Originally posted – Feb 10, 2014
In past columns, we’ve discussed all of the different types of products and chemicals than can be used to successfully handle heavy-duty commercial accounts, as well as to service some of the more challenging wash-dry-fold orders.
With many of today’s detergents and other cleaning products, it’s crucial to properly train your employees in the safe and effective use of these chemicals. However, human error, of course, is still a possibility.
Fortunately, one option for laundry owners – to make this process a bit safer and more controlled, as well as to reduce the amount of chemical and detergent handling that will be required of your attendants – is to actually have the machines directly inject those chemicals into the wash loads at the proper time and in the proper increments.
Chemical injection is something that’s commonplace in the commercial laundry industry; however, at most self-service laundries, all of the detergent, softener and other chemicals are added by hand. But, if you are really serious about building your drop-off laundry business, especially with commercial accounts, chemical injection may be something to strongly consider.
To add chemical injection systems to some of the larger washers you use for your drop-off business, the first step is to contact your local chemical distributor. Some of them will actually provide all of the equipment free of charge, as long as you agree to buy your detergent and other cleaning chemicals from them. Other distributors will have you buy the equipment outright and may install it and program it for you. Basically, it just depends on which chemical supplier you’re working with and what type of your relationship you have with them.
In general, all of the chemical injection equipment fits on all of the major brands of washers. In fact, most of the new machines have ports in the back onto which these injection units can be hooked.
For older machines that don’t have these types of ports in the back, the chemical injection systems can simply hook onto the flush valves; when you flush a specific valve that fills into a certain sub-compartment, it will activate that soap dispenser and inject whatever chemicals you decide you want for that particular type of load.
The great thing about this is that you can be very specific about what chemicals (and how much of each) you want to include in each load. It’s a lot easier to control the actual amount you put in, and when you’re dealing with expensive chemicals, portion control is critically important.
As most store owners know, a lot of laundry attendants think more is better – more detergent, more softener, more bleach, whatever. However, that’s definitely not the case with high-end laundry detergents. In fact, a lot less is generally much better – especially because you want to be able to get all of those chemicals out during the rinse cycles.
Beyond simple portion control, chemical injection also enables you to set up pre-programmed settings for the different types of loads that your store handles on a regular basis.
For example, at my store, we have special chemical settings for down comforters, white loads, colored loads, restaurant rags, sheets and towels. Our towel cycle is similar to our sheet cycle – in both of them we inject a chemical sanitizer that gives us the ability to market our laundry services to medical facilities. It will give the load a complete sanitation, killing anything that may be on there. Of course, that sanitizer is an expensive product – a five-gallon container is $240. However, in a 60-pound washer, it only takes an ounce or two of the product to sanitize an entire load. So, for both economic and quality-control reasons, I want to be absolutely certain that sanitizer is being dispensed properly.
The number of pre-programmed chemical injection cycles depends on your particular equipment. For instance, I have three new commercial-grade OPL machines, and I can program up to 100 different cycles on those washers.
In all, my store has eight washers that feature chemical injection systems. The three OPL machines are not available to my walk-in customers, but the other five washers are.
On the five machines open to the public, I set up specific washers to tackle specific types of commercial loads. What’s more, these machines are located toward the back of the store, making it less likely that my self-service customers will venture back there to use them.
But some customers do use these machines, because they offer a special longer cycle that features a hot extra wash and an extra rinse cycle. The machines can go for almost 50 minutes, and some of my walk-in customers love that. What I have not done yet – but I really should do – is to charge a complementary price for that extra wash and rinse time. I don’t think I would get any pushback from my customers, because those who use it understand the value.
Also, we have a great commercial fabric softener that smells absolutely fantastic, and we use those five machines to inject that softener into our residential wash-dry-fold orders. Of course, we can turn on and off that softener injection.
Certainly, your chemical distributor will be able to help you create the specific injection formulas for your business’ particular needs.
One area in which chemical injection can be very helpful is with regard to water quality. Water hardness is a critical piece of the puzzle that you’ll want your chemical distributor to work with you on. Have him test your water hardness, which will in turn determine exactly what chemicals – and how much of each – you’ll need to add to your different wash loads. In essence, you can use injection to compensate for water hardness with your chemistry.
Water hardness is a huge issue when it comes to how well your detergents work – and how well they are able to suspend dirt and stain particles, and break that stuff loose. So, if you have exceptionally hard water, it’s something you need to discuss with your chemical company and have them walk you through it. And chemical injection is a perfect way to deal with those water issues.
The cost of adding chemical injection to your store can range anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per machine. The variance in price depends on whether you decide on installing a pumping system or a water flush system. The water flush systems are more expensive, but I personally prefer them.
If you add chemical injection to your store, some of your self-service customers are going to want to know what it’s all about. Therefore, you need to be prepared to talk to them about it and educate them. And, in many cases, it can provide an opportunity to upsell these customers.
As for your commercial accounts, chemical injection systems are perfect for ensuring chemical portion control, as well as overall quality control of your finished products.