More Laundry Lingo: The Challenges of Alkalinity

Some folks think of alkalinity and great laundering as being two things that go hand in hand. And while high alkalinity has its place (for example) in laundering heavily soiled kitchen towels and cooks’ aprons that are often high in animal fats, it can be a destructive force – particularly to the polyester component of a 50/50 cotton/poly blend.

In the case of those 100% cotton grille cloths and aprons the alkaline break will saponify those fatty soils and create real soap right there in the wash wheel to aid the cleaning process.

On the flip side, high alkalinity used on most fabric blends will lead to degradation of the polyester component of the weave. That damage is known technically as alkaline hydrolysis. The most familiar evidence of that problem? … The degraded and broken buttons seen on dress shirts processed by the local dry cleaner. Those crumbling buttons are 100% polyester and the damage we see has nothing to do with how they were pressed and everything to do with the use of lots of Break.

Finally, excess alkalinity left untreated can result in grey, scratchy, “boardy” sheets and terry. EWWW.

In the world of (OPM) on premise laundering, the generally better cleaning choice is the use of a low or neutral pH system that removes the soils without prematurely ending up with “see-through” sheets and pillow cases and the resultant high cost of replacing them. In addition to that budget busting result, unless sheets processed at a high pH are properly neutralized (probably with a separate sour), the result in lodging accounts will be guests complaining of itchy skin and in health care settings, the far more serious matter of bed sores.

If you’re dealing with the plusses and minues of improper pH, give us a call. Our Laundry Warewash Specialists are here to consult you! You can also connect with our guest blogger, Josh Brown, on LinkedIn!