Treating the workwear topic, we are aware that the spotlight should be pointed in different directions. Workwear is a market segment bordering on the safety at work. Especially, when the work clothes come in contact with harmful dust, dangerous chemical or biological agents, they are suffering a sort of “metamorphosis”, becoming a “Personal Protective Equipment” and their cleaning is becoming an obligation for the employer.

In most cases, these are organic or chemical residues that require a professional sanitisation and treatment, that must be carried out in specially equipped laundries, with dedicated machines used exclusively for the specific activity, and the transport must be carried out taking all precautions in accordance with the current rules and regulations. ISO 15797 is the guideline for the industrial laundry, and it represents the virtuous combination of temperature, washing and drying. The last frontier of cleanliness is represented by the sanitisation of the work clothes (and not only in the health sector), closely related to the well-being protection of the person wearing them.

It is necessary to know how to handle through the laws and regulations maze, regarding the working clothes, which are divided into: ordinary working clothes, PPE and medical equipment. Each fibre has its own specific treatment. Putting together some of the answers that the companies provided us, seen from different angles, we are able to draw a comprehensive picture of the treatment and the maintenance of the working clothes.

“In the pandemic years, the workwear sector has been the one that suffered the smallest decline in the laundry market,” says Ruggero Sammarco, Technical and Business Development Supervisor of Christeyns Italia, and adds, “workwear, with its 360° management, became an essential aspect of the company’s welfare, especially when used as PPE or linked to the essential sector standards such as food, cosmetics or pharmaceuticals. An ergonomically suitable design of the working environment and the sanitisation guarantee became current focus topics in every industrial context.

Going more into detail on PPE, the current legislation, whether taking into consideration the circular no. 34 of 1999, European directive 89/656/EEC and the legislative decree 81/2008 (Consolidated Law on Safety at Work) and its subsequent amendments, reiterates on several occasions that the correct choice of PPE itself is of primary importance, in relation to the residual risks highlighted in a production context, maintaining their efficiency and sanitisation. Only the properly equipped laundries have the appropriate machinery and the washing technology suitable for treating the working clothes, especially if they are PPE with all their processing related problems: staining agents, contaminating agents and pathogens.

Given the above, it is easily remarkable that the development of the workwear market is now, and will continue to be, in a strong ascension trend. A proper washing requires a partnership with a detergent supplier with a specific knowledge in the sector, who knows how to treat the above in a proper way. Indeed, engineering a treatment cycle for working clothes and PPE requires in-depth textile, machine and chemical skills. Christeyns is a market segment leader with extensive experience in processing the workwear, serving the major market players with a specially developed product range. The Christeyns range provides the highest quality washing standards and, with appropriately modulated processes, also guarantees a high textile life cycle, as well as maintaining the most stringent requirements of any current technical PPE regulation.

Last but not least, many products, being Ecolabel or Nordic Swan Ecolabel certified, comply with the requirements of the Minimum Environmental Criteria regulations for the washing and cleaning tenders, published in January 2021 in the Official Journal. The CAM issue is very much in line with the increasingly predominant direction of environmental sustainability towards which the society is moving; a large part of Christeyns’ R&D is working hard every day to develop certified products according to Type I environmental product standards for the ISO 14024 and for the development of the regulations. This shows how proactively the company is committed to ensuring a greener future for the industry,” concludes Sammarco.

For Renzacci SpA, a company that produces washing machines (and not only) in Città di Castello (PG), we interviewed Marco Niccolini the General Sales and Mkt Director of the company. “We are experiencing a continuous change regarding the demand for workwear treatment and care, both in Italy and abroad. It must be paid a specific attention to the changing composition of the workwear, especially to the technical garments and to the material fibres. Workwear is becoming increasingly varied and always more specific and adapted to the customers’ requirements, unlike a few years ago when garments were much more alike. Workwear has evolved and many became real PPE, which requires very specific treatments: this has led to a prompt response from both water and dry-cleaning.

On the dry-cleaning side, are widely used the alternative solvents to perchloroethylene, because they adapt very well to the new materials and they don’t cause any damage to the treated garments. The treated garment has a very low perishability index even after many washing cycles, and ensuring the garment integrity is an essential factor as it is particularly expensive. Consider that the even the shoes as PPE can be treated with alternative solvents to perc, and this represents an added value compared to the traditional treatment. Detailed and specialised washing processes are used to eliminate the specific risks involved in performing each task, so the focus is not only on removing the dirt, but also on leaving the garment intact for a longer time.

