The University Record, July 8, 1998

Laundry day is every day at U-M's laundry service

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Greer and Halcomb in the laundry facilityAn old nursery rhyme says that Monday is the day we wash our clothes. At the University's laundry facility on the North Campus, Monday-Friday is laundry day for blankets, sheets, pillowcases, aprons, towels and miscellaneous items that total 5.7 million pounds of laundry a year.

While goods are laundered just five days a week, deliveries of the finished product are made seven days a week, 365 days a year. The same schedule is followed for picking up soiled items. David Haas, manager of Hospital Materiel Services, says 90 percent of the goods comes from U-M Hospitals. The other 10 percent comes primarily from campus kitchen operations.

Everything that comes into the laundry is treated with "universal precautions," Haas says. That means all the goods are treated as "contaminated" material, whether that contamination is from potato peelings or bodily fluids. Personnel working with the incoming material wear gloves and aprons and sometimes masks and safety glasses.

It takes a staff of 46 working in the non-air conditioned shop to keep the laundry moving through washers that can handle up to 400 pounds at a time. Dryers, folding machines, presses and ironers are among the equipment needed to handle the daily load that includes everything from physicians' white coats to about 300 aqua baby gowns. Each gown is folded by hand before being returned to the hospitals.

While he is proud of the fact that the laundry facility is pretty much self-sufficient, with its own air compression system and boiler for steam, Haas is prouder yet of his staff. "It's just amazing how hard they work, to see what they accomplish," he says.