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Laundry Design Basics

No doubt there should be a book or manual prepared on laundry design. The importance of the correct machinery and its size for a facility, the machinery’s placement and the actual laundry design should not be downplayed. It is the driving force behind a successful laundry.

However, to date there is no such manual available. Therefore, I would like to share some information I have learned during my 35 years in this industry during which I designed and managed the construction of approximately 73 laundries for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Marine Corps and later in the private sector.

One major preliminary consideration everyone faces when building or restructuring a laundry is -- how does one specify equipment?

When modernizing my first laundry at Marine Corps Base, Quantico Va., which processed troop support laundry and dry cleaning, White House dry cleaning, goods from a Navy Hospital, a base carpet cleaning activity etc. I was faced with the challenge of a floor to ceiling remodeling job. The facility needed to replace air compressors, boilers, update lighting and electrical systems. Additionally the facility need to update its complete laundry activity that processed over 1,000 uniforms a day, a washing, drying and ironing operation that processed about 80,000 pounds per day, update thirty press stations and the entire the dry cleaning department.

The Base Contracting Officer got me on the right track by directing me to make purchases as they did in the Air Force. It became obvious that we were going to purchase a laundry system, similar to how the Air Force purchased jet aircraft -- using a performance specification.

In essence, we were going to tell the industry – equipment suppliers - what we wanted to process, how we wanted to process it and what conditions were acceptable. They would then furnish us with a design that we would evaluate for compliance prior to purchase.

Prior to seeking out a supplier, it is up to you to devise a budget for your laundry. This step should be taken prior to contacting suppliers so that they – and you -- know what your constrictions are. Be sure to leave some leeway in the budget, since all construction jobs tend to last a little longer and cost a little more than originally planned.

Working with the correct equipment supplier is step two in developing a plan for your laundry. But finding the correct equipment suppler may take some footwork. Take the time to see who is out there and what they offer as in which machinery they supply and the scope of their services.

Prior to working with an equipment supplier, check their past references, call the manager of another laundry the equipment supplier worked on and ask questions. Did they stay in budget? How is the equipment working out? Has the laundry’s needs been met?

Remember, equipment suppliers are looking to sell you on their products. It is up to you to read, listen and examine what is put forth. Ultimately, this is your laundry and you will be living with the outcome – hopefully – for many years to come. It is also up to you to compare equipment suppliers and their designs, quotes, and configurations. Obviously, the right match will meet your budget and space considerations while handling the goods you produce. Additionally, you may want to consider a supplier who is willing to configure your laundry for future growth.

Again, you are making the purchase so it behooves you to give as many suppliers the opportunity to meet your needs and compare their proposals. When you have decided on an equipment supplier, get documentation and guarantees on their work. You want to know that what they are telling you is in fact a possible reality – something you can put your finger on later one. If a contractor does not comply with performance requirements set forth, have a method in place so that you can hold them responsible.

The procurement and installation of the Marine Corps Base in Quantico that I worked on went very smoothly. Hence the lessons learned have lasted a lifetime – use performance specifications that include installation and an internal evaluation that the products and services meet the requirements. This is a true design build.

There are several key elements to consider when specifying laundry equipment. One key element in procuring laundry equipment is to remember that the equipment you purchase will require the support of other systems and may be affected by the environment. That ‘environment’ includes water conditions, electrical issues, gas applications, air compression and building issues. Types and configurations of items to be processed are all paramount when purchasing equipment.

Prior to making purchases, you should address size issues as they relate to building systems. The initial question you must answer is, what are your needs? What is your budget? Does your workflow necessitate a tunnel or several washers? To many, the answer here is cost relevant.

There have been laundries with washer extractors that utilize the same amount of personnel as a tunnel and then there is the opposite. When you cost comparison, compare the equipment and cost including operational energy costs and personnel necessary to operate the system. Keep in mind those considerations need to encompass personnel training, maintenance and benefits, and on the machinery side consider the energy it takes to operate the system in addition to machine maintenance.

As for the finishing aspect of the facility, what is the level of finishing you require for goods? For the answer to this consider what you are processing, i.e. uniforms, gowns, flat goods, towels, sheets. Each requires a different level of finishing.

Performance specifications are key to purchasing any type of equipment. You must decide and be able to communicate to your chosen equipment supplier what you are processing and what your expectations are on production.

All systems, with the exception of washing and drying, are based on the number of pieces to be produced. Washing and drying is predicated on poundage to be produced. Never get these two calculations confused, but make sure they always interrelate. That is key when considering soiled sorting systems to specifying soiled and clean linen conveyor systems and finishing systems.

