Size is not always a good fit for linens

Dave Benson, Business Development Manager at Christeyns UK discusses the issue with fibre size that has become more of a problem for commercial laundries in their endeavours to meet supply for the hospitality sector.

Like many industries, the laundry sector has been affected severely in many ways over the past year due to Covid and the changes this has brought to our daily lives. It has led to a pretty erratic pattern of operation for most launderers, with peaks and troughs causing all kinds of issues, not least in staffing, linen provision and new hygiene regimes.

To meet the demand highs, many commercial launderers have purchased large quantities of linen to ensure that customers have the supply they need when they need it. However, this has brought with it additional work in ensuring the linen products are fully ready for use in the supply chain.

New linen can still contain size – a coating applied to fibres during fabrication to provide protection and boost fibre properties and adhesion in composites. Size material forms a stiff and smooth coating on warp threads to enable them to resist the cyclic tensions during the weaving process in the loom and reduce fibre breakage.

Part of the linen fabrication process does include a desizing procedure to remove the size from the warp yarns of the woven fabrics as it can act as a barrier to dyes and chemicals causing issues down the supply line. Unfortunately, uneven or incomplete desizing does occur leaving laundries with linen that involves specialist treatment before it can be used. Hygiene specialist Christeyns, and its gentle care division Cole & Wilson, are finding that many of their customers are looking for support in tackling this problem with the team currently involved in size removal work at many customer sites.

“Textiles are arriving onto laundry sites not correctly desized, with no data on type of size or process required to remove it. Laundries then have to fully remove size before the linen can be used,” states Dave Benson, business development director at Christeyns. “If this does not occur, the linen won’t pass through the ironer properly and it can be very difficult to remove any subsequent staining of the linen, say from food or shampoos, as the film prevents optimum action from the wash chemicals.”

Due to the stop start nature of the hospitality industry this past year, laundries have had to deal with the problem of size in much larger quantities and on a more regular basis. This brings with it several issues. Poorly presented textiles – which once washed can make further size removal more difficult, lead to wasted production hours and wasted management effort trying to manage and resolve the issue.

From a laundry perspective, the addition of multiple processes required to achieve a satisfactory finish mean increased costs in terms of water, energy, chemicals and time. So reduced production efficiency, longer process times and extended running hours for plant.

Desizing requires considerable knowledge and processes vary depending on the type of size used. The factors, on which the efficiency of size removal depends, are as follows:

  • Type and amount of size applied
  • Viscosity of the size in solution
  • Ease of dissolution of the size film on the yarn
  • Nature and the amount of the plasticizers
  • Fabric construction
  • Method of desizing
  • Method of washing-off

Christeyns have produced a flow chart and removal guidance that covers the ideal chemical pH range and optimum washing temperature dependant on the type of size. This can be starch based, acrylate, polyester, polyvinyl acetate or PV alcohol size and each has its own requirements when it comes to removal. Swiss Camplings have been working closely with Christeyns and their linen supply partner to overcome the eternal issue of removing size from new linen.

“The sudden demand witnessed during the emergence from lockdown increased the need to process new linen quickly. Without doubt, we felt that we too were victims of size left in the product. Jointly, with Christeyns and our main linen supplier, we spent a lot of time assessing and testing. All parties worked openly together sharing information,” states engineering and production director Craig Saunt.

“It became clear that residual size can be an issue but there can also be some challenges with wash chemistry, temperature conditions, conditioning and ironer set up. The inconsistency of residual size amounts combined with any of these factors can very quickly lead to further challenges. Because we have all worked on it together, we have removed the biggest hurdle which is, ‘whose fault is it’. As a partnership, we will continue to work together whenever we see a further problem developing, sharing information and any lessons learned.”

Regardless of what desizing agent is used, the process involves impregnation of the fabric with the desizing agent, allowing the agent to degrade or solubilise the size material, often involving longer swelling times, then finally washing out the agent.

Christeyns would like to see this type of partnership approach put into place on a more regular basis with better information from textile suppliers and better size removal before entering the supply chain. This would ensure costs are kept to a minimum and the hospitality sector receive their linen requirements on time all the time.


David Benson

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