NJ AIR QUALITY BLOG

Laundromat Dryers, Washers and Corona

ByAllen Czermak

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“Gone,” complained Susan as she vented to herself pining for days gone by and was it only three months since she relaxed while she did her laundry at her favorite and convenient laundromat? “ As Susan lugged her laundry shopping basket full of various items she reminisced, “Can I ever go back to the days where I relaxed with a cup of coffee and friends while the machines whirled and the dryers somersaulted?”

Susan and her husband, Phil had met at an upscale laundromat last year, called Celsious located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. Since washing laundry is considered essential, the laundromats in her neighborhood are staying open, however, instead of relaxing while waiting, queuing is tension filled with the fear of any social interaction. Life has been turned upside down.

Whereas laundromats in the past have encouraged their customers to buy coffee and other vending machine goodies, wearing a mask does not lend to such frivolities. Amanda Bell had to get rid of the various inviting magazines that her customers enjoyed viewing because reading materials could possibly be germ spreaders. If a laundromat has connecting chairs, they had to be either disconnected or new types of single chairs introduced in the store. Bell wonders if things will ever get back to normal. This friendly owner always enjoyed interacting with her customers and it is not so easy while wearing a mask and standing six feet apart.

A laundromat on Tremont Avenue in Bronx, New York has undertaken a new service to keep laundry clean and customers healthy. Customers are welcome to drop off and pick up their clothes already dried and folded for a similar price to what they were paying to do it themselves. Health care professionals are being provided with free laundry service. The employees are continuously wiping down each laundry cart as well as washing client’s laundry bags

In other states such as Indiana, similar sentiments have been registered. Teresa Kendall, a retired teacher from Jasper, Indiana, was surprised when she heard that her laundromat was staying open during the major part of the coronavirus pandemic. Her local laundromat, Waschsalon’s co-owner, was told by the Dubois County Health Department that her business was essential and to continue operating during the height of the pandemic. Employees clean as they usually do while wearing masks and gloves. Especially important is for Waschsalon’s workers to clean the dryer vents. Particularly since business has slowed down with people opting to install their own washers in their homes when possible or preferring to go to a friend if their laundry area is separate, it is vital that the vents of the unused machines be cleaned regularly and thoroughly before the lint dries out and becomes flammable.

Cleaning dryer vents regularly in laundromats as well as in private homes is very important. This is vital to prevent the moist lint that comes loose while clothes are drying from building up. For example, a dryer vent cleaning company sent their rep to a home in Jacksonville, Florida for a routine cleanup. Before working on the dryer duct himself which is a professional job, he checked the dryer filter first. He was quite surprised to see that it was solidly packed with lint. When questioning the homeowner, he learned that the client had no idea that her dryer filter needed to be cleaned after each cycle, nor had she cleaned it since they bought the machine. What a difference the clean filter and vent made for this naive client. Once the vent and filter were emptied the dryer’s performance was majorly improved with a much shorter drying time. The most common indicator of dryer vent issues is if the customer must run the clothes through several drying cycles before the laundry dries. commercial dryer vent cleaning Archives

Commercial laundries have lots of fabrics washed and dried in their facilities. When a piece of fabric is dried in a commercial dryer, tiny pieces of fine short fibers split off from the surface of the cloth and turn into lint. What should occur is that the moist lint should be blown out of the dryer into the dryer vent ductwork. Two things can happen to the lint. One, is that the lint is blown right through the vent and out the vent or roof cap on the side of the structure. The second, is that if the lint is heavy with moisture it will fall onto the inside walls of the vent duct and start to accumulate. Heat will then build up because of the restriction of the air flow. While the lint is damp it is not as dangerous as when it eventually dries out. Once the lint dries out, it becomes flammable and this has led to fires in both home and commercial dryers. Don’t wait till it’s too late, call a vent specialist on a regular basis.

Many laundry service businesses are suffering financially from the pandemic. These drop off businesses have lost customers especially in the dry-cleaning departments. “With most customers working from home, there is no longer a demand for dry cleaning, which makes up about forty percent of the store’s revenue,” claims Min Kim who is the owner of E & I Laundry on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens. She is having trouble paying her rent and had to lay off two of her employees. Although Kim’s store area is larger than most laundromats, she still must take social distancing precautions. According to New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, laundromats are crucial in fighting the coronavirus. “The cleaning of clothes actually kills the coronavirus, but you can’t crowd into a laundromat,” stated the Mayor. Kim must make sure to only allow three to four customers at a time to load or unload the machines. The customer must leave the store while waiting for a load. Once their laundry is done, the customer must take the clothes out of the store before folding. This causes unnecessary work later when the clothes and linen become creased by the time the customer gets home. Unfortunately, some other laundromats in the neighborhood had to close because of too little space for social distancing or too few customers. One of the customers, Devin Kelly, and her roommate have taken their laundry into their own hands by washing out essentials in their tub.

Susan, Amanda, and so many other laundromat customers and owners are wondering what the future will look like for this essential operation. Only the one above will decide if the new normal will be the only way of life from here on. In a recent roundtable discussion, several washing machine distributors discussed this question. As previously stated, vended laundromats are essential businesses and have always been resistant to recessions. However, the new protocols have put these businesses in jeopardy for the first time.

Frank D’Annunzio, a laundry systems consultant, anticipates that technology will become compulsory in a post Covid-19 world. People are now going around with their own rubber gloves, hand sanitizers and Lysol wipes to assure themselves of germ-free touch. D’Annunzio acknowledges that features such as mobile apps and payment options will be the way to reduce any customer contact points.

Jodi Way, another laundry systems rep, sees ozone systems becoming more commonplace. Store layout posters and floor decals for social distancing will become the norm. Scientifically, ozone is oxygen with an extra atom of oxygen attached. Instead of having the usual two molecules of oxygen (O2), it will form into ozone (O3). Conservationists worry about the depletion of the ozone layer in the sky, since ozone keeps the air clean. The same way that ozone purifies the atmosphere it gives linen that fresh air smell. Ozone sanitizes and kills bacteria quicker than chlorine bleach without having to use hot water. When chlorine bleach mixes with hot water a chemical reaction occurs, which can damage fabric fibers. Ozone increases the life of fabrics by thirty percent or more. Since ozone penetrates the actual fibers of your linen you will notice that your towels will be softer, thicker, and fluffier. Drying time is decreased by twenty percent which in turn saves money for the consumer or the laundromat owner. Ozone laundry systems use an additional valve that works separately from the washer’s existing valves. Since it shortens the length of the washing cycle with faster fill rates and shorter dryer time, energy costs of gas and water are saved.

Sales manager, Justin Meerman, expects profits to curve slightly decreasing the profit for each square foot of space. To avoid any problems with G D forbid, future pandemics, laundromat owners will prefer to space equipment out, so they will be ready for any future social distancing requirements. Drop off with fold/dry options may become more of an alternative that will assure a successful future for laundries.

Your neighborhood laundromat may have a different face in the months ahead however, they are an essential service that will always be needed. Clean laundry has been on the top of the list of home tasks especially for the people who are working. When they come home from a day at work, the first thing they do is change their clothes to avoid contamination from Covid-19.

Unless a person is fortunate enough to have their own washer and dryer, they will be forced to run to their nearest laundromat to sanitize their laundry items. Let us hope that this will be a temporary situation and people will again be able to relax and socialize at their favorite laundry spot and maybe over a coffee they will meet their mate like Susan and Phil. Meanwhile we have learned about the importance of sanitizing and no one will be ignoring a Purell pump when they pass it by in the days to come.

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