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Uniforms are Costly. How do You Clean Them for the Greatest Longevity?

Having spent 30 years as a teacher and coach at both the high school and collegiate levels, Steve Leib understands the challenges facing athletic facilities. As a college football coach he has witnessed the struggles of processing athletic laundry and cleaning helmets and pads. As sales manager for Sports Laundry Systems, Leib shares his knowledge of equipment and athletic laundry/gear care — ever urging athletic programs to install laundry solutions that clean, disinfect and work to extend uniform/gear life.

Q Equipment managers handle loads of dirty uniforms, loops, practice gear and protective gear. Outfitting an athlete and team is costly. How should these items be cleaned so they last longer?

A Extending the life of uniforms, practice gear, helmets and pads is important to any athletic organization’s bottom line. The way in which items are washed and dried is critical to their longevity. First, use only highly programmable washers with automatic chemical injection. Second, use fewer chemicals and cooler water temperatures, which is possible through the use of an integrated ozone system. Third, utilize moisture-sensing dryers programmed by item type. They prevent over-drying and damage to delicate (and expensive) uniforms.

1) The Highly Programmable Washer-Extractor 

Ensure athletic items are properly washed according to pre-programed settings, exactly matching fabric recommendations. This will help prevent damage to uniforms and towels so they last longer. Look for a highly flexible washer with programming control over mechanical action, rotation action, extract speeds, automatic chemical injection, ozone injection, water temperatures, baths and rinses. Most washers — even when they are programmable — don’t allow this level of control. Sports Laundry System Washers with the Inteli Control do provide total control. Each item type (towels, uniforms, loops, warm-ups) should have its own program to ensure a high-quality clean with minimal fiber loss. Operators simply load the washers, enter a program number and press start.

2) The Ozone Component 

Ozone injection eliminates hot water temperatures and significantly reduces chemical usage. Anytime you use fewer chemicals, and cold water instead of hot water, you reduce fabric damage. An added bonus is that ozone disinfects athletic laundry, as well, without bleach, hot water and softeners. A programmable ozone system should work in concert with your highly programmable washer. Ozone gas attaches to and breaks down organic materials like soils, bacteria, molds and greases. Once broken down, these materials are easily removed from fabric by detergent in the wash cycle. Ozone works best in cold water, and since ozone leaves only oxygen behind, it is also environmentally friendly.

3) A Moisture-Sensing Dryer 

Athletic laundry experiences the most abuse in the dryer, where heat, friction and tumbling action combine. Anytime you can eliminate over-drying, your uniforms will last longer and experience less fiber loss. Sports Laundry System Dryers feature the Uniform Life Extension (ULE) moisture sensing system, which measures drum moisture using a number of sensors. Unlike some moisture sensing systems available, the ULE system uses the entire surface area of the lifters within the dryer cylinder as sensors. This provides extremely accurate moisture readings. Featuring 12 programmable dryness levels and additional programmable heat time, ULE can target any dryness level from zero to 40 percent. When the load has reached its preset target level of dryness, the control shuts the dryer off. The result? Athletic laundry and uniforms experience less damage and up to 31 percent less fiber loss. The moisture-sensing system not only prevents over-drying and resulting fabric damage, it cuts energy costs.

Q Do you buy the washing machines, ozone systems and dryers separately?

A It’s best to purchase a system – one that brings together washers, ozone injection and dryers. Remember to look for a system that is proven to disinfect, offers validated ozone and touts superior washer programmability. That way, you can clean and disinfect athletic laundry.

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