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Laundering in a Covid-19 World – Part 1: Our Wash Process


At the Bidvest Laundry Group, we launder to South African National Standards (SANS) 10146 wash-process guidelines, in accordance with procedures set out by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

At the Bidvest Laundry Group, we’re not just about doing the washing and ironing – a science we’ve been mastering for over 35 years – we’re about people. As such, we’re fully committed to preventing exposure and minimising the risk of Covid-19 infection to both our people and yours.

While there is still some debate over how long the virus may linger on fabric items, we believe it best to take every precaution by considering every item of linen and workwear we launder to be at-risk, as the industries we service include healthcare, hospitality, chemical, food, retail, mining, motoring, engineering, pharmaceutical, industrial and general manufacturing – all of which are vital to the national economy and require a constant flow of clean linen and protective workwear for the people that work in these sectors to remain both safe and productive.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently advocates laundering items using the warmest appropriate water setting and drying items completely. This is essentially where industrial cleaning separates itself from domestic and small commercial cleaning operations, not just in scale, but in methods that ensure both thermal and chemical disinfection.

At the Bidvest Laundry Group, we launder to South African National Standards (SANS) 10146 wash-process guidelines, in accordance with procedures set out by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

We wash linen and garments in 12 stages – what we call CBWs or continuous batch washes. In the beginning of the wash, which we call the pre-wash, we start with a low temperature. This is essentially a ‘wetting stage’ to get the linen wet and where we administer an initial dose of detergent.

Then, as the wash process progresses, so too is there an increase in temperature (up to 80-85ºC) in the next three to four modules, to allow for thermal disinfection, defined as: the application of high temperature to a textile for a specified controlled period of time that results in the reduction of the number of pathogenic microorganisms present on the textile to an acceptable level, which is unlikely to cause harm to or affect a healthy human.

Thereafter, we go into a rinse stage (60-65ºC). This is also where we introduce the chemical disinfection process by adding chlorine to white linen and garments in the form of a chlorine bath, while a Peracetic Acid bath is utilised for colour garments.

In terms of chemistry, off-the-shelf or domestic detergents are mainly pH neutral (pH measures how acidic or alkaline a solution is, relative to the pH scale, where a pH value below 7 is acidic, 7 is neutral and above 7 is alkaline). In an industrial laundry environment, we make use of a higher pH, which opens up fibres and increases soil removal, as the level of soiling we encounter is far higher than that of normal daywear.

Furthermore, to help ensure correct chemical dosages per load, we have automated dosing centres on all of our machinery, where the pumps are calibrated based on the signals coming from the machines. Everything is automated, which minimises the risk associated with manual or hand dosing, like you would do at home or as happens at smaller laundry concerns. In all of our processes, we also do hygiene swabs to check microbial disinfection.

It’s important to get all of the parameters right – your temperature levels on the machines, your water flows, your detergent dosage levels. How we check this is by what we call a titration, where we check each module, including the chemistry and temperature levels in each one. We can then plot the temperature curves to ensure that we’ve achieved the required level of disinfection.

In its entirety, the wash process takes between 35-40 minutes. Thereafter, the batch is transferred into a centrifugal extractor for garments or a single stage press for flatwork. The clean linen then moves forward to the finishing stages of the laundry press.

With a laundry volume of between 30-35k garment pieces per day, we remain committed to our disinfection methods and washing processes. We haven’t changed much fundamentality, as we’ve always worked to the highest industry standards; we are, however, keeping ever-mindful of best practices to minimise risk as per disinfection methods based on WHO recommendations.

At the Bidvest Laundry Group, nothing we do is ever watered down. What we have to offer is a solid infrastructure, backed by a highly-experienced, dynamic and dedicated team.

Whatever your laundry requirements, we have the solution for you.

For more information about Bidvest Laundry Group’s processes, including how our equipment installations and compliance standards help mitigate health and safety risks associated with Covid-19, click here.


Tel: +27 11 398 5300 (Head Office)
Email: info@firstgarment.co.za