Renzacci is one of the few companies that has its own design and production studio for all its water and dry-cleaning lines, and has developed specific machines with specially-made washing programmes. The WB series aseptic barrier machines, or the LX and HS series water washing machines, that are equipped with dosing systems allowing the right combination of water, temperature and detergent…but also the Excellence bio drycleaning machines series equipped with detergent atomization systems that allow specific garment treatments.

Moving a little bit to the south of the peninsula, we meet Matteo Casella, the CEO of CLEAN PRO, a company that produces detergents for the laundries in Serravalle di Chienti, near Macerata. “We have successfully included in the Clean Pro product range, the ever-present LAVATUTE, a widely used commercial name, for washing all those garments that require a consistent degreasing. CLEAN PRO LAVATUTE has a special formula against dirt, that is activating itself already at 40 degrees. The formula doesn’t contain any phosphates, but it is based on the “Foam Controlled” technology.

The first tests were carried out washing clothes from the mechanical workshops; the result is a clean and sanitized working cloth. LAVATUTE is also useful for less demanding working clothes, such as the warehouse operators uniforms and of the general workers. Another formula created by CLEAN PRO, very useful in the world of the clothes and workwear cleaning, is the product PET WASH. Designed first of all for washing the pet articles, it is also useful for the zootechnics sector, for the farmers and farm personnel clothing.

Besides ensuring impeccable washing results, PET WASH has also a neutral scent to eliminate the unpleasant odours that can arise when a garment is exposed for a long time to the presence of domestic and farm animals. All these products can be combined with the SOFT RESISTANT softeners, designed with a special formula that allows the microparticles that it contains, to “break” when coming in contact with high heat, like that of the dryers, releasing a persistent clean scent and delicate to the smell, in the same time. Obviously, adds Casella, all of these are excellent market opportunities where even a small laundry can include in its price list a specific section for all those activities that require special treatment on work uniforms.

Branded mechanics workshops are the first customers that can attract the laundries, as well as the construction companies, thinking on those companies building high-cost residential areas oriented towards the wealthy persons; their staff requires a different presence with impeccable work clothes; or even sectors like the printing houses can also be major players in this sector; let’s think for example of large typographies that need to wash the specific cleaning cloth or the staff uniforms. Many of them are purchasing by themselves the specific machines, integrating vertically the washing process.

We are speaking with Eugenio Boni, the Sales Director of Italclean Srl, a dry-cleaning machines manufacturer, based in San Giorgio di Piano, near Bologna. In many countries of the world, the dry-cleaning machines used for cleaning the workers’ special clothing (such as gloves) have always been on high demand, especially where there are large industrial complexes (Russia, Canada, USA, China…) and they have their own internal laundry dedicated for cleaning their clothing. In Italy, it is generally preferred to outsource this service, apart from a few large companies with whom we already work (such as ALITALIA now ITA Airways), but the Italian industrial fabric, which sees the small/ medium-sized companies much more developing, has slowed down the spread of the in-house laundries of a certain size.

The requests are always very specific, but it is usually required a system capable to clean in a very short time, about half an hour. And the machines have usually to work 24 hours a day! Thanks to the special technical insights, to the flexibility of the inverter applied to the main engine, and to the second inverter applied to the drying fan, Italclean managed to achieve a full load cycle in 35 minutes, and an extremely fast distillation with the perc dry-cleaning machines. In the case of the hydrocarbon machines the cycle is a little bit longer, but always under 50 minutes. But so far, mainly the perchlorine machines have been on high demand, thanks to the highly degreasing power of this solvent.

We are now studying new machine projects, thanks to the new, increasingly powerful solvents that are constantly being offered on the market, for having efficient machines even without using the perc. And we have already achieved some good results. We have created simple or tandem machines with different capacities (up to 80 kg), some with a double distiller in a central position and no filter, because these uniforms are often so dirty that the filter would get clogged in a very short time. We have also created some special features for increasing the distillers’ heating surface, reaching instantly the boiling temperature. We often suggest adding a pump to move the distiller inside, avoiding like this the solidification of the sludge, and extracting it automatically from the distiller.

The cleaner is the distiller, the faster the distillation proceeds. This is essential for the machines that operate 24 hours a day. We have been able to carry out many projects in different types of industries: automotive (AvtoVAZ-Lada, MTZ the biggest tractor industry in the world), engineering (US Steel), oil (Lukoil, BP, Total), mining, but also in-service companies, such as air transport (not only ALITALIA now ITA Airways but also Egyptair, Malaysian airlines, Qantas, THY, etc). This is our business card,” concludes Eugenio Boni.

