Focus On…Laundry

focuson Laundry

Designing your laundry room for maximum efficiency

Kim Shady tells how the benefits of a well-designed on-premise laundry operation extend beyond the laundry room

The on-premise laundry can and should play an important role in controlling your long-term care facility’s operating costs. Often conceived as an afterthought in the design process, an improperly sized, designed, and equipped laundry room can increase utility, labor, and other operational costs.

Designing an ideal laundry room that will run smoothly and efficiently requires that several factors be considered. This article outlines those factors and demonstrates how beneficial a well-planned laundry room can be, using as an example a recently renovated and expanded skilled nursing facility in Boston, Sherrill House. This independent, not-for-profit facility increased its resident capacity from 164 beds to 196 beds yet is saving money through the improved operational efficiency of its new on-premise laundry.

First, Find a Partner
Before starting your laundry room, one of the best resources you can turn to for information is your local equipment distributor. “Whenever we start a new project, we always find a good distributor, whether we’re upgrading the kitchen or, as in this case, the laundry room,” says Don Powell, formerly the executive director of Sherrill House. He is now Sherrill House’s project manager for the extensive, ongoing construction project. “Our distributor, Daniels Equipment Company, was great when it came to designing a laundry room that met our expectations,” Powell adds.

Several factors must be considered before selecting a distributor, including what kind of service it will provide after the sale, what type of service agreements it offers, how long it’s been in business, etc. A good distributor will be there for you after the sale, not just when its representatives are trying to sell you its products.

Once you’ve selected your distributor, get a representative of the company involved in the design process as early as possible. This will help to circumvent any potential problems.

“We learned early on that you need to get the architect and the equipment distributor to the table during the initial design phase, rather than having the architect design something and finding out later, once you start to spec out the equipment, that you can barely fit it into the room, much less move around,” says Powell. “Sometimes architects don’t take into account the myriad of carts and other pieces of equipment that have to fit in the laundry room,” he explains.

How Much Space Is Enough?
The size of your laundry room will affect everything else in your laundry operation: the equipment mix selected, the laundry’s operating costs, and its operating efficiency. To make sure your laundry room will be large enough, the first step is to determine the amount of laundry, in pounds, that you’ll be processing in a day. Based on that number, the laundry room floor plan should include 1.2 sq. ft. of floor space per pound of soiled laundry processed per day. Fifty percent of the total square footage should be dedicated to equipment, 20% to soiled linen, 20% to space for folding and carts, and 10% to clean-linen storage.

Allowing 1.2 sq. ft. per pound of laundry processed daily may seem like a lot, but bigger is definitely better when it comes to an on-premise laundry room-a fact to which Powell can attest. “The biggest benefit of our new laundry room is definitely the space. There’s more room for laundry staff to move around in, enough space for them to take clean linen out of the dryer, and a large enough area for them to fold it properly without bumping into each other,” he says.

Sherrill House’s new laundry room’s increased square footage has also afforded the facility the luxury of clean-linen storage in the laundry room, opening up much needed space in nursing units. “With the extra room, we’ve been able to eliminate a linen room on each floor, replacing it with two laundry carts-one for dirty linen and one for clean linen,” says Powell. “Things run much more smoothly with the cart system.”

Selecting the Right Equipment Mix
Choosing the right equipment mix will play a large role in controlling the labor costs of your on-premise laundry. An essential factor to consider is the size of the machines. As with determining the square footage needed for the laundry room, you must base your equipment selection on how much laundry your facility will process in a day (see sidebar, “Formula for Determining Proper Equipment Size”), as well as how many hours each day you want to operate the laundry room. Remember, the square footage of your laundry room will determine the size of the equipment it can house. Thus, if you need three 60-lb washer-extractors to operate efficiently but are forced to install just two 20-lb washers because of space constraints, your facility’s labor costs will go up because of the extra hours required to keep up with the amount of laundry that needs to be processed.

You are looking for an efficient balance of space, labor, and capacity in your laundry room. For example, Sherrill House previously had two 50-lb washer-extractors and three 50-lb tumblers to process the soiled linen for its then 164-bed facility, and its laundry operated 160 hours per week. Today, it has two 60-lb washer-extractors, one 100-lb washer-extractor, three 75-lb tumblers, and a 120-lb tumbler for its renovated 196-bed facility. This has reduced the laundry’s operation to 120 hours per week, saving the facility the cost of one full-time position.

