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Laundering Incontinence Products

Question: What do you recommend for washing reusable incontinence pads and similar products so that the odor can be most effectively removed? 

Answer: Incontinence pads and similar products a can be a problem with regard to odor after washing. The primary reason for this type of problem goes back to the construction and purpose of these types of textile products. Incontinence pads are designed to absorb and hold soils inside the pad, and they have an impervious polymer film on one side of the pad to hold the liquid soils in the pad. Because of this construction it is very difficult to wash and rinse out all the soils from the pads. So it is very important to make sure that a pad formula have extended wash and rinse times and even to add one or two additional rinses to assure adequate removal of the loosened soils and detergents. It may also be an advantage to slightly under load a washer, to increase the fabric to water ratio, which will improve flushing and rinsing.

Since the normal flushing action of the wash and rinse water in a washer is impeded by the impervious film on one side of the pad, one of the key mechanisms of cleaning is severely limited. The wash water and detergents only have one route into the pad, and only one route out. And, since the interior of the pad is designed to hold onto soil and fluids, it takes a lot of time for liquids to “exchange” in the wash and rinse processes. All this means that it will take more time to wash and rinse a pad. But it also means that if improperly washed, some small amount of soil may stay in the interior of the pad. And that may be a contributing factor to any off odors.

Another aspect of the odor problems with incontinence products could be the use of chlorine bleaches. If urine residuals are in the pad during a bleach operation the chlorine will react with the soil and create chloramines. These chloramines have a strong, pungent odor that can be offensive. So it is important to thoroughly rinse away as much soil as possible from the interior of the pad before thebleach operation to reduce the potential of chloramines.

Another recommendation to consider for reducing odor issues is to use an enzyme detergent. Enzymes work very well on protein-based soils. They break down the soils into basic chemicals that are more soluble, easier to flush away and lower in odor. Modern detergent enzymes are designed to be active at higher temperatures (140ºF plus) and higher alkalinities than the enzymes that were first introduced to the detergent market many years ago. Since enzyme detergents can be very effective at reducing stains, chlorine bleaches can be dropped, thus eliminating a potential cause for off-odors.

Steven J. Tinker is the director of research and development for Gurtler Industries, Inc.

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Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Imperial Laundry Acquired

RACINE WI. — Imperial Laundry Systems has been acquired by CMJ Partners, a private investment firm based in Vero Beach, Fla. The facility launders hospitals and hotel goods in Illinois and Wisconsin. The new company will be called Imperial Laundry Services and it will remain in Racine.