Preventing On Premise Laundry Fires

February 7, 2017 - 4:32 pm

An on-premises laundry system is a convenience factor for many food service and lodging facilities. Having the convenience to do laundry on location can prove to be of a great advantage in various aspects. First of all, it means that all your linen requirements will be solved on your facility without you having to rely on outside sources. Control! With that control comes the responsibility, one of which is doing everything possible to prevent laundry fires.

This also means that by performing this service at your company you frequently spend less and save inventory that is in transit. This increases the possibility of lost and stolen linen. I find, with your staff doing the washing of linens you have total control of the wash process. This sometimes proves to be a smarter thing to do because now you can wash your loads on the correct cycle designed by your chemical provider- just for your specific needs. This possibly can result in the reduction of wear and tear on the linens and reduction of stains. One common advantage of doing the linen in house is the desire of the management and staff to decrease the abuse of linen. When laundry is done off premise by an outside company you will see the table cloths and napkins used to wipe up grease and such, and that helps no one. When the linen is owned by your establishment you tend to take care of better, because all parties feel they have more “skin in the game”. That’s my experience.

However, even though an on premise laundry service has its many advantages, one of the disadvantages is the possibility of laundry fires. Some incidents have left places facing losses in the form of thousands to millions of dollars in facility damage.

Reports have suggested that the cause for most of these commercial laundry fires is not the dryers, but spontaneous ignition. I find that often the reason for this is that dryers do not produce temperatures high enough to cause explosion. Commercial dryers installed on location also need to meet American National Standards Institute requirements for safe operation to obtain certification from the American Gas Association.

However, spontaneous ignition, when looking at past cases, has been the more common culprit in the laundry areas. This means that something can self-ignite because of combustible material through a chemical action as oxidation of its components.

Oxidation is the combination of materials like linen with fuel with air that produces a breakdown of material. The oxidation causes decay and then can reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees. That temperature with a fuel source of grease and then oxygen can then create laundry fires.

With all my years of experience, I have seen more than my share of fires and I will use one for example – Think of the operators who wash their dirty grease rags towards the end of their shift. They then put them in the dryer and dry as they go home for the day, When the dryer cycle is complete, then then just let sit in the dryer overnight in one big pile.

Because the laundry machine and chemicals did not get all of the grease out. They then sit in a pile and by being somewhat still warm already, they start cooking. All they need now is fresh oxygen hours later to ignite. That happens later, when a security guard smells something on his midnight walk and opens the door of the dryer!

I know this could have been avoided if the staff was trained properly.

Staff should be trained to:
• Not allow rags with grease to sit in any type of pile
• Wash greasy rags at the highest temperature of water
• Have staff use cool down cycle and remove all linen from dryers at the end of the day.
• Clean lint traps at least every other load.
• Clean dust around back of machine especially on gas dryers.
• Check outside duct work to be sure of a good clean flow of air without any obstructions
• Never store linen or chemicals near boilers or furnaces.
• Prevention though education is best and there are many resources including your chemical provider, insurance company and local fire department can help.

Thanks for reading, I hope it adds some insight. Please share and like online and let us know if you have comments, questions or other stories to share.

Written by Jerry Bauer, Sani Wash Account Manager,

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