Laundry Chemicals and Automatic Dosing
Our previous Talking Point article argued strongly for the introduction of quality control standards in commercial laundry. For the UAE to fulfil its potential as a world leader in quality, innovation and environmental responsibility, the industry urgently requires quality standards and regulation to ensure compliance with international best practice.
In a highly fragmented and competitive marketplace, the lack of quality standards is leading to a ‘race to the bottom’ - a ‘vicious circle’ of aggressive price competition often at the expense of quality, hygiene standards, risk to the end consumer and laundry employee safety.
A key element of international best practice is ensuring that the right type and correct amount of laundry chemical is used in every wash cycle. The use of automatic dosing equipment is essential in yielding best quality results in the most costs effective way, reducing risk to the consumer and providing a safe working environment for the laundry operator.
There is a widely held misbelief that if a recommended amount of chemical product does the job, more will do it better and faster. When a problem arises, the initial reaction of many laundry operators is to add more chemicals rather than questioning the product's suitability for cleaning a particular garment. This practice can severely damage garments, increase costs and reduce profits.
The use of automatic chemical dosing systems provides a solution and should be an integral part of most OPL (On Premise Laundries), and even more so for commercial laundries. Automatic dosing systems provide accurate and consistent chemical dosing while at the same time delivering enhanced safety benefits by reducing the need for physical handling of hazardous chemicals. By electronically controlling the dosing of liquid laundry detergents, the correct amount of chemical is used in every wash cycle, producing the best possible wash results as cost effectively as possible. Because the systems are pre-set and automated, there is little chance of human error and less chance of chemicals being wasted unnecessarily.
Dosing systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They can be programmed to dispense all laundry chemicals at whatever dose levels are required for each wash programme. Modern systems can have 20 different wash programmes providing a high level of flexibility. Detergent levels can be set at different levels depending on wash loads, softeners can be added at different levels or not added at all, specialist chemicals such as emulsifiers or starches can be programmed as required. Likewise, there might be a requirement for hypochlorite bleach to be dosed into some cycles for low temperature disinfection. The number of dosing permutations caters for all requirements.
Most modern electronic dosing units also have the capability of delivering use reports providing laundry management with valuable insight on chemical consumption and overall performance.
Installation and maintenance
The heart of the dispenser is the peristaltic pump. As the motor rotates, an attachment compresses and relaxes a squeeze tube three times during each rotation. This action creates a vacuum on the chemical supply side of the tube and pressure on the chemical delivery side. In effect, the chemical is lifted out of the container and pumped towards the washing machine. Alternatives include diaphragm and membrane dosing. The electronics of the dosing unit are connected to the washing machine's computer output terminals. At appropriate times during the wash cycle, electrical impulses from the washing machine signal the dosing unit. This in turn, activates the pumps to deliver the pre-calibrated amount of specific chemical.
A reputable supplier of laundry chemicals will install and service dosing equipment on a no fee basis, provided that the laundry uses their chemical products exclusively through the equipment. At Arpal Gulf, we install, calibrate and fully maintain dosing systems for our customers, ensuring that best results are achieved at all times.
Professional & reliable engineering support
Good ongoing engineering support is critical to achieving consistent, quality results in any laundry operation. There is little point in having a modern laundry dosing unit fitted if it is not installed, maintained and programmed correctly. Reliable engineers offering preventative maintenance support can ensure that problems are avoided rather than reacted to. If a laundry starts to suffer staining problems through poor maintenance and support, then these stains may become locked into the fabrics and cause dissatisfaction for months afterwards, even after the cause of the problem is eventually resolved. Laundry problems need to be addressed immediately – or preferably before they happen – to minimise long term and recurring rewash problems.
Chemical dosing units in a busy professional laundry work hard – very hard – and sometimes even 24/7. As such, there will be wear and tear on equipment. Likewise, with constant dosing, the chemicals eventually put severe strain on the pump tubing which, if left unattended would eventually lead to tube failure or inconsistent dosing. Regular service calls and preventative maintenance checks can highlight impending problems, be fixed on the spot and avoid problems further down the line.
It is critical that the chemical supplier ‘walks the walk’ in terms of regular service calls by continuously checking the integrity of tubing and pump heads, changing them as necessary. A proactive approach to engineering support will considerably reduce the incidence of breakdown callouts and laundry downtime.
The customer too has an important role to play in ensuring quality engineering support. When a problem arises, it should be reported as quickly as possible. Delays can lead to more serious and costly problems so both the chemical supplier and customer should share the responsibility of maintaining standards to the very highest level.