June 6, 2019 | Joe Geng |

Are You Throwing Money Out with Your Dirty Gloves?



If you don’t have a glove laundering program in place, chances are good those ‘dirty’ gloves you’re throwing away are costing you money.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is not something with which you want to take chances. You want to make sure your team is outfitted with the best possible protection when they’re performing their jobs. But appearances can be deceiving and sometimes a dirty glove is just that – dirty. It’s perfect in every other respect but still ends up in a landfill or incinerator and you end up needlessly paying for new PPE.

However, laundering your PPE isn’t as simple as throwing it in the washing machine. The efficacy of your safety gloves is highly dependant upon the performance of the base material, e.g. leather, TenActiv™, Kevlar®. Depending on the temperature of the water, the detergent used, or even, in the case of leather, by using water, the base material of your gloves can be damaged or compromised and reduce the effectiveness of your protection.

What’s a cost- and safety-conscious purchasing manager to do? Do you toss out perfectly good gloves that happen to be a little soiled or do you create a cumbersome laundering program that will require management and cost you time and resources? If neither of those options sound appealing, don’t worry, there’s a third.

Professional PPE Laundering Services

Did you know that there are businesses clamoring for your dirty laundry? It’s true! Professional PPE laundering is big business and that’s because of the tremendous cost-savings involved.

Superior Glove was able to sit down with Jon Chisholm, the General Manager of Closed Loop Recycling (CLR), one of the leading PPE launderers in the U.S., and discuss exactly what a PPE laundering program is, the benefits for companies, and the biggest mistakes to avoid when starting a PPE laundering program.

Why Engage a Professional PPE Launderer?

In Chisholm’s experience, companies without a laundering program are leaving money on the table as perfectly good gloves, sleeves, aprons, and jackets are thrown out simply because they’re soiled. Companies that launder in-house may be spending more than they are saving as properly managing a PPE laundering program is a full-time job.

Image taken from Closed Loop Recycling’s website showing the results of professional PPE laundering

Clients that subscribe to CLR’s PPE laundering and recycling services are able to save up to 80% on their PPE costs without dedicating any time or resources to the program. As a full-service provider, CLR offers everything from a hands-free, completely managed laundering program to variations customized to specific company requirements.

Professional laundering services are an especially attractive option for companies that are looking to achieve environmental certifications, such as ISO 14001, or that have corporate directives to operate in a greener fashion.

Whether you’re looking to save money or be kinder to the environment, a professional PPE laundering program is an initiative worth looking into.

Top PPE Laundering Mistakes and How to Avoid Them!

1. Focus on Cost, Not Value

When speaking to potential clients about initiating a PPE laundering program, the biggest obstacle Chisholm runs into is a focus on costs, rather than value.

Some managers he speaks with are so focused on the bottom line that they fail to see the long-term value in establishing a laundering program.

For instance, managers who are simply looking to purchase the cheapest work gloves possible won’t see the cost-savings expected from a PPE laundering program for one simple reason: Cheap gloves don’t last long. Cheap gloves are cheap because they’re made… well, cheaply. They don’t offer the same protection level as a higher quality glove and they fall apart much quicker.

When comparing a cheap glove to a high-quality glove with a laundering program, the cost-savings in purchase price is almost certainly dwarfed by the useful life of the high-quality glove, not to mention it offers better protection. Cheap gloves will need to be replaced much more frequently whereas a high-quality glove will not only last longer, but also can be laundered several times, extending its useful life substantially.

2. Misaligned Service Strategy

In the world of PPE laundering, you can get everything from do-it-yourself to white-glove service that does it all for you, with everything in between. Chisholm advises against subscribing to a cookie-cutter laundering program that hasn’t been customized to your specific business – your plant is unlike any other, why should your laundering or recycling program be?

Many professional PPE launderers offer the same basic service to all clients, which often results in inconvenient programs that require more work than realized cost-savings.

Most one-size-fits-all services require the customer to ship their dirty PPE directly to the launderer. This may not seem like a huge deal, but in practice, it’s a nightmare – especially for larger operations where hundreds or even thousands of gloves are being laundered daily. Managing the collection, shipping, and sorting of the PPE can be a full-time job and pull valuable resources away from core business processes. Imagine having to check thousands of pairs of gloves all by yourself – there’s no question your time would be better spent elsewhere.

