Traditionally, workers in industry have turned to reusable laundered shop towels for a variety of cleaning applications. These shop towels are used to clean grease, oils and chemicals and are then put into specially marked containers where, often, a rental company will retrieve the towels and leave fresh towels for workers to use. It’s the way that many companies operate. With the new EPA wiper rule adopted in 2014, we in the nonwovens industry have a chance to truly revolutionize this practice of laundering towels for re-use.
But how do we fight the argument of “this is how we’ve always done it”? Let’s take a look at another product that changed the landscape of consumer behavior radically: the disposable diaper. The first disposable diaper was introduced in the 1940’s but didn’t become truly an industry standard until the 1970s. Continual improvements in product design and a focus on consumer education were vital components in changing the face of the industry.
With an overall industrial market in 2012 of $2.8 billion for disposable wipes, disposable cloth shop towels and reusable shop towels, it’s important that nonwoven manufacturers and converters educate industry decision makers about the benefits of transitioning to nonwoven industrial wipes.
- Are laundered shop towels really clean? Some independent studies have found contaminants including lead, iron, oil grease, cadmium, zinc, and xylene on shop towels that have been laundered. This means that the towels that are supposed to be cleaning are actually contaminating surfaces and possibly skin.
- Cost. The widely accepted perception is that laundered towels are less expensive than their nonwoven disposable counterparts. The average cost per wiper is approximately $0.15 each. The cost for laundered shop towels ranges from $0.05 to $0.15. But if you review all the hidden costs of the relaundered option, you might be surprised. Environmental, delivery, and replacement surcharges can quickly inflate the cost of the laundered shop towels.
- Solution oriented. A shop towel is…a shop towel. But their nonwoven competitors are often designed with a specific purpose in mind. They are manufactured with particular textures, packaged for convenience, and pre-moistened with sanitizers or cleaning agents that make sense for the task.
These are only a few of the many reasons why industry should embrace the idea of nonwoven industrial wipes. It just makes sense.
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