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Hospital Laundry - Kitchen Towels Catching on Fire - What Would Cause This?

Question: I manage a hospital Laundry that has been challenged with cleaning the kitchen towels. Recently we had a fire in the kitchen and the rags that were processed that morning seemed to spontaneously combust into a fire. This is not the first incident of the rags/mops in the kitchen doing this. Any thoughts on what causes this?

Answer: The answer is quite simple; the kitchen towels were not clean. Grease is being left in the towels and the heat in the dryer reaches a temperature high enough to start them on fire. There can be times when the kitchen towels come out of the dryers and are stacked up tightly as in a container, and again you can have combustion and fire.

The washing process is not nearly good enough to remove all of the fat and greases that have been absorbed into the towels. Generally these types of items need very hot water and a detergent system that can saponify the greasy soils so that they can be removed from the fabric.

Think of grease in a frying pan, when the temperature drops the grease turns solid and is difficult to remove, however heating the pan melts the grease and it can be wiped away quite easily. The same is true for the washing process; the only difference is the alkaline detergent acts the wiping process by breaking the grease up into little particles and allows it to drain off the fabric.

Note: Be sure to cool down the towels by spinning the dryer without heat to avoid spontaneous combustion which can occur if the goods are left in a basket for long periods of time.

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Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Employee Crushes Hand on Ironer

SOMMERVILLE, Mass. — A commercial laundry has been fined by OSHA after an employee’s had was crushed while lubricating the chain of an ironer that was running. The OSHA inspection found that the machine was not de-energized prior to the maintenance that was attempted. Royal Institutional Services Inc., has been cited by OSHA for four alleged violations of workplace safety standards. The laundry, owned by Angelica Corp., faces a total of $49,935 in proposed fines.