6 Challenges of Managing Nursing Home Laundry In-House

Doing laundry in-house when running a nursing home can work for some models, but it doesn’t make sense in all contexts. It can add complexities and annoyances to running a nursing home and can sometimes cost more than the alternative when accounting for opportunity costs. 

The Challenges of Managing Nursing Home Laundry In-House

Some of the challenges of managing nursing home laundry in-house include the following:

1. Complexity

There are so many elements to manage when running a nursing home and in-house laundry just adds to an already full plate. As a business grows in complexity, it becomes more difficult to keep things running smoothly. The amount of complexity a business can handle will vary significantly according to size, income and staff, but every business has a breaking point at which things become too complex and the quality begins to suffer. 

It bears mentioning that laundry isn’t a nursing home’s primary business. Making significant strides in a nursing home’s ability to handle its own laundry is relatively difficult and likely not especially beneficial compared to dedicating the time and resources elsewhere. 

2. Space

For a business to truly do laundry in-house, it needs to dedicate significant space for washers, dryers and additional materials needed to launder clothes. Space for wires and necessary vents must also be considered, which can also limit where a laundry area can be set up unless a business is willing to modify a currently unworkable spot to handle these large machines. Additionally, in-house laundry requires on-site storage for dirty laundry. 

For most businesses, space is at a premium. An area designed for laundry typically won’t be able to be used for much else. When deciding whether to dedicate that space to laundry, a business must consider the alternatives. If there is enough space for an additional office or resident’s room, it may be more cost-effective to use that space in that way and get laundry done off-site. 

3. Time

Time should always be considered when reviewing the viability of any business decision. Broadly, there are two reasons for this. First, an employee spending time on any task will need to be paid for that time. Second, an individual’s time can typically only be spent on one task. Put another way, if you pay someone to do one thing, they usually can’t also do another thing until that first task is done.

Essential to understanding opportunity cost is knowing where time is best spent. Usually, a business should dedicate its employees’ time to whatever will be most beneficial to that business. 

4. Maintenance

Washers and dryers need to be maintained, otherwise they can become inefficient, experience expensive breakdowns or even become hazardous. In the worst cases, a poorly maintained machine can pose a major fire risk or release toxic gases when in operation. 

The amount of skill and effort required for a maintenance task will vary. At the lowest end, tasks like cleaning out a lint filter can be done quickly by basically any staff member. At the higher end, maintenance may require specialized knowledge of how a machine works in order to identify a problem and safely fix it. 

5. Cost

In-house laundering costs money. It’s a common misconception that a business doing something itself is cheaper or even free because there isn’t a singular bill associated with completing that task (like laundry). Although this may be true for some businesses, there are various expenses (both singular and ongoing) that must be accounted for.

Major one-off costs for doing in-house laundry can include buying machines and setting up a space to handle laundry. Ongoing costs include maintenance, employee work hours, utilities costs and more. Moreover, one-off costs are often better thought of as infrequent costs. All machines fail eventually and when they do, they may need to be replaced. Maintenance can only go so far.

6. Scaling

Scaling up a laundry operation can be difficult. As the laundry needs of a business increase, it can eventually reach a point where it has reached its capacity. The nursing home will then either need to get more machines, get better machines or cycle laundry more often than makes sense for its model. Scaling down an operation can likewise be difficult because eventually some machines may fall into disuse and the space those machines take up is now essentially occupied needlessly. 

The advantage of professional laundry services is they’re inherently better equipped to handle these types of scaling issues. Because they specialize in laundering, they are simply better at doing it well and in a more cost-effective manner than standard businesses. If you’re interested, you can read more about this topic in this article on how managed linen services work.

Alsco Can Manage Your Nursing Home’s Laundry Needs

The challenges noted above aren’t insurmountable, but they need to be considered when deciding whether to do laundry in-house or to use a professional service. The reality is it can often make sense to outsource your laundry to simplify the model and focus on utilizing the limited time and space a business has to its maximum potential. At the very least, it’s worth researching the alternatives.

Alsco can ease the process for you while delivering your residents fresh, high-quality linens. We’d love for you to read more about our linen cleaning services to see how our business can help yours. You can also contact us directly with any questions and to discuss the specific needs of your staff and the residents of your nursing home.

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