Q: I have an account with a nursing home and the bed linens are showing thin areas and holes much faster than expected. What is the life expectancy for such items? Is there something I can do to prevent damage?
A: Several factors determine the life expectancy of linens. Frequency of use, (referred to as PAR in the industry), fabric characteristics (fiber content, yarn count, density), and the wash formula will affect the length of time these items can be used.
Items received in DLI’s Garment Analysis Laboratory generally show degradation in the cotton fibers. Chemical tests show oxycellulose in the damaged areas. Oxycellulose is formed when cotton is degraded by an alkaline oxidizing substance such as bleach in the presence of air. Many of these damaged items show that a bleach residue remains in the fabric, indicating improper rinsing or excessive amounts of bleach used in the wash formula. Overuse of chlorine bleach is a common cause for the formation of oxycellulose in commercial laundering.
Bleach is an excellent whitener and sterilizer, but proper usage is essential.
DLI recommends one to two quarts of one percent bleach per 100 lb. load to provide longer life and high quality.
Even this concentration of bleach must be thoroughly neutralized and rinsed. Generally, 50% polyester/50% cotton blend sheets should give 150 washings.
A 100% cotton sheet of the same yarn count and weight will not last as long. Another way to prolong use is to purchase flat sheets with equal size hems. If hems are of equal size they will be rotated end for end, resulting in equal distribution of abrasive wear.
For more information, please see the following documents in DLI's Drycleaning Encyclopedia App or the online version in the Member's Only Section (available to all DLI members except the Budget membership Category):
- Laundry Procedures No. 50: Standard Wash/White Work Formula: White Dress Shirts, Towels, Linens
- Laundry Procedures No. 51: Life Expectancy of Linens
- Textile Analysis Bulletin Service (TABS) No. 420: Pilling Household Linens
- Industry Focus No. 5, 1994: Laundering Hospital Linens: Providing Quality Service
- Fabrics & Fashions No. 485: Cotton, Linen, and Ramie
- Fabrics & Fashions No. 537: Linen