In addition to the labor savings, Sherrill House will also save nearly $40,000 annually by reducing the amount of disposable products it uses. “When we started the redesign and upgrading, reducing the amount of disposables we used was one of our goals,” Powell says. “The plus of allowing more space for the laundry room is that it gave us greater capacity, with the understanding that we could eventually start to use washable rather than disposable incontinence products,” he explains.

Besides the proper sizing of equipment, another factor to consider in choosing washer-extractors for your on-premise laundry room is the type of machine. No matter which brand of equipment you choose, odds are that the manufacturer has various models of the same size machine.

There are three styles of washer-extractors in the industry. The hard-mount, low-speed-extraction type is the least expensive; the hard-mount, high-speed-extraction type is higher priced; and the soft-mount, high-speed-extraction type is the highest priced. Keep in mind, however, that in most instances, the higher-priced machines will have the lowest TCO (total cost of ownership). Features that affect operating costs are extraction speed, number of fill valves, rinse types, and programmable wash cycles. Your distributor can help you choose the right size machine for your facility, as well as one that is best suited for your linen/fabric requirements. A washer-extractor with a higher extraction speed, or g-force, will leave less water in the linens at the end of the wash cycle, thus requiring less drying time and decreasing your costs for natural gas or electricity.

It was by combining the proper equipment mix with a higher extraction speed that Sherrill House was able to cut 40 hours a week from its labor schedule-despite the increased laundry demands of adding 32 beds and the switch to reusable incontinence products.

Designing for Peak Efficiency
A properly designed laundry room also aids in keeping the work flow moving efficiently. Your laundry room should be designed in a circular pattern, in which the laundry room attendant enters through one door, moves through the different task areas, and exits through another door. This not only means the fewest steps for laundry workers, but it also prevents cross-contamination from soiled to clean items.

The ideal laundry room setup for any healthcare facility includes a soiled-linen room, a wash room, and a clean-linen room. The clean-linen room is where you should allow space for clean-linen storage. These rooms must be separated by doors, which also prevents cross-contamination, and the air exchange must direct airflow toward the soiled-linen room to prevent any airborne pathogens from entering the clean-linen storage room.

Processing laundry at Sherrill House also took on new efficiencies through the implementation of a mesh bag system, which was planned as part of the new laundry room’s design. This system saves a great deal of time. Powell explains: “In the past, we’d put all the residents’ dirty ‘personals’ together in a plastic bag, take them to the laundry room, sort them into dark and light colors, wash and dry them, and then sort them again for delivery back to each resident. Now we put each resident’s darks into one mesh bag and his or her lights into another. The bags are taken to the laundry room and put into the washer-extractors and then the tumblers, then each resident’s personal items are folded and returned to them in their mesh bags-no more sorting and no more lost articles of clothing.”

To summarize, whether you are thinking about building a new laundry room or renovating an existing one, your local equipment distributor will be able to share ideas on how to properly design a laundry room with the right amount of space and the proper equipment mix, tailoring the work flow to your facility’s unique needs. This will save both time and money because your on-premise laundry will run more efficiently.

Kim Shady, National Sales Manager for UniMac, has worked in the commercial laundry industry for more than 18 years. Owned by Alliance Laundry Systems, UniMac offers an industrial line of on-premise laundry equipment designed for efficiency and durability. For more information, contact him at (800) 587-5458 or visit To send your comments to the author and editors, please e-mail To order reprints in quantities of 100 or more, call (866) 377-6454.
Formula for Determining Proper Equipment Size
To choose the best size for your laundry equipment, you can calculate how much laundry you’ll be processing in a single wash cycle with this formula:

10 lbs* + total number of beds in facility + 7 (days in the week) ˜ hours you operate laundry room ˜ 1.2 cycles per hour = estimated pounds processed per cycle

*The initial 10 lbs assumes that 35% of the census requires incontinence products. If your facility has a higher incidence of incontinence, add 2 lbs for every additional 10%.