CLR develops each and every service strategy from scratch based on the individual needs of the business. Everything from the collection points (where employees deposit their used PPE) to service frequency (how often PPE is picked up and laundered) is customized to each client’s specifications.

3. Failure to Stick the Landing

Despite the best of intentions, even the most thoroughly planned laundering strategy can fall apart if it isn’t executed properly.

At CLR, Chisholm and his team know that proper execution is key to a successful program, which is why they ensure every program has both management and employee buy-in and that everyone involved receives proper training.

A good PPE laundering partner will train all your employees. A great partner will go a step further and explain to your employees how the program benefits them, helping to ensure compliance and program success.

For Chisholm, communication is the key to a successful implementation. If there are multiple shifts working in a plant, he and his team will ensure all three are properly trained, and not simply present to one group of workers and expect the information to be properly disseminated.

4. Improper Laundering Process

One of the biggest blunders Chisholm sees, especially with companies that manage their own laundering program, is the degradation of PPE due to improper laundering processes.

When it comes to PPE laundering, water is not your friend. Not only can high temperatures prematurely degrade PPE, but water can actually damage certain types of materials, reducing their efficacy and useful life. Additionally, certain chemicals and detergents can damage your PPE – for instance, bleach will actually corrode Kevlar® (that’s right, the material that can stop a bullet folds to bleach).

According to Chisholm, knowing the best ways to launder different types of PPE is more of an art than science, learned through years of experience.

As the name implies, CLR uses a closed-loop process and doesn’t use water in any of its laundering. Of course, CLR couldn’t share its secret with us, but Chisholm describes it as an environmentally friendly, ‘cradle-to-grave’ process. He explained that in some industries, when manufacturers use a partner that water-washes, the liability for the proper clean-up and disposal of that soiled water actually falls to the manufacturer; CLR’s waterless process eliminates that liability completely. In addition, CLR takes explicit responsibility to ensure an environmentally-sound process from the moment PPE is disposed of in a collection point to the moment it’s returned, fully laundered.

5. Poor Utilization of Metrics and Reporting

One of the biggest advantages of instituting a professional PPE laundering program is the ability to brag about how much money you’re saving – which is why Chisholm is so surprised when potential clients tell him they never measured metrics with their past laundering partner.

“Despite the myriad ancillary benefits, the goal of any PPE laundering program is to save money,” explains Chisholm. “That’s why we provide all our clients with tangible metrics and reporting that make it easy for them to evaluate the program’s performance and see how much they’ve saved.”

What kind of reporting would be associated with PPE laundering? For starters, CLR provides its clients with access to a client portal that contains all the information they need about their program, on demand. Reports can be as granular as how many pairs of each size were laundered along with how many needed to be scrapped, or as broad as the weight of the laundered PPE that’s returned, which shows a company in real terms the environmental impact their efforts are having.

These reports aren’t just for getting yourself a pat on the back, they can be used to satisfy real business objectives. Many of Chisholm’s clients use their reports to help achieve environmental certifications, zero-waste goals, or even to assist with EPA audits.

Is a Professional PPE Laundering Program Right for Your Business?

A well-executed professional PPE laundering program can offer a lot more than cost-savings, but if you’re sceptical as to whether your business would benefit, why not ask for a free trial? CLR is happy to offer prospective clients a complimentary on-site consultation and trial to see if the services are a good fit.

“With our services, the benefits are achieved over time, it’s a long-term investment,” says Chisholm. “It’s as important to us as it is to you that our services are a good fit with your business, otherwise, you’re not going to see the benefits and you won’t want to proceed with the program.”

When asked what type of companies benefit most from PPE laundering programs, Chisholm says that anyone looking for cost-savings in their PPE program or with green initiatives to accomplish would certainly benefit from exploring the possibility of instituting a program.


About Closed Loop Recycling

Founded in 1995, Closed Loop Recycling (CLR) specializes in the laundering of industrial textiles including PPE, absorbents, rags, and wipers. We use a proprietary process called the Zero Liquid Discharge process, which provides a waterless, environmentally sound process for laundering industrial textiles. For more information or to request a risk-free consultation, please visit our website at closedlooprecycling.us.

Joe Geng
About Joe Geng
Vice President of Superior Glove

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