Originally posted – Mar 07, 2014

During a recent webinar I conducted for the Coin Laundry Association, one of the questions that came up from several of the attendees was how to handle tough kitchen grease stains – either in a residential wash-dry-fold load or a commercial account.

First of all, the way to treat home kitchen grease stains and restaurant grease stains are two completely different animals. Let’s discuss the residential laundry first.

When you have wash-dry-fold customers who bring in towels or other kitchen items, it’s probably in a quantity small enough to where it makes sense to take the time and effort to either soak or pretreat these items in order to help remove those grease stains.

When soaking, use a high-quality industrial enzyme detergent and soak the items overnight. Personally, I like to soak those greasy wash-dry-fold items in an Igloo cooler to keep the water temperature as close to 130 degrees as possible throughout the soaking process.

An enzyme detergent works best at that water temperature, so the longer you can keep it at close to 130 degrees the better your results will be. Once the water temperature falls below 80 degrees, the enzyme goes dormant and becomes ineffective.

If you’d rather pretreat these items, there are a few ways to do so. First, you can pretreat the stains with a citrus-based solvent or perhaps a product like Simple Green. You would apply the chemical right to the grease stain. When you’re stain-treating grease, let the cleaning product work for a while before you wash the items; let them sit for 20 to 30 minutes before you actually run the items through the wash cycle.

Another great product for pretreating home grease stains is Formula 409. It’s a great over-the-counter product – it’s a solvent-based solution that is wetcleanable, so you can use it in laundry.

A third pretreating option is a combination solution of ammonia and Dawn dishwashing detergent. Create a 50/50 blend, apply it directly to the stains and let it sit there for a while.

There is a fourth, more expensive option for particularly stubborn grease stains that just won’t seem to come out. This product is called Pull Out, which is available through drycleaning suppliers. It comes in an aerosol can and was originally developed to cleaning granite countertops and other stone surfaces. It literally breaks down grease that’s been set in, so you can use it even after a garment has been dried and the stain has set in.

You simply spray it on the stain and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, until it dries completely. It will break loose the grease and encapsulate it in the fibers, creating a white powdery residue that you can then shake out of the garment before rewashing it. And the best part is that it’s safe on almost any fabric and is even color-safe.

Those are the main solutions for dealing with residential wash-dry-fold grease issues. However, as I mentioned earlier, restaurant accounts are a whole other story.

With commercial restaurant laundry, you’re likely going to be dealing with kitchen mops, rags and towels that are used to wipe down fryers and grills. There is a lot of extremely greasy food involved, and you’re going to receive stained items that will be virtually impossible to get clean at a self-service laundry without making some serious modifications to your water temperature, time, cycles and chemistry.

For this reason, I always question whether it’s worth it for a laundry owner to get involved in that type of business. Yes, you can certainly do this type of laundry if you want to; however, for the best results, it’s going to involve raising your water temperature as high as 180 to 190 degrees. It’s also going to require you to program a machine to offer multiple washes with multiple rinses in between.

For instance, you may start with a high pH bath at high temperature, rinse that out, and come back with a second high pH bath for a longer time, also at a high temperature of more than 180 degrees. Once you rinse out the second bath at a warm temperature, come back with a short chlorine bleach cycle at about 160 degrees – then, rinse that and come back with a souring cycle at 100 degrees, which will bring the fabric back to a pH of 5 or 6.

Of course, the best way to do all of this commercial work is to have your chemical supplier help you with the specific programs so that they match up the exact chemicals you’ll need and that work the best.

Again, yes, it can be done. The question is whether you really want to do that and compete with the companies that are doing tons of this type of restaurant laundry in tunnel washers – where they can control each section of the tunnel with regard to chemistry, temperature and time.

Perhaps if you’re in a small rural area, you might be able to tackle these types of accounts, but my recommendation has always been to stay away from those heavily soiled restaurant accounts.

You can seek out commercial business, but maybe go after clients with more lightly soiled items, such as bars and coffee shops. With those types of businesses, you know the stains likely won’t be grease-based, and they can be removed easily at a 160-degree water temperature with chlorine bleach. Those types of accounts require lower temperatures, less chemistry and less time.

Otherwise, you might end up spending a lot of money soaking tons of greasy restaurant towels – and, believe me, when you get into larger volumes of these kinds of items, you will never get paid back for the chemistry or the time you’ve spent.

If you’re still considering doing heavy-duty restaurant laundry at your store, it’s absolutely crucial to make sure you wash the items at least twice at a high temperature. You need to get as much of that grease out of the load as possible, before drying it. Also, be sure not to over-dry these items. The last thing you want is a dryer fire.

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