“There is definitely a correlation between work clothes and safety,” says Michele Battistella, the Sales Manager of Battistella B.G., a company manufacturing professional ironing technology based in Rossano Veneto (VI). “They are an essential part of PPE, personal protective equipment. When we talk about the work clothes ironing, we are certainly referring to large, structured environments like hotels and hospitals, where the ironing quality has to cope with the large volume of garments to be ironed; therefore, we need automated products capable of combining quality and speed.

Battistella B.G. catalogue offers two main products for this type of garment:
• Zeus, universal dummy, designed for ironing the upper garments (shirts, T-shirts, jackets, coats);
• Sirio, trouser press, designed for ironing the trousers of any fabric.
Both are equipped with an intelligent touch screen, which allows a total control of the machine and of the working cycle. Among their numerous functions, the machines have the possibility of creating and saving the work programs (storing steaming and blowing times).

This function is very useful when a higher quantity and variety of garments needs to be ironed In addition, the intelligent touch screen is memorizing the daily ironing cycles, guaranteeing an accurate control regarding the number of the ironed work clothes “.

The Surfchimica range offers specially developed solutions for cleaning work clothes. We talk about this with Marco Vaccari, the responsible for the Export&Research department of the laundry products company, located in Bettola-Zeloforamagno, on the outskirts of Milan. “For the dry-cleaning in perc we are offering SURFAN STRONG, made by combining selected surfactants with emulsifiers and stain-removing agents, a product that is used in the cleaning of overalls and work gloves, allowing excellent results to be obtained without further treatment. Its high concentration allows limited dosages (10-20 g per kg of goods), optimising the production while reducing the costs.

We have recently achieved very interesting results with hydrocarbon solvents by adding SURFAN HC SOAP to the bath, a product that solubilises the dirt and prevents it from reappearing on the garments. For this type of treatment, a dry-cleaning machine equipped with a solvent distillation system is recommended. The sanitising component present in this additive prevents the formation and/or development of bacterial colonies in the bath. For the industrial washing of work clothes with water, we have developed SURFLEAN OVER, a practically neutral pH product, formulated with an additive that removes oily stains and organic stains, and perfectly soluble in water, even at cold temperatures.

The product is tested in industrial cycles and offers the best performance working at temperatures between 40° and 80°C. Special washing programmes and further information are available for the operators. According to what we perceive from the market players, the sectors where a potential development is expected are those that already use the service of cleaning work clothes, but where the increasing demand for an adequate application of safety and hygiene standards becomes essential, both for the products and for the workers. And where the replacement of traditional worker protection clothing is made with personal protective equipment that uses more sophisticated materials and technologies.

These requirements are met by sectors such as petrochemicals, mechanics, pharmaceuticals, food and electronics in a broad sense. In the future, the collective awareness and the legislation regarding the environmental protection, cannot fail to address the issue of reducing the pollution costs that work clothes are absorbing while carrying out their protective function and which, if subjected to unsuitable washing processes, they release into the environment”.

“In the recent years we have seen an increasingly demand for specific machines handling the working clothes, in both the private and the hospital sectors,” says Alessandro Rolli, Managing Director of Kannegiesser Italia, a company manufacturing mega machines for the industrial laundries. “From the hospital sector, the demand has increased exponentially in the last two years compared to the pre-pandemic period. The focus has moved to a specialised washing and a more appropriate care. From a technical point of view, the garments treatment is always based on the usual cornerstones, ecosustainability, energy saving and water recovery (especially when it comes to work clothes).

From a technical point of view, we have created an interesting system for a customer in Alto Adige: we have installed a continuous batch washer with centrifuge and all the water dynamics are managed through a series of centralised tanks that recover the water and reuse it in the following processes. For the workwear there is a specific reasoning behind the treatment of the technical fabric. Recent studies have shown that it is preferable to treat them at lower temperatures as the temperature is considered an overuse factor. Consequently, also in our finishing tunnels, which are used for drying and ironing the linen, we prefer longer tunnels with a slower passage speed of the garments through the tunnel at lower temperatures.

Today, the global players prefer the tunnels with up to 5 or 6 segments instead of 3 segment tunnels, as the temperature can be kept lower for the same output. As Kannegiesser, we provide for the workwear our PowerTrans Vario continuous batch washer in combination with the PowerSpin centrifuge. While before the “productivity” and the “variety” were considered incompatible, today, thanks to the development of the PowerTrans Vario, it is possible to combine successfully these two characteristics. While as finishing tunnels, we have the XMT models and they are starting from 2 modules and up to 6 modules, minimising the energy consumption,” concludes Rolli.