Another consideration which will affect performance is automation. What is the level of automation you are considering? If the cost of automation seems too high – consider the savings in employees, benefits etc. Address production expectations with the degrees of automation, i.e. hands on-hands off. How will you be loading washers, dryers? How do you expect to unload dryers? How do will you be moving goods throughout the facility?

The onus on reaching your expectations should be placed on the manufacturer. This is why it is important to discuss expectations in a pre-bid environment. It is an educational process for you, the manufacturer and the installation individuals. Be forewarned, purchasing a piece of equipment because you like it - is usually not the best approach. Always examine what is available and the best alternatives.

When you specify a piece of equipment or system, have the supplier spell out how your expectations can be met. One of the most important aspects of purchasing equipment is being able to quality assure the product when it becomes operational. And consider what will happen in your facility of that piece of machinery is not operational. What is the manufacturer or equipment supplier’s service record? If you have only one tunnel and it is non-operational, you may end up sending your laundry to another facility.

The laundry equipment industry is changing. Applications that were state-of-the-art 5 years ago are no longer state-of-the-art. The most obvious changes are in washing, drying and finishing. For years, the virtual scapegoat of laundry processing was obtaining a system that could match washing and drying. For some reason, finishing, folding, stacking and feeding (remember pieces to pounds) never really held up. There was an obvious imbalance.

Manufacturers of finishing systems (ironers-folders-feeders, stacking) have now stepped up to the plate, the major loophole in processing continues to be in the soiled sorting scenario - always non-productive when compared to other laundry departments.

It is important to remember that good laundry building designs and smooth workflow depend on available space and access. When considering space in a facility, remember that it is based on cubic square footage, never standard square footage at the floor level. As I indicated earlier you must be able to observe all aspects of your equipment operation, major cost avoidances can occur we you observe from ancillary support to production.

A laundry, no matter what type is responsible for providing adequate, constant supplies of clean textiles to all users. The basic tasks include sorting, weighing, ironing, drying and pre-conditioning, finishing, folding and conveyance of products to a delivery point for further transportation to end users.

The calculations mentioned are based on clear ceiling heights of 16 feet with a transition of cubic square feet equated into net square feet (nsf).


  • Utilities and Energy Required
  • Equipment selection
  • Geographical Topographical Information
  • Transportation Routes
  • Staffing Projections
  • Annual Pounds to be processed
  • Annual Pieces to be processed
  • Types of textiles to be processed
  • Dock Configurations and style
  • Interior Design Considerations:-color-graphics, floor covering, furniture, storage systems
  • Types of special services-surgical packs, uniform processing
  • Chemical Requirements


Laundry Manager 200 NSF
Supervisors 120 NSF
Secretary-Accounting 100 NSF
Asst. Plant Manager 150 NSF
Lunch Area-Training Room 17 NSF per each FTE
Toilets, Showers and Lockers 10 NSF per each FTE
  (Divide Male & Female)
Housekeeping Closets 60 NSF-3 per
  (Soiled area, Clean Area, Administrative) Storage
Clean Area >.34 X PP (note definition of PP below)
Production and Support Areas
PP=Annual Pounds of textiles processed divided by 9,250 lb per NSF
Receiving Area PP + 820
Sorting and Washing 7.3 X PP
Linen Storage 3.2 X PP
Central Liquid Supply 412 NSF
Cart Washing 255 NSF
Clean Linen Processing 13.5 X PP+1710
Clean Linen Holding PP X 340
Distribution-Dock Area 4 X PP+330
Water Systems to include Recovery 625 NSF
Air Compression (dual) 530 NSF
Boiler Operations (dual) 710 NSF
Central Vac 124 NSF

Utilization of this criteria, possibly with some minor adjustments should lead to a most efficient laundry operation when combined with use and management of performance specifications for supporting systems and laundry equipment.

Finally, while short term costs are important, long term costs and pay back are the tool that should be used when considering the ultimate success or failure of a laundry. Not considering this important aspect will come back to haunt you.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Gulf Coast Laundry Acquired by Swisher Hygine

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Swisher Hygiene Inc., a provider of hygiene and sanitation products and services, announced that it acquired Gulf Coast Laundry Services of Mississippi, LLC (“Gulf Coast Laundry Services”), a Mississippibased linen services company.

Gulf Coast Laundry Services provides linen rental and laundry services throughout southern Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, primarily to hotel, casino and resort customers. Concurrent with the acquisition, the founder of Gulf Coast Laundry Services, David Gross, will join Swisher Hygiene and contribute to the continued growth of its linen services business.

Total consideration paid by Swisher Hygiene in connection with the acquisition includes approximately $4.8 million in cash and the issuance of a convertible promissory note which may be converted into a maximum of 350,000 shares of Swisher Hygiene common stock subject to certain restrictions, including acceptance by the Toronto Stock Exchange.