White linen is often preferred because of its association with freshness, cleanliness and purity. Keeping linen white is a major challenge for the laundries, chemical technicians and chemical companies. They are under more pressure than ever to hurry up and get the job done. What suffers is the quality that the end-user desires and expects – clean, bright, white linen. Apoorv Mittal, Founder, Xpress Laundromat and Hitesh Joshi, Chief Executive Officer, Rinse n Spin Laundromat Pvt Ltd share their proficient knowledge on maintaining whiteness in linen.
Historically white has been associated with perfection and honesty and is thus the natural choice of color – from wedding gowns to communal dress, to the entire hospitality and healthcare industry. White Linen holds a special place in the textile industry, as the fabric made of linen are exceptional for coolness and freshness and white commands the psychological symbol of purity. Additionally, white textiles tolerate many specialized cleaning solutions better than colored fabrics, allowing for hygienic sanitation and visual refreshing.
Mere White Fabric alone does not do the task, it is equally important to take the right care for the fabric to retain its purity and strength. To accomplish this, one must understand what constitutes the nature of whiteness in white linen.
There are primarily three elements which define the whiteness of a fabric:
● Base White: Base white is the whiteness of the raw fabric. Interestingly the raw white fabric has a yellow tint due to the fact that cotton fabric absorbs some blue light.
● Shaded White: When a bluing agent (like Neel) is used to compensate for the yellowness of the base fabric it creates a create a brighter white.
● Fluorescent White: When specialized optical brighteners are used to increase blue reflectance & remove an even greater degree of yellowness.
Having understood the basic difference in the nature of white linen, it is possible to achieve the right choice of white by following a basic guideline to white fabric management and preserving the whiteness of linen.
Washing Whites Separately: The most important aspect is to wash the white linen under specialized conditioning, separately from all other colored linen. Not just because white requires slightly different conditions, but also because white is most susceptible to taking up any color that it is mixed with. Even the slightest bit of color bleeding from any fabric can permanently damage the white linen.
Water Temperature: Washing in cold water is very effective in removing the dirt in the fabric, however certain oils and grease stains, especially in whites, can only be removed by processing the linen at temperatures between 40-60 degree Celsius. This not only acts as a catalyst for the detergent and cleaning, but also makes sure bacteria and deposits are removed properly.
Stains: The effect of stain on any kind of fabric can only be reversed close to 99% , if it is acted upon immediately. Once a stain gets deep into the roots of the fabric, it becomes next to impossible to remove it completely.
Water Conditions: One of the primary reasons for yellowness in whites is due to the deposits of calcium and magnesium salts on the fabrics which is usually found in hard water. The sulphates and silicates of hard water also render most of the detergents ineffective thus making the laundry process useless. In ideal conditions, water should contain less than 20 ppm of dissolved salts.
Chemistry: The laundry process works on basic chemistry involving a ‘Emulsifier and a Detergent’ to start the process for the basic oil and dirt removal in cold water. Followed by an alkalinity booster to set the right Ph in increased temperatures. A 15-20-minute cycle of chlorine or oxygen bleach which not only acts as an optical brightener but also disinfects and kills the bacteria. This is followed by a neutralizer to bring the Ph back to normal. And then a fabric softener to give the linen the desired fragrance and softness.
Wash Cycles: For all kinds of washing, the machine should be loaded adequately to allow room for the linen to fully utilize the mechanical motion and give optimum cleaning. Neither underloading nor overloading can give the good results. Typically, white linen requires some presoaking to looseout the dirt followed by a cold wash of around 7-10 minutes. Next comes a hot water alkaline wash of around 15-20 minutes followed by multiple rinses with neutralizers and softeners.
It is not the most difficult task to take care of the white linen, but it is important to understand how exactly the different elements in linen care play an important part in preserving the perfect white luster and purity.
Traditionally the Dhobi system in India has overlooked most of these facts in view of the cost, thus creating an air around difficulty of managing white linen. However, in some years, the textile management industry has seen a surge of professional laundry companies and startups that have brought about a paradigm shift to this largely unorganized industry by advocating the right principles and the right technologies to be used in fabric care.
Maintaining whiteness in linen is the most essential aspect which every end-user deserves. However are they getting the whiteness that they want is a big question?
When linen whiteness deteriorates to grey, it is generally the result of poor washing, whether it is hospitality, healthcare, industrial or commercial laundering.
Herein lies the problem- people are unwilling to give correct costs in the cleaning process. The result is deteriorating the white linens. If linen greying is something you have to deal with, check your wash process starting with this list:
• Low water temperaturescorrect temperature is very essential to get rid of stubborn stains and keep linen white, generally 65 degrees to 80 degrees is mandate for better
• Short wash cycles – to cut down cost if we neglect the proper washing cycles we end up damaging the linen.
• Inadequate chemistry – it is generally observed lack of technically sound workers, end up dozing the chemicals inadequately. Correct dozing of chemicals in proper washing cycles is very important and there are automatic dozing pumps to get rid of this problem. If the right amount of chemical with correct temperature and soft water is taken care of then it is possible to achieve good whiteness.
• Poor water conditions – Soft water and whiteness of linen goes hand in hand. Hardness of water should be checked regularly – water hardness should be below 50ppm for washing and also below 10ppm for boilers to function efficiently.
• Overloaded equipment- Washer extractors shouldn’t be overly loaded, so one should always weigh the load before putting for washing and allow the chemicals work in the correct manner.
Keeping linen white requires attention to each of the above areas. It takes time and attention to maintain high quality of white linen but it can be done. Today’s technology has evolved, and we have seen the use of RFID’s helping to track the number of washes before discarding the linen and also, some professional chemical companies do a weekly check of whiteness providing a brief report.
Despite the superior technology and growth in this industry, today still we see laundries, chemical technicians and chemical companies are under more pressure than ever to hurry up and get the job done. What suffers is the quality that end-users desire and expects – clean, bright, white linen. I think one of the biggest reasons for the lack of whiteness is that essential washing processes are being cut short. But the companies who are paying for the job to be done, don’t know anything about laundering. They know how much they are willing to spend for laundry service and quite often give the business to the lowest bidder and the linen ends up paying the price.
The bottom line is that it takes a certain amount of time, temperature, chemistry and mechanical action to remove soil.