We move to the province of Milan, more precisely to Pozzo D’Adda, to meet Corinna Mapelli at the helm of Trevil, a company that produces professional ironing machines. Engineer Mapelli points out that, “in the Italian workwear washing sector, the medium-sized laboratories, with a widespread presence on the territory, are holding a significant market share. Generally, for the medium-sized dry-cleaning shops, the acquisition of professional customers requiring the treatment of work clothes can be a profitable addition to the existing business, less subjected to seasonality and economic fluctuations than the treatment of private customers’ clothes.

The Princess Touch universal tensioning finisher, is the most suitable product for ironing the workwear: its great versatility allows to optimally iron garments of different cuts and fabrics such as: coats, jackets, waistcoats, shirts and blouses. It can efficiently iron garments washed with any technique, but moreover the garments still damp after the water washing. The main characteristic of Princess Touch, is the patented front clamp that allows to switch from the dry-cleaning to wet cleaning ironing mode with a simple gesture, without the need of changing the accessory. Princess Touch is now equipped with a 5″ Trevitouch touch screen, for an even easier use.

Speaking of trousers, the best solution in the field of workwear is represented by Pantamat in its version with transversal waistband tensioning. The universal leg-tensioners allow you to iron all types of trousers, even those of different lengths, with or without creases. A special function allows to iron also pencil skirts. The anti-stretch function prevents delicate or stretchy fabrics from deforming during the ironing cycle and can be activated independently for both waistband and leg. On the sanitisation front, ozone is the optimal solution for eliminating malodorous substances and the micro-organisms present even in the most difficult reachable places. In this context, Trevil offers the Trevi-San ozone sanitisation cabin, available in two versions of different sizes”.

How to get equipped for cleaning the “workwear”? “Large industries are looking for innovative, effective and hygienic washing systems,” says Stenilio Morazzini the CEO of Montega, a company that provides detergents and washing chemicals, located in the Rimini area. “It is essential to always offer concentrated products that are able to remove all stains, even the most persistent ones, which is a characteristic of this type of garment that concerns meat and metalworking companies, etc.”. Montega®’s Nature system, with the new 2-in-1 Top Level Double Nature product and the emulsifiers Clean Sg Nature and Clean SG Sky, guarantees the cleanliness of all work clothes, without any risk of residual stains and dirt.

This washing system is ISO 14006 Ecodesign validated, with certified chemical analyses guaranteeing the absence of heavy metals and VOCs. Thanks to this washing system, we guarantee energy savings, a key word in today’s turbulent market. It is important to underline that in the “work clothes” category we do not only find workshop outfits, but we also have, for example, gowns and uniforms of hospital orderlies, for the RSA, which we can wash with “Wet Cleaning Nature”, a certified, innovative and sustainable washing system created by our team of experts, thanks to which we can wash even the most delicate fabrics,” concludes Morazzini.

To conclude our tour on workwear, we meet Paolo Fumagalli, the President of PONY SpA. Work clothing is becoming an important aspect of the company welfare, since, besides being an aesthetic element, it is also representing a safety device at work. The Italian law regulating this type of clothing states that they must be perfectly washed, ironed and sanitised. Many sectors such as: factories and industries, catering, some chain shops or the medical, health and wellness sectors, choose to equip their staff with uniforms. For the hotel sector jobs, it is rather preferred the aesthetics than the functionality, and the uniforms must necessarily suggest professionalism and elegance, selecting the comfort but also the style. In the health sector, on the other hand, clothing must ensure a perfect hygiene, comfort and efficiency. They must be breathable and easy to clean, so functionality is preferred to aesthetics.

For ironing this type of garments Pony offers various solutions:
• for the shirts, coats, chef jackets, nurse jackets, normally waterwashed, the most suitable machines are our 404 multi finisher or the more performing Eagle 2.0 shirt finisher, with the 130 cm Maxi yoke, capable to iron small coats and shirts in less than 45 seconds without the need to use the tumble dryer;
• for the dry-cleaned coats, on the other hand, we recommend the use of the traditional MG universal form finisher, or the Formplus tensioning form finisher;
• for the water-washed and the dry-cleaned trousers, the MPT-D trouser topper is the perfect solution, as it is perfectly pressing trousers of any size and fabric;
• the presses with the polished head, are guaranteeing, thanks to the 160° hot plate, the elimination of all germs, and a high ironing quality that only presses can offer.

In order to comply with new sanitisation regulations, Pony offers the Corona system ozone cabin for all workwear, the only recognised system capable of inactivating viruses, or the new Ozocubo for sanitising the working environments. •

By Marzio Nava

Detergo Magazine – Number 4, April 2022