May 13th, 2024

by Steven J. Tinker   

“Time is money” 

“Lost time is never found again.” 

― Benjamin Franklin 

Time is the one thing that we can never have too much of.

When it comes to laundering, Time is one of the four main factors that determine the overall level of your wash quality, along with Temperature, Mechanical Action, and Chemical Action. All four of these factors are interrelated in that they are semi-dependent on one another. For example, mechanical action is dependent on time; the longer the wash time, the more mechanical action is imparted to the goods in the wash wheel. 

Chemical action is also dependent on both time and temperature. The rate of soil removal by any combination of chemical agents decreases as time increases; this is the concept of diminishing returns: the longer you wash, the more your soil removal percentages will tend to level out or maximize. Plus, chemical activity is temperature dependent. It is a basic rule in chemistry that the rate (speed, which equals time) of a chemical reaction doubles for every 10°C (18°F) increase in temperature, or conversely, the speed of the chemical reaction decreases 50% for every 10°C decrease in temperature. 

In today’s modern laundry market, maximizing efficiency is a significant factor in your ability to compete. And your chemical company should be able to help you make your operation run smoothly at peak efficiency. The cost of your chemicals may only be a few percent of your overall operating cost, but the application of your chemicals can affect the other 95+ percent of your other operational costs. Wash formulas can be designed to maximize quality and minimize chemical costs by increasing wash time and temperature. But that may not be the most efficient use of resources. 

The choice of the mix of your chemicals and their application can be a significant factor in your efficiency and cost. Laundering chemicals, or soil removal agents, are usually broken into four categories: alkalis (or builders), detergents (or surfactants), water and soil conditioners, and oxidizers (or bleaches). The mix and quantity of these four chemical agent types can vary depending on the soil types and levels and the textiles (cotton, polyester, or blends). Plus, the mix of your chemicals can determine the chemical cost; alkalis and bleaches are relatively low in cost per ounce, and detergent/surfactants and water/soil conditioners are fairly high in cost per ounce. Understanding all that, a well-designed wash formula can maximize your overall efficiency and minimize your overall costs. 

One of the newest innovations in laundry chemical technology is the introduction of detergents with specially blended surfactants that are excellent in grease and oil removal. And with the increased use of 100% polyester textiles, alkalis can be minimized in soil removal. This high surfactant-low alkali technology and the expanded use of polyester textiles have created an opportunity to change the mix of Time, Temperature, Mechanical Action, and Chemical Action, resulting in significant savings for your operation. For instance, with reduced use of alkalis, and because there is less active chemistry to rinse out of the wash, formulas can be adjusted to eliminate at least one rinse, saving water, energy, and time. There are numerous examples in the market where this innovative technology has reduced wash formula times by as much as 25% and a similar increase in wash aisle productivity. 

With these new, unique surfactant blends, oily soil removal from polyester textiles is maximized at lower temperatures than with traditional cotton textiles. Typically, the most effective temperature is 140°F rather than 160-180° temperatures used on cotton-based fabrics. Lowering temperatures and eliminating rinses saves energy and water, a big plus in your environmental stewardship program. 

Other factors that can affect your overall costs and quality are your water quality, soil sortation categories, equipment, and more. But we want to focus on Time. Wash aisle productivity improvements due to shorter wash formulas may mean lower labor costs if you are operating more than one shift or more than eight hours. One facility has been able to cut wash operations from over nine hours a day to under eight hours, eliminating overtime costs. But more importantly, shorter, more efficient wash formulas can give you the capacity to grow your business by up to 25% without a capital investment in your wash aisle. That can turn into a significant increase in cash flow for your operation. That proves Ben Franklin’s adage:  Time is money. 


Newest Technology Can Reduce

Your Overall Processing Costs

From the traditional wash process that equally weighs the effects of of Time, Temperature, Mechanical and Chemical Action, we can transition to a new ratio of the four factors to reduce Time, Temperature, and Mechanical Action, with an increase in the ratio of Chemical Action which allows you to “shrink” your overall processing costs, saving time and money.