Insights into Reducing Your Number of Store Emergency Calls

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Insights into Reducing Your Number of Store Emergency Calls (Part 1)

Pointers from Paulie B: Many concern equipment failure, which is most under your control

GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you’ve owned a laundromat for a while, you know the stress of receiving emergency calls. They can come at any time, and often when you least desire them: weekends, vacations, at night when you’re sleeping, or even you’re just sitting down for dinner.

The reason behind a call can vary, from an angry customer demanding to speak to the owner, the sewer is backing up, all the way to there being a raging fire.

My column this month is intended to help you deal with the emergency calls you receive related to your laundromat business. We can’t eliminate them, but there are ways to cut them down dramatically.

There are basically four domains of emergency call causes: equipment failure, criminal acts, behavior of customers and/or employees, and behavior of neighboring shopkeepers.


Many of the calls received concern equipment failure. The good news is they are the issues that are most under your control. The bad news is that solving them requires time, effort, and some money.

Let’s Start with Lint, the True Enemy of Laundromats — It’s highly flammable. Put some in a fireplace, light it and watch how fast it burns! Make a video to show your crew and they’ll be convinced.

If you want to avoid dryer fires, which can be catastrophic, you must keep your dryers as free of lint as possible. Don’t let lint build up anywhere near, around, or inside your dryers. This approach goes way beyond just cleaning lint screens.

For every machine, keep the firebox, lint box, machine top, machine rear, exhaust duct, backdraft damper and drive train clear of lint. Arm yourself with a compressor and blowgun and do this after hours; you don’t want customers around for this. Wear PPE (short for personal protective equipment) and shut off the power to your dryers first.

Blast the lint out of every nook and cranny you can find. While you’re at it, blow out the motors, computer boards and coin mechanisms. This cuts down on part failure. To effectively keep lint from building up, you may be required to do this a few times a year or more.

This will dramatically lower the risk of a dryer fire starting and/or getting out of control.

Another issue related to lint is drain lines becoming backed up. Once I began a routine program of having all drain lines snaked out twice a year, I never had a drain backup again.

Tell the drain mechanic you want him to use a C-shaped cutting head to scrape any buildup off the insides of your drain pipes and elbows.

If you’re cleaning 4-inch drains, use a 3-inch scraper to allow the snake to get past elbows. This will also loosen up any coins or debris that is resting along your horizontal pipe runs, so make sure you run lots of water in the drain while snaking so you can wash down all the debris into your trap.

You may want to water-jet the lines the first time you do this, because you’ll get a lot of junk in your trap to shovel out. (Note: Snaking is cheaper than water-jetting, but it may pay to water-jet the first time.)

Check back Tuesday for Part 2

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].