Traditional laundering methods are extremely energy and water intensive. An On-Premise-Laundry at a hospital can account for up to 15% of the total energy bill for the hospital. It all stands to reason that in an era of cheap energy and unlimited fresh water that a method of textile care would be developed that was focused entirely on finished product and not on environmental impact. There was no reason to consider your carbon footprint or water footprint or impact on the environment because no one had every heard of that and it was outside the scope of laundry managers and corporate accountants.
These days all of that has changed. Energy prices have soared to record levels and will never return to levels seen in ‘the good old days’. The availability of fresh water has become a white-hot issue with ramifications for civilization itself. Labor costs have risen to all-time highs with little hope of retreating and environmental responsibility has become the hot button issue of the 21st Century.
Laundry managers, facility planners, corporate accountants and stockholders in good conscience cannot simply rely on old, outdated and wasteful methods of textile care any more. The business climate has changed and all types of wasteful behavior must be identified and eliminated.
By using the simple calculations provided earlier, you can easily see that traditional laundry operations at even mid-sized hotels and hospitals can consume trillions of Btu’s of energy and millions to billions of gallons of water over their lifetime. People don’t realize just how much water and energy they are using because it is at a slow, steady rate over thousands of days but it does add up to quite a big bite out of the World’s finite energy supply. In addition to reducing the total amount of energy available to civilization, this energy use can be directly related to the Carbon Footprint of a laundry. For every bit of energy used that is generated by the burning of fossil fuels, there is a corresponding amount of Carbon released into the atmosphere. Using trillions of Btu’s to heat laundry water equates to millions of tons of Carbon being released into the atmosphere. Global Warming is a direct result of an increase in the amount of Carbon in the atmosphere in the form of Carbon Dioxide. Who would have every dreamed that laundry was a big contributor to the Green House Effect?
A traditional laundry will use an average of 3 gallons of fresh water to process each pound of linens. This is absolutely astounding if you start to think about it in terms you can relate to. If a hotel has 1,000 rooms and produces about 30 pounds of linen per room per day, it will consume nearly 90,000 gallons of fresh, drinking water each day to wash all of its dirty linens.
Typical laundry operations use large quantities of environmentally damaging chemicals on a perpetual basis to process the large volume of dirty linens generated in the hospitality and healthcare industries every day. This has been a fact of laundry operations almost since the beginning of time. Chlorine, Alkali, Acid, harsh detergents, wetting agents, fabric softeners and other compounds are found in almost all traditional laundry formulas. Each one of these agents has a specific and vital function in the cleaning process. Until the development of ozone laundry, the textile care industry had no choice but to follow this age-old recipe. Just like the laser has revolutionized the communications industry or the MRI has revolutionized medical diagnostics, ozone laundry is revolutionizing textile care.
Toxic Chemicals and Poor Air Quality
Wash formulas ubiquitous in the laundry industry are built around the use of some pretty nasty chemicals. So nasty in fact that sewer penalties and impact fees are a routine part of many laundry operations.
Huge amounts of Chlorine are used as a normal part of textile care. Chlorine is the single largest contributor to the depletion of the ozone layer. Chlorine, when combined with organic compounds, creates Trihalomethanes (THM’s). Linens are loaded with organic compounds. Body oils, sweat, bodily fluids, food, many lotions and cosmetics, bacteria, viruses, soil and other common agents typically found in dirty linens are organic compounds. Chlorine added to the wash wheel creates in excess of 1,200 different THM’s including Chloroform and Formaldehyde when it comes into contact with these organic compounds. THM’s are part of a group of dangerous environmental contaminants called volatile organic compounds or VOC’s. Your washing machine and your dishwasher are two of the biggest sources of air pollution in your home for the very same reason. A massive effort has been underway in numerous industries to modify many common consumer products in a way that will reduce the amount of VOC’s they release into the environment. Why should the laundry industry be any different?
