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What is alkali hydrolysis?

Question: What is alkali hydrolysis? How can I test for it? Identify it? Prevent it? Resolve it? I know that washload titrations can identify alkali hydro. However, if our titration levels are normal. Can alkali hydrolysis still be affecting our merchandise? Our white tablecloths have become tender at the corners breaking apart (in one direction) and the breakdown of fibers is visible.
- Brian, GM of O.K. Towel and Uniform Supply, Elizabeth, NJ

Answer: The process of fibers breaking down in fabrics generally describes alkali hydrolysis. Excessively high pH levels, along with high temperatures, causes the damage. The fibers are pitted and noticeably weak, commonly referred to as tensile strength loss. Cotton is generally resistant to high levels of alkali, but polyester blends can be easily damaged from the combination of high temperatures and pH levels in excess of 11.5. Quats, commonly used in chemical fabric softeners, will greatly increase alkali hydrolysis when processing polyester material. Most manufacturers recommend not using Quats on polyester fabrics.
Choosing the proper alkali levels for the fabric type is important. It is also necessary to monitor the pH in the wash bath, maintain temperatures to 160 degrees or less, and not overload the wash wheel. The proper number of rinses and correct stepping down of temperature in each bath is important, and there should be less than 50 PPM of alkalinity in the last rinse. The final step where sour is used to remove residual alkalinity should be adequate in time or step to adjust the desired pH evenly across the material.

Since the fabric content isn’t identified, but was mentioned to be white linen, it should not be overlooked that bleaching can cause damage. Proper methods of bleaching and rinsing, and the use of an anti-chlor can be important to linen life.

Rich Fitzmorris, Vice President, Laundry Division, Sunburst Chemicals.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Ecolab Acquires Dober Chemical’S Textile Care Business

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ecolab Inc. a leader in cleaning, sanitizing, food safety and infection prevention products and services announced it has purchased the commercial laundry division of Dober Chemical Corporation. The acquisition includes Dober’s laundry chemical and waste water treatment and Ultrax dispensing businesses as well as an exclusive partnership to market and provide key components of its Spindle monitoring software.

“Dober is respected throughout the industry for its innovative monitoring technology, product chemistry and commitment to service – qualities that complement our own strengths at Ecolab,” said Brian Henke, vice president and general manager, Ecolab Textile Care North America. “As we expand our North American commercial laundry business, innovation and service excellence will continue to be our top priority as we partner with our customers to deliver unsurpassed value to run their operations more efficiently, sustainably and cost effectively.”

“Ecolab and Dober share the same customercentric approach to service and innovative technology,” said John Dobrez, president Dober Chemical Corp. “This is an exciting development because it builds on the strengths of both companies to move the industry forward.”

Through this agreement, Spindle Technologies,a division of Dober, is forming a strategic alliance with Ecolab Textile Care in an exclusive licensing agreement for its ChemWatch Software technology and the OPTRAX Utility Module.

“There will be no movement of people as they currently all operate remotely,” said Henke. “The Dober leadership team is very skilled and respected in the industry. We plan to have them as part of the team moving forward. During the transition, both businesses will operate as usual and we do not expect there to be any changes in the service the customers are used to receiving.”