The go-green trend in linen care

 

Experts deliberate upon the go-green trends in linen care in hospitality and healthcare sectors.

 

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Laundry
 
July 4, 2022
 
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The go-green trend in linen care
 

Studies reveal that 16 percent of the water used in hotels and 9 percent of the water used in hospitals is used for laundry. Though restrooms and other domestic purposes use more water, laundry is a far more viable target for water and energy savings and for going green in general. You just need to know where to look.

During the Laundry Talkathon, our panellists,  Ms. Trishna Hundal, Cluster Executive Housekeeper, Wyndham Dubai Deira, Mr. Sravan Kumar, Deputy Director - Quality, Zulekha Hospital and Mr. Peterson, CEO and Founder of #1 Virtual Training Center for Housekeeping Managers in Long-Term Care deliberated upon the go-green trends in linen care in hospitality and healthcare sectors.

trishna hundalralph peterson

Here is an excerpt from the panel discussion. 

- What is your definition of sustainable laundry?
Sustainable laundry really is about doing the least amount in order to get the proper amount of clean linen to our guests or residents.

Speaking of healthcare facilities such as hospitals, they are not just worried about water and electricity used. It is important for them to use linen that sustains for a longer period of time. Because of the fact that they have infected patients who use linen, they end up using chemicals which damage the quality of the fabric pretty soon as compared to the hotels. For them, the intention is to make sure the linen sustains longer periods of time.

For laundry operations in a hotel, sustainability would translate into limiting energy and water consumption, as well as focussing on environmentally friendly processes. If we look at sustainability in a laundry in a hotel set - up, you would upgrade and invest in energy efficient washing machines. An average 6 liter washing machine, for example, uses one unit of electricity per hour. Imagine how much it will be when it performs various washes on different machines every day. So the cost is huge. 

We can use alternate sources of energy. We have limited natural resources and it’s been a while since we have been talking about it. A day will come when we will have exhausted all these resources. The use of resources otherwise will become very costly so we need to get into the habit of using other sources of energy such as solar energy, wind energy, etc. These options have to come in very quick. In hotels, we would opt for using cold water instead of hot water. It reduces your carbon footprint by 10 percent. Hot water is highly effective in reducing stains but most of us don’t believe it. So 75 percent of the energy that is required during a hot wash is only used to heat up the water. Cold water is as effective and we have to start believing that it disinfects clothes as good as the hot water would. 

We can use low temperature and eco-friendly detergents. The traditional detergents give us results only in hot water so we have no option but to heat up the water. But they have harmful chemicals like polyethylene and polypropylene. The presence of these chemicals harms the entire environment. Environment friendly detergents work evenly in both cold and hot water. We can also use traditional items like white vinegar as fabric softeners instead of opting for a chemical option. 

We can also make the conscious choice of drying clothes for a lesser time. In a laundry, the dryer uses a lot of energy and when we air-dry clothes, it helps reduce the climatic impact by 67 percent and then machine drying costs about 75% of the laundry's total carbon footprint to the environment. 

Hotels can also use eco-friendly packaging. After the clothes are washed or dry cleaned and ready, the packaging needs to be looked into. Hotels can reuse bags and involve guests by communicating to them that if they reuse or return the bags, they will get some incentive. Last, but not the least, would be the tracking. Tracking is important. Hotels must keep a track of the amount of chemicals used, the amount of water used, energy used on a daily basis - all of this has to be charted out. Then a plan can be made on how they can reduce usage with minimal effort and higher efficiency. Once you start tracking your usage, you will be surprised at the significant difference between the amount you expect versus the actual usage. 

How effective are green chemicals?

In healthcare, there are limited or no green chemicals currently that are rated or are used to clean and disinfect. In healthcare laundries, mostly there will be some elements of viruses or bacteria because patients are sick so the laundry has to rely on pH levels, not detergent. They only rely on the detergent to clean with moderate to cold temperature water. There is a common myth that hot water disinfects. That’s the worst type of disinfectant because we can’t have any consistency with temperature. After just the third load in a row, the water temperature is way lower than what it was when it started . pH levels are much more reliable. You raise the pH levels to 2.4 to 4 and nothing can live in that environment. Then you neutralise the pH and that’s the proper way to clean and disinfect in a healthcare environment. 

But even though there are no green chemicals for healthcare, all healthcare facilities work in line with the recommendations of the CDC. There is no particular chemical or detergent they go with. Most of the hospitals have a procurement and selection committee which actually tests all the chemicals and detergents that are being considered for introduction in the laundry. The chemical or detergent is put to a pilot test wherein its quality and impact on linen is analysed. The agent with the least impact on the linen is selected. Due importance is given to the health and safety of people working in the laundry as well.  

Then comes the drying part. Healthcare laundries are large operations and they don’t have the ability to hang laundry, they don’t have the ability to air dry laundry. They use high temperature dryers to do it but what they have realised is that overdrying is a problem as well. So there are a lot of efficiencies to be found for sure. 

In hotels, things are slightly different. There are a number of options available and they are quite effective as well. The green chemicals available for hotels are cost effective. There is still a lot to be done in this field. Green chemicals are still not given the kind of importance that they deserve considering the consumptions we are doing day in and day out in terms of resources like water and electricity. We can definitely work further on green chemicals.

Linen that requires lesser water in processing

Commercial laundries are designed to handle a maximum amount of linen. So if you have a 100 pound washing machine, it is set for 100 pounds of chemical, 100 pounds of water - everything is rated to the poundage of the washing machine and so it does not dictate if you have linen that is quick dry. Let’s say like this - there are different types of linen. There is terry which is used in towels and washcloths. It is thicker. Then you have pillowcases, draw sheets and flat sheets which are thinner. Both of these have different drying times and absorption rates which the washing machine wouldn’t know.

What are some common practices in laundry operations and linen care that negate the go-green trend and what can be done to rectify this?

In healthcare, one of the practices that used to happen was washing half-loads of the washing machine. It’s a very common practice and not-so-sustainable one. It consumes a greater amount of chemicals, water and electricity. It also completely negates all the efforts and measures that the healthcare facility is otherwise making to go-green. 

Then again, the CDC recommends washing healthcare laundries at certain temperatures. This is being constantly looked at and energy saving washing machines would help add some element of sustainability here. This certainly puts a cost pressure on the organisations because they would have to invest in such kind of equipment. 

Another very common trend in the Middle East is that there are many small laundries that do not utilise their capabilities to the fullest.

This is an excerpt from a detailed panel discussion, The go-green trend in linen care. To access the full panel discussion, scan the QR Code: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOi5C4j7rRg