Washing Diapers at Tiny Tots Gets Greener
It's a simple story. Tiny Tots offers the greenest and cleanest professional laundering method on the planet! The following Q&A helps chronicle the journey we have taken to get to this point!
What is the history of the laundry process at Tiny Tots?
In 1966, Tiny Tots had four top-loading, 20-pound Kenmore washers. Those were soon replaced by an industrial 100-pound washer/extractor which was eventually replaced by 400, 600 and 800-pound machines. Then, in 1990, a new plant was built from the ground up, and two Continuous Batch Washers (CBWs) were installed. Tiny Tots was the first diaper service to use CBWs. However, it didn't take long to determine that the transfer technology from one module to another resulted in a premature breakdown of fiber, which ultimately led to going back to the use of washer/extractors.
What type of equipment do you currently use to launder the diapers?
For the past year, Tiny Tots has revisited laundering in a CBW that uses cutting edge technology classified as "Pulse Flow". The diapers are transferred from one module to another in a spiraling corkscrew manner which solves the transfer problem experienced in 1990. Currently, there are only a handful of these washers in use around the world. The new technology preserves the fiber of the diaper and, after a year-long trial, we feel confident making it official: We’re laundering diapers (again) in a CBW!
What is a Continuous Batch Washer (CBW)?
CBWs are modular machines in which batches of goods move through a complete wash cycle from module to module. Each module performs a specific portion of the wash process. Water flows in the opposite direction of the goods, creating a built-in water reuse system.
What are the benefits of using a CBW?
- There is less energy consumption.
- There is less water consumption. In fact it takes less water to launder a day's worth of diapers than it takes to flush a toilet one time.
- The process is fully automated and programmable from start to finish.
What are the 5 elements of washing diapers?
The acronym is W-A-T-C-H:
- Cleansing Agents
What is the laundry process?
The soiled diapers are released from an overhead bag system onto a conveyor belt and dropped into a loading chute. From there they go through 8 cleaning modules.
- Module 1: The diapers are flushed with a high pressure stream of water which continually rinses the diapers.
- Module 2: Alkaline and detergent is injected to attack the soil in the diapers. The water temperature is 140° F in modules 1 through 5.
- Module 3: More rinsing with water that has been drained from module 4.
- Module 4: Another rinse. The water is drained and recycled to module 3. During these modules, the pulse flow system is actively breaking down stains.
- Module 5: Oxygenated bleach is added. Water systematically flows back into module 4 and recycles through to module 3.
- Module 6: Water temperature is lowered to 130° F so as not to set stains.
- Module 7: A mixture of freshwater and clean/drained water from the final press extract is injected.
- Module 8: Sour is added to rebalance the pH and the final washing is completed with a mixture of freshwater and reserve water from the final extract.
After Module 8, the diapers are slid through a chute into a single-stage hydraulic press. The clean diapers are pressed into extracted cakes and conveyed to the dryer shuttle. The shuttle communicates with the dryer's operating system to choose an available dryer and two cakes of diapers are automatically loaded. The sensors heat until a maximum temperature is reached, and then they electronically monitor the remaining moisture.
What is Pulse Flow?
Pulse Flow uses streams of concentrated water pressure to launder the diapers. It uses a combination of a high flow in the last few turns of the tunnel preceded by a lower water level. This also allows better control of the cleaning agents' usage and concentration.
Do you use chlorine bleach?
Not any more! We use a low-temp oxygen bleach made specifically for CBWs. It is successfully used in Europe. It offers significant advantages over chlorine or peroxide. Whitening and disinfecting is not compromised and, because it activates at a lower temperature, it reduces energy needs associated with heating water.
How do you make sure the diapers have been cleaned properly?
We perform regularly scheduled in-house testing, as well as monthly independent lab testing. The following tests are run on the diapers:
- pH: A pH of 4.5 to 6.5 is passing and represents the pH of normal human skin.
- Absorbency: Samples must absorb water immediately.
- Sanitary: The sample is incubated with the proper media and then evaluated according to the presence or absence of sporulating bacillus.
How do you decide what diaper type to offer in your service?
Since we started, our number one priority has been to provide a diaper that is safe for our customers to use. It is also important that the diaper absorb well, be affordable, and easy to use. Throughout the years, we have always chosen a gauze weave of 100% cotton. Gauze is the most absorbent weave of cotton available, and the natural fiber and simplicity of a cotton pre-fold equates to a consistent hygienic outcome.
What can I expect from diapers I receive from Tiny Tots?
You can expect professionally laundered diapers that are free of bacteria and soap residue, that are pH balanced, and that absorb well and immediately. Our desire is that you have complete peace of mind using a Tiny Tots diaper that:
- Is comfortable for your baby.
- Gives you the ability to know when a change is needed.
- Is a good value.
- Helps save our natural resources and landfill space.