should be around 3-5 cents per processed pound and delivered.
Maintenance and repairs: the costs associated with labor and materials needed for routine maintenance. This should be around 7-11 cents per lb. processed and delivered.
Equipment depreciation: obtain this by dividing the equipment’s value over its lifetime (for the study, this was 15 years). This should be around 4-6 cents per pound processed.
Property depreciation and property taxes: 3-5 cents per lb. processed and delivered.
General supplies: 2-4 cents per pound processed.
Chemical supplies: 3-5 cents per pound processed.
Utilities: 8-10 cents per pound processed.

Distribution and Replacement Benchmarks
In addition to your processing and production costs, you will need to take into account the cost of distribution and replacement of textiles. The study determined that this should be roughly 30 to 36 cents per pound processed and delivered. This breaks down into two categories. Distribution and return cost, which includes drivers, fees, tolls, fuel, vehicle maintenance and repair, labor, and so forth, should cost between 13 and 15 cents per pound processed. Textile replacement cost was between 17 and 21 cents per pound.

These benchmarks were set as ideals to be reached when your facility is operating at its best. To make the most of your laundry processing business, break down your costs per processed pound and delivered, and determine where you are unacceptably outside of these benchmarks, then cut back.

Sustainable Best Practice Standards

There is a big development currently in the works in the laundry service industry. ASTM (International Technical Committee D13 on Textiles) is in the process of developing a new international standard concerning laundry cleaning best management practices. If successful, the standard will in effect identify and define clear practices with which businesses in the field should be aiming to meet regarding their environmental impact. The goal is to increase energy efficiency and reduce consumption in all respects. Thus, the new development can be seen as a comprehensive effort to target wasteful practices worldwide and eliminate them in due time.

The Environmental Impact of the Laundry Industry

The laundry service industry (i.e. medical linen and hospital laundry service organizations) has a major environmental footprint. These companies use billions of gallons of water each year as well as tons of detergent as they process a vast number of linens in their facilities each and every day.

That being said, ASTM is committed to an overhaul of the ways in which businesses are currently operating. They hope that their new eco-friendly standards will lead to a significant reduction in water usage and promote long-term sustainability of the industry at large. As it currently stands, the newly proposed international standards have a good chance of passing. Once this has happened, commercial laundry facilities will be assessed and subsequently evaluated on a performance scale to determine whether they meet the mark.

A List of ASTM’s Best Practice Standards

ASTM is serious about its efforts, and this is demonstrated by the extensive list of areas which are to be included in the proposed international best practice standards. They are all geared toward promoting eco-friendly operations. This includes the implementation of water reuse technology, boiler heat recovery, wastewater heat recovery, using eco-friendly low temperature detergents, as well as installing energy-efficient lighting in facilities and having an energy audit performed to provide a thorough assessment of a company’s current performance. ASTM is also pushing for the promotion of alternative energy forms, namely the use of solar energy systems to reduce consumption.

If successful, the international best practice standards will be a monumental step in the laundry industry. It will likely take some time for the certification process to go into effect, but we will probably start seeing many businesses making the move to using eco-friendly technologies as a means of preparing themselves for review. ASTM encourages owners of these facilities to support WK35985.

Eliminating Odd Soils From Linens

Professionals in the medical laundry services business are constantly faced with challenging stains. By recognizing them, separating the items out, and treating them quickly so that they do not become permanently set in, laundry companies can help protect their valuable inventory of medical linens. We will look at a few stain-causing soils that anyone dealing with healthcare linens has probably faced, or will at some point.

Chlorhexidine Gluconate

This is an antiseptic found in many hand sanitizers used for surgical scrub, preoperative skin preparation, and cleansing wounds. It is also sometimes included in bed-bath kits for bedridden patients. A common brand name is Hibiclens®, but there are others. It is a challenging stain to get out of hospital linens because it has adhesive qualities that make it nearly impossible to remove during an initial flush. Then, when it comes into contact with chlorine while being laundered, it turns brown and becomes permanent.

If any of your clients use a product with this antiseptic, ask your chemical supplier for a peracetic acid/peroxide bleaching system. Hibiclens also has washing instructions on its website. Since this antiseptic is used in so many surgical procedures, it is a good idea to wash all surgical linens with a high-temperature hydrogen peroxide formula or switch to an oxygen-based bleach.

If chlorhexidine gluconate stains are still a problem on your hospital linens, it could be because the chlorine level in your area’s water supply is high enough to react with the chemical and set it into a yellow stain. If this is the case, there are chemicals you can add to neutralize the chlorine and prevent most discoloration caused by this pesky stain-maker.


Activated charcoal is used in emergency rooms because of its absorption qualities to treat patients who have suffered a drug overdose or ingested a poison. If it is spotted in the sorting, it can be treated with a metasilicate blend for the alkali to 1,500-2,000 parts per million (PPM) and then washed in an emulsifier detergent before going through with the regular wash. Ask your chemical company for detailed directions if you find you are getting enough of these stains that it is worth going through these extra steps.

Therapeutic Massage Oils

Massage oils and lotions used by physical therapists in hospitals and other medical facilities are especially difficult to wash out of towels, sheets, and hospital garments. Because therapeutic massage often involves pressing the patient’s body into the massage table, the stains can be partially set in before you ever get the linens. Medical laundry services with physical therapy clients are all too familiar with these oil-based stains.

As with chlorhexidine gluconate stains, it is important to recognize these oil and lotion stains before putting the linens in with regular wash. You need to do an initial washing with a degreaser before the main wash. Some experts recommend citrus-based products for removing oil-based products. Generally a silicate alkali works best as an emulsifier on oils.

Setting Reasonable Goals for Stain Removal

The secret to a highly efficient laundry operation is not to have zero stains, according to American Laundry News. The generally accepted percentage of rejects in the healthcare linens laundry industry is 3.5 to 5.5%. The only way to get it below that is to subject lightly-soiled items to extra mechanical, chemical and processing treatments that could damage them. However, the more you know about the soils you can expect to encounter in your operation, the better you can be prepared to remove them. Work with your chemical supplier to design the best combination of sorting classifications and wash processes.