Closely tied to the fortunes of the hospitality industry, it is no surprise that the commercial and on-premise laundry (OPL) sectors in the UAE, are growing rapidly, with estimates suggesting market growth of 20 per cent per annum. The Middle East has the potential to emerge as one of the world’s leading commercial cleaning industries in terms of quality, innovation and environmental responsibility. This should deliver major benefits to customers in terms of enhanced efficiency, reduced costs and access to the latest most innovative laundry technology.
For this to happen, however, the industry urgently requires quality standards and regulations to ensure compliance with best international practices. It may come as a surprise to many that the commercial laundry sector across the Middle East, with the exception of hospital linen in some countries, operates with few quality control standards. In a highly competitive, fragmented and sometimes cut-throat market, this is a high risk approach to follow.
With no agreed standards in place and no robust requirements for linen bug tests, there is a clear risk to the end consumer and laundry employee. Soiled textile articles are a potential source of pathogenic microorganisms. If hygienic storage and handling procedures are followed, the risk of disease transmission and cross-contamination between clean and soiled articles is negligible. This cannot be guaranteed when no standards are in place.
We must assume that all soiled articles are a potential source of infection. Standard precautions should be applied in the handling of such articles, laundered according to international best-practice; this is as true for healthcare as it is for the hotel trade. In the food processing sector, industrial garments may become contaminated with a variety of harmful substances thereby increasing the risk of salmonella infection. As a consequence of these potential risks to the public and employees, the requirements for infection control in laundries processing non-hospital linen should be as stringent as those for hospital laundries.
For the commercial laundry operator, neglecting quality standards in a highly fragmented and competitive marketplace is leading to a ‘race to the bottom’ - a ‘vicious circle’ of aggressive price competition often at the expense of quality. As a supplier, totally committed to delivering the highest quality standards to all of our customers, this does not make sense to us. It significantly increases the potential risk to the general public and employees. With laundry chemicals accounting for approximately 5 per cent of overall laundry costs, our question is: why skimp on quality?
Operators need to understand that the apparent costs savings in using cheaper chemicals are often cancelled out due to the costs associated with fabric damage and replacement. The simple rule here - cheap solutions (base alkalis and hypochlorites) ruin fabrics much more quickly. By putting an expensive fabric in a cheap laundry solution, you are literally throwing money down the drain. For the discerning hotel, professional care of textiles using quality laundry blended formulations and following international best-practice procedures is the only way to earn a positive ROI from fabric investment.
Estimates suggest that the use of higher quality laundry detergents and precise wash formulae can add 25-35 per cent better value by lengthening fabric life and maintaining fresh appearances longer. Finally, the vicious circle of aggressive price competition at the expense of quality leads to poor, sometimes dangerous, working conditions for many employed in the sector. We work hard to enhance workforce training and education and prevent the use of piecemeal payment systems which are not conducive to higher quality production results.
So, what needs to be done in commercial laundry to move from a vicious circle of declining standards to a virtuous one of improvement, where quality and hygiene are central operational pillars?
At a minimum, we need standards in the following areas:
• Laundry chemical product approvals from regulatory authorities;
• Proof of disinfection using internationally agreed standards;
• Bug tests for the laundered fabric using agar gels;
• Use of soft water to save on detergent thereby helping the environment;
• A programme of failure tests to prove that the fabric is not being damaged;
• Proof of thermal disinfection at 71°C for 10 minutes in the main wash;
• The employment of qualified staff, certified as competent for the job;
• Documented proof of correct loading of the machine;
• Use of equipment and machines that provide the highest level of workplace safety.
By using auto-dosing equipment, Arpal Gulf ensures that the right amount of detergent is used in every cycle and coupled with our premium quality laundry formulations gives the best possible wash results with optimum fabric care, helping launderers to save money and improve wash quality.
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