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Examining encapsulated softener technology 

26 November 2021

Dave Benson explores the features and benefits of encapsulated softeners and 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.

THERE IS nothing better than fresh smelling linens. As hospitality starts to get back to some version of normal, hygiene will continue to be of the upmost importance across all areas of the business. Providing a safe and warm welcome is a key aim for every outlet.

It’s fair to say that customers may well be cautious and looking for signs that make them feel relaxed and able to fully enjoy their visit. The provision of pristine, quality linens, table cloths, napkins, soft towels and bedding it an integral part of making the customer experience the best it can be.

Laundry technology has come a long way, both from an engineering perspective in terms of efficiency and fabric handling, and from the science side of things where innovative chemistry has led to solutions that prolong the life of linen, its colour, texture and durability.

The latest challenge is fragrance. It is widely known that scent is typically volatile and tends to be lost during the wash process, particulary in high temperatures, it also quickly dissipates during use. Hygiene chemical specialist Christeyns has recently introduced innovative Encapsulated Fragrance Delivery Technology that allows the aroma from its softeners to remain for an extended period of time.

This new technology is designed in such a way that perfume containing microcapsules have the ability to adhere to the fibre and break once the textile is handled, providing sustained perfume release. So on getting into bed with fresh linen or using a towel, the rubbing of the fibre releases a fresh, long-lasting scent.
An encapsulated softener works particularly well with items such as towels and bathrobes, providing a softer and fresher finish. Spa and Wellness facilities, luxury hotels and B&Bs, can benefit from providing customers with textiles that hold an intense and long-lasting fragrance.

Protecting the life of linen

Iinnovatively engineered products not only make the items feel soft and smell good, they do much more. Protecting the life of the linen is one of the aims in the main wash process, hence the use of a programme like Christeyns’ Cool Chemistry, but it is also an important factor in using a softener. Fibres become smooth and protected thus reducing friction in the wash process, preventing bobbling. Softener also helps keep linens bright, reducing abrasion and helping to retain colour.  This keeps the linen looking good, allowing prolonged usage. 

Pressing linen, uniforms and other items is much easier and quicker with a good softener, with less energy required in the pressing process.  Softener also reduces static cling by neutralising any negative ions. This is especially valuable with workwear items.

This encapsulated type of softener has also been adapted for use with special care fabrics to eliminate unpleasant odours. Cole & Wilson, Christeyns delicate care division, has introduced Pro-Fit Fusion, for use in wet cleaning, which features special properties that capture and trap mal-odours such as smoke, body odours and damp, leaving a long lasting tropical fragrance.

Carpets, curtains and upholstery benefit from this type of treatment, particulary useful for rooms that have been closed for a while or for lobby areas.
There is a dry cleaning option, Sultra Aroma, which does the same thing, combating unpleasant odours but on textiles that can not be washed using water and is specifically aimed at the hospitality industry where a neutral, pleasant smelling environment is crucial.

It allows textiles to be thoroughly cleaned and odour-causing molecules to be eliminated and replaced with a fresh perfume and a softer touch.  It can be used in perchloroethylene, hydrocarbon and HiGlo solvents. Both of these softeners use environmentally-friendly chemicals. 

Who would have thought that using the right fabric softener could make such a difference? It’s a great time to bring the freshness of the outdoors inside and encapsulated softeners can provide just that bit more of an extra special welcome.

Size is not always a good fit for linens

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 warp yarns prior to weaving 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.

The sizing agents are macromolecular, film forming and fibre bonding substances, which can be divided into two main types: natural sizing agents which include native and degraded starch and starch derivatives, cellulose derivatives and protein sizes; and synthetic sizes which include polyvinyl alcohols, polyacrylates and styrene maleic acid copolymers. Starch-based sizing agents are most commonly used for cotton yarns because they are economical and provide satisfactory weaving performance.

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.

Issues for the hospitality sector

Hygiene specialist Christeyns, and its gentle care division Cole & Wilson, is finding that many of its 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. 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 plasticisers
  • Fabric construction
  • Method of desizing
  • Method of washing-off.

Christeyns has 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.  

Addressing increased demand

Swiss Camplings has been working closely with Christeyns and its 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,” said engineering & 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.”

There are different methods of desizing. The most commonly used method for cotton is enzymatic desizing. Soda ash or caustic soda can be used on acrylate sizes.

When adding enzymes, these are only active within a specific pH range, which must be maintained by a suitable pH stabiliser. Enzymatic desizing does not damage the fibre and does not use aggressive chemicals. It is also highly biodegradable.  

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.

Dave Benson is business development director at Christeyns

For more information visit www.christeyns.com