What is Underwash and How is it Costing You?

What is Underwash?

When choosing an arc rated / flame resistant (AR / FR) clothing supplier, it’s important to understand your options and how they impact both your company and its employees. In this post and in the video below, we discuss what “underwash” means in a uniform rental with industrial laundry (“rental”) program and how it impacts company spend. Stay tuned for additional posts exploring the ins and outs of uniform rental programs and the differences between uniform rental with industrial laundry and a managed purchase programs.

Companies who choose uniform rental with industrial laundry typically require garments for a five-day work week. That means, each employee is issued eleven sets of garments. The idea is that employees have five clean sets for the work week, five dirty sets that are to be laundered, and the eleventh set to wear on the pick-up/delivery day. But, how does this relate to underwash?

“Underwash” is a term used in the industry to refer to an under-utilization of the laundry service. This occurs when the laundry provider doesn’t actually wash everything that the company is paying to be washed. How does that happen? Either employees are not rotating their five and five sets, or 100% of the employees are not using the laundry service. As a result, the company is paying for a service that it’s not receiving. You might think this only happens every once in a while, but the truth of the matter is this happens more often than you think and if analyzed, you’d see that it adds up to a significant cost.

Internal audits show that most companies have 25-50% underwash; a combination of employees in a rental program not turning in soiled uniforms for laundering and not rotating all five sets in any given week. It is often due to worker absence on laundry pick-up day, frustration with service issues, or general forgetfulness. Yet – whether an employee uses the laundry service or not – every item issued to the organization is invoiced as normal. In fact, your organization is invoiced at its weekly laundry rate for the duration of the contract, regardless of vacation, sick time, or training – amounting to companies incurring significant expenses for services they’re not receiving.

Additionally, if your company closes for a holiday or general shut-down, you’re still required to pay for laundering services. As Chad Barker (Tyndale’s Regional Sales Director) points out in the video, laundry providers don’t have a relief driver for every route, so when a holiday is upcoming, they have to plan (up to two weeks in advance) how they’re going to pull customers ahead in schedule so they can accommodate services with only a few relief drivers. What that means is, the normal delivery/pick-up date can shift, leading to employee confusion around when they need to bring in their dirty garments and ultimately, not all employees do so.

Furthermore, rental companies actually count on less than 100% utilization of the cleaning service. In Chad’s opinion, most rental companies don’t have the production or route capacity to handle 100% of the rotation (five sets a week if they’re in the eleven set program with every employee turning in every week). Pricing is purposely based on 52-week billing and the laundry company knows that there will be a fairly significant amount of underwash throughout the year and the contract term. And yet, they don’t issue credits in the event of underwash due to any of the reasons stated in this post and video above.

The net effect of all this is that the customer is contractually obligated to pay every week for cleaning services when up to 50% of employees aren’t using the service. When you start to consider the cost per wearer, it can really add up to a lot of money that’s spent on nothing.

So, next time you’re selecting your AR / FR clothing supplier, consider how underwash has a significant impact on company spend. And, be sure to check out our recent blog series examining the industry’s shift away from uniform rental with industrial laundry to managed direct purchase AR / FR clothing programs.

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