Step 2: The Wash Cycle
There are five critical stages in the wash cycle:
The Flush. The flush process removes debris and soil. Water temperature is precisely 100 degrees F. Higher temperatures may permanently set stains in linen. No chemicals are used during the flush cycle, which lasts approximately two minutes. A second flush may be necessary for heavily soiled linen.
Suds. In the suds cycle detergents are added to the washer. Water temperatures are set at 160 degrees F to ensure proper disinfecting: lower temperatures will not kill all germs. Processing times are calibrated to the amount and type of soil, with a 15-minute minimum suds cycle for all linen.
Bleach. After the suds cycle is finished, bleaching begins to whiten the linens. Bleach is carefully diluted so it will retain maximum whitening properties while leaving linen fibers strong and undamaged. While bleach aids in sanitizing and disinfecting, the water temperature in the suds cycle is actually the most significant step in the disinfecting process.
Rinse. The rinse cycle loosens and removes soil, detergents and bleach from linen. Temperatures gradually decrease, as a significant and sudden temperature drop will cause wrinkles to set. The rinse cycle runs approximately two to three times. During the second or third rinse, an “anti-chlor” agent is added to remove residual bleaching agents. In addition, a “sour” is added in the final rinse to neutralize detergents.
pH test. The final step in the washing process is the pH test. A proper pH level of 5.5 to 6.5 indicates that all detergents and bleaching agents have been sufficiently neutralized and removed from the linen. Residual detergents and bleach left in linens can cause skin irritations, especially in incontinent patients. When proper pH levels are reached, linens proceed to the drying and processing stage.
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