Flatwork Ironers: Expanding Commercial Laundry Services

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New Wave Laundromat attendant Sharon Burwell uses the Michigan store’s 14-year-old flatwork ironer to quickly iron bed and table linens, including round tablecloths. (Photo: New Wave)

Joel Jorgensen |

Harnessing bigger accounts that require high-quality linen finishing

OSHKOSH, Wis. — There’s a trend in the vended laundry industry to capture additional store revenue through commercial laundry services. A growing number of owners go a step further. They utilize a flatwork ironer to tap into new commercial accounts they otherwise couldn’t serve.

By installing a flatwork ironer, vended laundry owners and new laundry investors can go beyond the industry standard; harness bigger accounts that require high-quality linen finishing; and bolster profits.

For the first time, a laundry can quickly and automatically iron bed sheets, pillowcases and table linens, making it more attractive to healthcare, food and beverage, and hospitality clients. The flatwork ironer helps a laundry get its foot in the door with clients it previously couldn’t serve. Soon, this laundry takes on more than a client’s ironed sheets and table linens; it will process the account’s other incremental volume of towels and robes, too.

The “Laundry Doctor” Jeff Gardner, owner of Sel-Dale Laundromat in St. Paul, Minn., maintains that his ability to iron sheets and pillowcases directly grew sales. He processes 200 sheets per hour using a 13-inch Continental Flatwork Ironer.

“That single piece of equipment allowed me to do work for massage therapists, spas and acupuncturists,” Gardner says. “They started talking about my business to friends. Then business boomed. The ironer paid for itself the first year. Now it pays for itself every month.”

PLAN FOR SPACE NEEDED

Often, the biggest challenge in adding a flatwork ironer is available space. Store developers can (and should) plan for that space ahead of time. But for those who own an existing vended laundry, they’ll need to dedicate a separate space for an ironer.

How much room will a flatwork ironer take up? You can expect a 13-inch flatwork ironer to occupy 60 cubic feet; this includes the machine, installation clearances, and necessary work area. This space allows laundry operators necessary elbow room for feeding and catching linens.

Making the ironer visible to laundry customers, yet out of their way, is also smart. Visibility helps advertise a new service, according to Mike “Stucky” Szczotka, of New Wave Laundromat, Sterling Heights, Mich. He’s owned his Continental flatwork ironer for 14 years, and thanks to its ability to iron flatwork, he says he quickly elevated profits by $800 per week.

BIGGER ACCOUNTS SEEKING HIGHER QUALITY

The ironers allow owners to gain new accounts, even when they require little ironing. Gardner and Szczotka agree that their ironers opened a Pandora’s box to new business, strengthened overall profits and differentiated their laundries from the competition.

Gardner, who caters to an array of clients, maintains sales mushroomed because of his ability to iron sheets and pillowcases.

“We are very profitable because of the ironer’s speed and quality finish,” he says.

Szczotka, who is an experienced dry cleaner and vended laundry owner, quickly catered to cosmetic surgeons, massage therapists and party rental companies. He uses the ironer in combination with highly programmable washers to properly clean and finish spa and table linens, which are notorious for stains and grease.

HOW THE IRONER WORKS

While there are a variety of flatwork ironers on the market, there are certain features and capabilities — waxless operation, solid programmability and ease of use — that separate one ironer from another.

Szczotka and Gardner chose their ironers because the machines integrate these features and automatically modify cylinder speed based on the ironer’s heat maintenance and programmed temperature.

“This allows operators to feed damp items into the ironer directly from the washer — bypassing dryer conditioning,” says Szczotka. “This boosts laundry productivity, helps eliminate dryer bottlenecks and reduces dryer wear-and-tear.”

Additionally, ironer programmability allows operators to quickly iron a variety of items.

For those interested in learning more about the viability of an ironer and its potential impact on a commercial laundry business, they should reach out to their equipment distributor. Most distributors — in addition to offering expert advice, equipment installation and post-sale service — can analyze whether an ironer is justified based on a store’s goals, demographics, available space and potential return on investment.

About the author

Joel Jorgensen

Continental Girbau Inc.

Vice President of Sales & Customer Services

Joel Jorgensen ([email protected]), vice president of sales for laundry equipment manufacturer Continental Girbau Inc., has 23 years of laundry industry experience. He offers his vended laundry development and operations expertise as a frequent contributor to a variety of industry publications. An alumnus of the American Laundry and Linen College, Jorgensen also serves on the Coin Laundry Association Board of Directors.

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