A great deal of work has been carried out into the life expectancy of towels in an industrial environment, by such institutions as the British Laundry Research Association and the South African Dry Cleaners and Laundry Association. Whilst opinions vary slightly, the general consensus is that between 90 and 120 wash cycles seems to be an average lifespan for towels in an industrial environment. It is worthwhile noting that when discussing fabric life, this is measured in respect of “number of launderings” and NOT elapsed weeks/months/years.
When discussing the laundering of towels, it should first be recognized that the primary purpose of a towel is to dry excess moisture from the body, which is in itself a fairly efficient chemical factory, secreting an assortment of chemicals which are primarily acidic and fatty in nature, as well as a variety of suntan oils and preparations.
If the acidic fats and greases are left on the cotton fabric, they will physically “burn” the material. It is therefore fundamental to the effective laundering of such fabrics that they are subjected to at least PH 10,5 with a minimum wash temperature of 50 degrees for 8 minutes. This will also ensure a clean look in a white towel.
If the PH and temperature are not achieved, not only will thermal disinfection not be achieved, but the fatty acids will be left on the fabric resulting in chemical degradation of the fibres and reduction in towel life.