Hey! My shirts aren’t getting clean! Many shirt launderers either say this or should say it.
I am amazed at the varying
levels of clean that are accepted
as, well acceptable. In fact,
some laundries have very clean
shirts and accept that as normal
while others barely seem to get
their shirts clean at all and, yes,
they consider that normal.
If you had a wish list, on that
list would be, I’ll bet, that you could get shirts perfectly clean, with no pre-scrubbing, no
around-the-collar and no stains. You want this first time, every time.
Well, believe it or not, this isn’t very hard to accomplish at all. In fact, you can make this
happen quick, maybe even today. Sound good?
Basically, there are two types of “stains” that need removing from your shirts.
Most common is “ring-around-the-collar.” This needs a surfactant. It’s in the soap that you
Then there are “stains.” This is what you buy oxygen bleach for. It is almost true, but not
quite, that if you have soiled collars, you aren’t getting enough surfactant in your wash wheel
and if you have stains, you need oxygen bleach or more of it. This is not always
true, as I said,
but it can be, sometimes. It could be something more obvious, easier and
In order to wash shirts, you need four things:
• Chemical action.
• Mechanical action.
It has to be all four things. How much of each, though, can vary, but it is
We know that we can give a little more of one thing and save on another. But
which ones and
The most common example of this is enzyme detergents. They alter the chemical
you decrease the temperature.
Another example would be using rope ties versus washing shirts loosely. They
mechanical action. Consequently, you can save on detergent or cut down on wash
Still, all this has to be done with professional help. You are only as good as
your chemical rep.
If you don’t have one and you have issues with shirt cleanliness, then the problem is his
or his qualifications.
Most brands of detergent have a service rep who will tour customers in a
for the sole purpose of making sure that these customers are satisfied with the
they supply. Some progressive distributors offer a similar free service for the
The coolest thing about being in the shirt business is that you can make shirt
problem rather than taking it upon your shoulders. His job is to satisfy you and
my job is to tell
you not to be satisfied unless you get clean shirts without scrubbing collars
Still, you may have quality problems. Your local chemical rep is not your
washman. Or your
maintenance man. He can tell you what you need, but will be unable to make it
Here are some reasons why you’ll have cleanliness problems:
Overloading the wash wheel. This is probably the number one cause of
Some days, the shirts look fine, others, they don’t. It is much easier to maintain the proper
loading capacity with a system like Tailwind for example, that has a
self-defining lot size rather
than a piece system or a lot system that is either has lots that are difficult
to identify or has lots
of varying sizes.
In those cases, your wash person is liable to try to squeeze in more shirts than
into a given washer.
Overloading the wash wheel will not allow for the proper amount of mechanical
action — one
of the keys to getting clean shirts. If you wash shirts loosely, you will need
to underload your
machines by quite a bit.
While some people — but not I — think that washing loosely while underloading is the best
way, keep in mind that this is very difficult to manage. It may require weighing
every load (and
making sure that it gets done when you aren’t looking) to insure that you never put in more than
35 pounds in a 50-pound machine. I think that this is a problem waiting to
Anyway, whatever your chemical rep has determined is the correct wash capacity
for your situation is what you need to stick with. Don’t expect clean shirts if you go against
Low water temperature. This one is a killer. You must have hot water.
Let’s say you need 120° water for your particular formula. Many enzyme detergents need this
temperature. Certain oxygen bleaches won’t do a thing unless you have the required
What you set your water heater at, or what the gauge reads at the holding tank,
absolutely nothing to me. What is the exact temperature of the water five
minutes into the wash
Use a laser trap tester to get this reading right through the glass. Do not rely
on the washing
machine’s temperature indicator.
For some reason that eludes me, they are notoriously inaccurate. I have seen a
between the electronic readout on the machine and the actual temperature. That
difference between clean shirts and dirty shirts.
The setting that you select on your water heater will depend on several factors
such as the
distance between the hot water maker and the wash arena, how (and whether or
not) the pipes
are insulated and the type and condition of the washing machine.
In some climates “cold” water can be 35° in the winter and 80° in the summer. If your
washing machine calls for a mix of hot and cold water to arrive at a wash
temperature of 130
degrees, it is incontestable that your water temperature will not be consistent
The washing machines that have thermostatically controlled water temperature are
away the best. When they are programmed, you simply select a temperature rather
or “cold.” This leaves it up to the microprocessor to determine whether you need hot water
cold water at any given moment and will continue to monitor this throughout the
Still, the wash wheel temperature must be checked to assure that the electronic
reader in the
machine is accurate. Keep in mind, also, that when you inject hot water into a
wash wheel full of
fabric and cold metal, you will lose several degrees due to the ambient
temperature of these
Mechanical/maintenance issues. This is often overlooked as a possible cause of
Be sure that your washing machine’s drain valve isn’t leaking. If your valuable hot water is
leaking out of the wheel a little at a time, you may be doing all of the right
things — the right
water temperature and the right chemicals — but flushing them down the drain. Again, trust a
laser temperature gauge or a pyrometer, not the setting on the water heater. You
must have hot
water to get clean shirts.
If the drive belt that connects the wash wheel to the drive motor is too loose,
it is possible that
the drum doesn’t turn at the proper RPM. If the belt slips, the shirts will not get good
One thing that you can do is go to Sam’s Club and buy a 40-pound box of El Cheapo detergent
for eight bucks. Just don’t expect it to clean your shirts. If you think that skimping on supplies
here is the way to stop using all that red ink, I assure you that there is
something else that
Don’t cut corners on proper chemicals. If you calculate your chemical cost on a per
rather than by the cost per pail or bag, you will see that the “expensive” stuff barely affects your
supplies cost on a per shirt basis, but makes your life a whole lot better.
“If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you always got.”