An industrial laundry machine can be any one of various large capacity machines for cleaning clothing, sheets, and other types of commercial linens. Examples that fall under the phrase of “industrial laundry machine” include washer extractors, flatwork finishers or ironers, tumble dryers, and a fireman's drying cabinet uniquely built for firefighter wear. These machines and the companies that run them are used for processing large amounts of linen quickly for institutions such as hospitals, prisons, uniform supply companies, and hotels.
Commercial laundry machines, such as flatwork finishers, have heated rollers up to 20 inches (50.8 cm) wide and finishing widths of 126 inches (3.2 meters). They are designed to heat by a variety of methods including electrically, by gas, and by steam. The latest designs for an industrial laundry machine of this type also incorporate variable settings and thicker steel rolls that transfer heat better than in the past, making them more energy-efficient. Large scale suppliers of any type of industrial laundry machine for starting a laundry business exist in the United States, Belgium, and Turkey, to name a few.
Many industrial laundry businesses operate on the principal of the assembly line and their equipment is becoming increasingly automated to speed up processing. Some of the larger laundry businesses can clean 15,000 pounds (6,804 kilograms) of linen per day. An example of this upgrade is the change in the industry from using large-capacity conventional washers, modeled on home washer designs, to a form of tunnel or continuous-batch washer that doesn't require constant loading and unloading of linen.
Working in the laundry business can be a difficult occupation for several reasons. The work load tends to be continuous throughout the work day and can be fast-paced. The environment is usually very noisy, requiring ear protection, and can be quite hot, especially in the linen drying region, often exceeding 100° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius). As well, workers are frequently exposed to caustic chemicals to clean the laundry, such as detergents and bleaches. Pathogens and sharp objects can also be common hazards in incoming soiled laundry.
Employees are required to wear protective clothing, gloves, and face shields, and wash their hands with antibacterial soap throughout the day. The restrictive clothing, stressful environment, and fast pace of operation of a typical industrial laundry machine makes the potential for human injury an ever-present concern. Comparable to the risk of day-to-day work with farming equipment, an industrial laundry machine can have several moving, exposed parts, and repetitive work near this equipment can cause fingers or clothing to get caught in it.