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checkMinimize water used for washing laundry.

All PIM content was independently developed and reviewed to be vendor-, product-, and service provider-neutral.


In facilities with on-site laundry services, several practices can be implemented to minimize the amount of water and chemicals used. Facilities that use off-site laundry services can stipulate that vendors make process and material improvements.

  • Project Talking Points

    • Many facilities have some small, decentralized on-site washing machines that could be upgraded to optimize water use.
    • Washing machines can waste water for a number of reasons, including these:
      • Older machines tend to be less efficient.
      • Washing a partial load uses the same amount of water and heating energy as a full load.
      • Mixing lightly soiled laundry with heavily soiled items misses the opportunity to use a shorter wash cycle with fewer cleaning chemicals and less water for the lightly soiled items.
  • Triple Bottom Line Benefits

    • Cost benefits: Water, sewer, and energy costs are reduced due to reduced water consumption. and reduced demand for heated water. Associated costs for cleaning detergents and other laundry chemicals are also reduced.
    • Environmental benefits: Reducing water consumption decreases the strain on the municipal water supply and the total amount of water withdrawn from natural water bodies, protecting the natural water cycle. Reduced energy use associated with treating, supplying, and heating potable water also reduces energy-related emissions.
    • Health and safety benefits: Saving money on wasteful and unnecessary tasks saves resources to accomplish the real mission of the hospital. Support of water quality and conservation is connected to environmental stewardship and healthy communities.
  • Purchasing Considerations

    If you have suggestions for purchasing considerations, or suggested sample contract language for any product or contracted service, please participate in the discussion below.

  • How-To

    Large on-site laundries

    1. Evaluate water used for daily wash loads.
      • Install flow meters to determine use.
      • Track laundry load weights to confirm pounds per gallon.
      • Track detergent and (if used) additive quantities.
    2. Know what is considered a good water efficiency standard for commercial laundries. In general, 2 gallons of water per pound of clothes is considered a good rate, although it may not hold up for heavily soiled items. (As a point of refrence, one set of queen-size bed sheets weighs about 3 pounds and requires 6 gallons of water to wash and rinse.)
    3. Consult the manufacturer about specifications for minimzing water used.
      • Recommended load size
      • Amount of water needed for less soiled to heavily soiled laundry
    4. Be sure water conservation measures do not compromise achievement of cleaning or sanitation goals.
    5. Source new equipment based on typical wash load demand. Tunnel washers are the most efficient equipment for large applications. They are heavy-duty, multi-tank units capable of handling loads up to 2,000 pounds per hour. They employ counter-current wash flows and reuse final rinse water for next batch pre-rinse. Tunnel washers are capable of saving between 40 – 70 percent of water consumption compared to conventional washer extractor machines.
    6. Run full loads (but not overly full) to assure the machine operates at its optimal level, preventing re-washing and wasteful activity.

    Small departmental applications

    1. Determine a good water efficiency standard for this equipment as discussed above (i.e., pounds of textiles washed and gallons used per cycle to calculate pounds per load per gallon of water).
    2. Most older washer-extractors are vertical axis machines that require 3 to 4 gallons (11.3 L to 15.1 L) of water per pound of fabric cleaned. The most efficient machines have built-in water-recycling capabilities, storing rinse water from the previous load to supply pre-wash water in the subsequent load and using less than 2.5 gallons per pound (9.5 L) of fabric.
    3. If your equipment uses beyond the high end of 4 gallons of water per pound of linen, you have an opportunity to improve efficiencies.
    4. When equipment nears the end of its useful life (or sooner if resources allow), replace old washer-extractors with new high-efficiency horizontal axis washers, which use nearly half the water (and energy) of older machines.

    Off-site laundries

    1. Review practices and equipment specifications with off-site laundry vendors. Enlist the help of equipment manufacturers, if necessary, to verify washing machine efficiencies. Request vendors to follow procedures that will result in water savings. In addition, review current hospital sorting protocols to align with off-site vendor practices. This will help optimize washer loads.
    2. Choice of fabric can have an impact on the amount of washing and level of chemical treatment required. For example, stains are more difficult to remove from cotton blend fabrics than from 100 percent polyester, and thus cotton and cotton blends require more frequent re-washing or replacement.
    3. Review laundry sorting with industry standard practices for infection control. Follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for washing infected materials.
  • Tools

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  • Case Studies

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  • Regulations, Codes and Standards, Policies

    • The Uniform Plumbing Code and the International Plumbing Code form the basis for plumbing system requirements in most local building codes. The applicability of local building codes often depends on the scale of the retrofit.
    • The U.S. EPA’s WaterSense program is developing a Commercial and Institutional WaterSense program. Check here for updates on the program development.
  • Cross References: LEED

  • Cross References: GGHC

    • Operations: Facilities Management Credit FM 2.1-2.5: Potable Water Use Reduction: Total Building Reduction
  • Cross References: EEP

    If you have sample environmentally preferable purchasing language for products or contracted services to share, or other, related resources, please contact us or participate in the discussion below. 

  • PIM Synergies

  • Education Resources

    If you have any information or resources to contribute, please contact us or participate in the discussion below.

  • More Resources

    • “Panel of Experts: Boosting Laundry Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation (parts 1 and 2).” American Laundry News: (April 2012).
  • PIM Descriptors


    Level: Beginner

    Category List:

    • Laundry
    • Operations
    • WATER

    PIM Attributes:

    • Optimize Operations

    Improvement Type:

    • Operations


    • Linen Services
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