Photo by Steve Dunwell

Ventless Dryer
The ADVANTAGEÖ dryer’s ventless design eliminates the risk of stack fires. This dryer from Adventure Laundry Systems consumes less than half the energy of conventional dryers, saving money with every load. It dries all fabrics at low temperature, which is easier on fabric and eliminates cooldown time. The dryer uses fresh cold tap water for cooling and returns it as clean hot water for a companion washer, with no additional energy cost. In most settings, hot water heaters or boilers are not needed.

Constructed of stainless steel, the ADVANTAGE dryer’s additional features include an extra-large door opening; a reversible door; a no-hassle lint filter; and simple, easy-to-use controls.

Brandie Couch, Adventure Laundry, 860-895-8875,
Soft-Mount High-Speed Extractor
Maytag« Commercial Soft-Mount High-Speed Extractors feature 20 programmable cycles with up to 99 steps each to customize for each load type. They are programmable in eight languages, including Spanish and French. There is no need to bolt down Maytag Commercial Soft-Mount High-Speed Extractors. The high-speed extraction removes more water in the final spin to cut drying times and energy costs.

Available in a variety of sizes from 25 to 125 lbs, the big commercial capacities allow a facility to maintain its linen supply without interruption. Like all Maytag products, they have heavy-duty front and rear bearings, trouble-free die-cast door lock assemblies, and an extra-large drain valve to prevent clogging and reduce cycle time.

Leo Yokiel, Maytag, 614-787-8191,
Cost-Efficient Dryers
American Dryer Corp.’s Solaris dryers’ compact design keeps heat inside the dryer tumbler, using less energy without sacrificing drying time, thereby saving on utility costs. Hot air is forced to move the entire length of the tumbler and across the laundry. Combined with a unique cabinet design, this prevents hot air from escaping and provides for more efficient drying time, as well as also helping to keep the air surrounding the dryer cool.

The Solaris line is equipped with safety features such as the S.A.F.E. fire-suppression system, a clean lint monitor, cooldown cycles, and more. Solaris dryers are available in 20- to 75-lb capacities.

Jill Tempest, American Dryer Corporation, 508-678-9000,
UniMac’s 60-lb washer-extractor has features that reduce cycle time, resulting in lower labor and energy costs. With its higher extraction speed of up to 300 g-force, there is less moisture left in towels, thereby reducing drying time. Operating the dryer less often means annual energy costs can be reduced significantly.

Patti Westpfahl, UniMac, 920-748-4282,
Laundry System
The MicroMasterÖ Laundry System from Speed Queen is flexible and reliable. The technologically advanced MicroMaster Laundry System offers programmable flexibility to extend fabric life by allowing laundry staff to program washer-extractors and tumblers to work together.

Patti Westpfahl, Speed Queen, 920-748-4282,
Washer-Extractor Line
Continental Girbau, Inc., offers a complete line of washer-extractors with controls that can assist in enabling high-level disinfection capability. Continental’s Pro-SeriesÖ washer-extractors with the Premier Microprocessor Control thermostatically regulate water temperature. This enables chemical additives to penetrate stains, suspend solids, and disinfect fabrics without increasing the external water-heater temperature.

High extraction speeds remove more moisture from fabrics upon completion of the wash cycle and eliminate bottlenecks created at the dryer. Pro-Series washer-extractors, available in 18- to 255-lb capacities, require no bolt-down or conventional concrete foundations, and they are constructed of AISI Type 304 stainless steel. Major components are warranted for five years and all other parts for three years, and the washer-extractors are backed by a nationwide distribution and parts network.

Amy Arnetveit, Continental Girbau, Inc., 800-256-1073,
Washer-Extractor Timer Control
The E-P OneTouch microprocessor timer control is offered exclusively on Milnor’s T-Series line of washer-extractors, which have 35- to 60-lb (16- to 27-kg) capacities. This control provides ease of use with four preprogrammed formulas for healthcare laundries. These formula selections result in fast operation and reduced operator training time.

Gary Gauthier, Pellerin Milnor Corporation, 800-469-8780,

Topics: Articles , Facility management , Operations