Historically, a tremendous amount of alkali has been used to boost the wash liquor pH to stratospheric heights. Strong detergent ‘Builders’ containing alkali are used to begin the traditional cleaning process. When the detergent cycle is done, you literally have to add acid to neutralize or ‘buffer’ the alkali and bring the pH of the water and linen back down to Earth. This is similar to adding acid to your pool to adjust the pH but on a much greater scale. High pH is destructive to your linens and to the environment. Alkali is made from Sodium Hydroxide or something similar with a very high pH. When you add Acid with a low pH to neutralize the Sodium Hydroxide, it creates a mineral salt that tends to remain in the fabric after the wash cycle is complete. These crystalline salts damage linen fibers in the heat and tumbling of the dryers and they can potentially cause undesirable reactions when they come into contact with skin.
Traditional laundry chemistry typically uses a large amount of surfactants. Surfactants are compounds that can be dissolved in organic solvents and in water. The term is a blend of ‘surface acting agent’. They are used to facilitate the removal of fats, oils, greases and many other types of soil loading from fabrics during the washing process. These unique compounds can interfere with the life cycle of aquatic organisms and they can damage plants. Standard wash formulas use high levels of surfactants which could eventually end up contaminating surface water resources. Ozone laundry greatly reduces the need for powerful surfactants thereby reducing a laundry’s environmental footprint.
Wastewater from typical laundry operations is quite objectionable. High levels of toxic chemicals, huge swings in pH and soil from the linens combine to produce wastewater high in BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand), COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) and low in DO (Dissolved Oxygen). Organic matter in the wastewater from all the dirt in the linens will be eaten by bacteria that consume Oxygen in the process – that’s where BOD comes from. Chemicals that make up the toxic soup used to wash linens will use up Oxygen as part of their cleaning activity – that’s where COD comes from. Bacteria and chemicals use up available Oxygen resulting in low levels of Dissolved Oxygen (DO) being available in the wastewater. Fish and other aquatic life breathe Dissolved Oxygen so you see why it is important to eliminate BOD and COD from wastewater.
Ozone laundry systems are based on the use of highly charged Oxygen molecules dissolved in the water. These Oxygen molecules serve to eliminate BOD and COD and raise DO naturally. Ozone is made out of pure Oxygen and is therefore very environmentally friendly in wastewater. A Water Energy Ozone Laundry System requires a limited amount of chemicals to achieve a spectacular finished product. Less chemicals and more Oxygen add up to very green wastewater.
Old-School laundries use much more labor per pound of linen processed than modern, green laundry operations. When your wash formulas take 10 steps to complete and your dryers run a full 55 minutes or more per load to dry, you are paying for way too much for labor. When your linens need to be conditioned in the dryers before they go to the ironers, you are paying way too much for labor. The old approach to textile care was designed around cheap labor and ridiculously cheap utilities. Those were truly the Good Old Days. Today’s business climate is far different than what it was only a few years ago. Labor is still the most expensive component of a laundry. With the skyrocketing price of utilities, equipment, linen replacement, chemicals, and other essentials, that is saying a lot. Water Energy Laundry Consulting can convert your operations to an ozone laundry standard and cut a full 1/3 off your labor costs.
Chemical Residues and Inferior Finished Product, Reduced Linen Life
The old-fashioned approach to textile care has conditioned us to think that flat, scratchy and funny-smelling linens are as good as it gets. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Chemical residues in fabrics make them hard and scratchy on your skin, unpleasant to your nose and dangerous for your health. A dirty little secret in the healthcare linen industry is the fact that chemical residues and improper pH combine to measurably increase the incidence of bed sores and other skin ailments for bedridden patients.
Harsh wash formulas and extended drying times absolutely thrash your valuable linens too. Excess chemical usage and huge swings in pH severely damage the fibers which then shatter while tumbling in the hot dryers. Your expensive, luxurious linens are literally reduced to fuzz in the lint screen.
Water Energy Green Laundry Systems do away with harsh wash formulas, huge pH swings and long drying times. No more accelerated destruction of your linens and no more residual chemicals to foul up your finished product.