What is a Commercial Washing Machine?
A commercial washing machine is one designed to withstand medium or heavy use in a commercial or industrial setting. Commercial washing machines differ from domestic washing machines primarily in terms of load capacity, speed of wash, and quality of components. Because of these differences, each class of machine is suited to different settings.
In this article, we give a detailed overview of the distinguishing features of commercial washing machines as compared with their domestic counterparts.
Build quality and reliability
Commercial washing machines are precision-engineered from high-quality, solid components for long-term reliability even when used many times per day or continuously on a daily basis. Domestic washing machines, on the other hand, have the potential to break down after only a few years’ weekly use, lacking the design and build quality needed to last longer.
A typical commercial washing machine weighs 158 kg, whereas the average domestic machine weighs only 70 kg.
Commercial washing machines are built to last 32,000 or more cycles and to withstand constant use throughout the day and night. They normally come with a 12-month warranty that can normally be extended for up to five years. Domestic washing machines have an expected life cycle of only 2500 cycles, and their warranty tends to be non-extendable and limited to use in domestic settings, meaning that if they are used in commercial or industrial settings, their warranty is invalidated.
Maintenance, Speed and Duration
Commercial laundry machines are designed to be maintainable for many years after the manufacture of specific models is discontinued, so that even if they do break down, spare parts are kept for replacing components that have worn out. Furthermore, models within each range are typically built chiefly with common parts that are interchangeable across all models, so there is usually a good supply readily available from regional suppliers for emergency fitting for any model if it breaks down. This is vitally important from the standpoint of keeping commercial and industrial laundry operations up and running with minimal downtime. It also means that investment in a commercial machine will not be wasted if the model bought is discontinued, as it is likely that maintenance of the machine can still go ahead using available stocks of spare parts.
In contrast, domestic washing machines have typically been designed with built-in obsolescence in mind, to keep the market for new machines thriving and to reduce the cost of components to the bare minimum needed to maintain operational functionality during the rated life cycle of the product. If they break down, maintenance is often difficult or not cost-effective, and replacement parts tend to be hard and very slow to source, potentially leaving householders without a working machine for weeks. What’s more, beyond a relatively small number of years after the machine was manufactured, the maker discontinues supply of spare parts, so that then if a single component breaks down, the whole machine has to be written off. A domestic machine generally does not have the capability to withstand multiple daily washes as they are not built for that.
If you are pondering what grade of machine to invest in, domestic or commercial, it would be a good idea to consider the level of usage it will get.
The larger drums of commercial machines and their higher weight limits allow much more clothing and larger bedding items to be washed at once, saving you time carrying out multiple washes. It is likely that within a commercial setting, such as a hotel, spa, restaurant, care home or commercial laundry, larger items such as bedding, towels and tableware will be more common. If you can wash everything needed in a shorter space of time due to increased capacity, this will give you the ability to wash more items and increase throughput with a single machine.
The smaller drum of a domestic machine will mean that more loads and more time are required to carry out the same amount of washing, taking up operator time.
Capacity also has an impact on the durability of the machines. The higher capacity of a commercial machine means fewer loads are needed over time, so there will be less wear and tear on the inner workings of the machine. In contrast, the lower capacity of a domestic machine means more loads will be needed for a given throughput of laundry, resulting in increased pressure on the components of the machine over time. This generally means that the life of the machine is shortened, and that it will need replacing sooner.
Speed of wash
Commercial washing machines are designed using high-performance machinery with fast spin speeds. This allows for much quicker wash times per load than domestic machines, which can take hours to thoroughly wash a full load. A typical commercial washing machine cycle lasts just 50 minutes, whereas a domestic washing machine can take 2-3 hours to complete a full program.
Depending on the type of setting where the machine will be used, time could be a luxury. In a setting such as an upmarket restaurant, there may be a need for washing services throughout the day to cover tablecloths, napkins, chef whites and the uniforms of waiting and front-of-house staff, including breakfast, lunch and dinner involving numerous covers. It is likely that the restaurant would not hold enough spare sets to cover several replacements per day and would not be in a position to employ staff to clean them overnight either. This creates a business need for washing, drying and finishing these items throughout the working day, so that they can be reused in a relatively short space of time, looking as fresh, clean and smart as customers would expect. Unless the restaurant is hiring these items on a fully-serviced basis to cover all washing needs, a commercial washing machine on site may be the best option.
Results of wash
The larger drum diameters and high-performance machinery of commercial washing machines allow the chemical cleaning solution to percolate more evenly around the wash than is usually possible from cramped loads of domestic washing, giving you more consistent cleaning results and better rinse performance.
While the best domestic washing machines give good results, there is always a risk of stains being left behind where washing was too cramped for the detergent solution to flow freely, as well as an increased risk of residual detergent being left in the wash and not fully drained, potentially causing skin irritation.
Confidence in the successful performance of the wash will be paramount in a professional setting. Incomplete washes, or washes that do not meet expected standards in terms of the quality and consistency of the results, will waste time and mean that some or all items have to be put through the wash again.
Commercial washing machines tend to be made of solid stainless steel and aluminium components, without plastic fascia, drawers or other parts that are difficult to recycle, giving them an ecological sustainability advantage over typical domestic machines.
The longevity of the machines also has advantages in an environmental context. A more robust and solid machine, such as a commercial one, is likely to last longer than the average domestic machine, meaning replacement will be less frequent.Waste materials will therefore be reduced, and the energy costs associated with eventual disposal and / or recycling will be lower pro rata per kg of laundry washed by the machine.
Efficiency of water usage
Commercial washing machines need less water for a given weight of clothes than typical domestic machines, reducing water consumption. The electronic programming of commercial washing machines is now very sophisticated, and generally they are designed to weigh their loads of clothing or other laundry items and adjust the amount of water used accordingly, avoiding wastage of water on lighter loads, a feature that is uncommon on domestic machines (it may be found on the more upmarket models).
Some commercial laundry operations are now fitted with waste water tanks called Greywater Recycling Tanks that store water from each rinse cycle for every machine in use, and reuse it for subsequent wash cycles, further increasing the efficiency of water usage.
Some innovative water-saving systems that have recently been developed also cut the total amount of water used by substituting reusable polymer beads that attract stains.
Efficiency of chemical usage
Commercial washing machines fitted with auto-dosing systems ensure that you use no more detergent than is required to optimally clean each load, taking its weight into consideration. This highly efficient feature will save money on detergent in the long run by avoiding over-dosing and wastage.
Domestic machines do not have such systems available, and typically require the user to freely pour liquid or powder into a large plastic slot at the top, often resulting in much more being used than is really needed for a thorough wash. It is difficult for a manual human operator to sensibly adjust the amount of detergent used according to the size of the load, as they cannot quickly determine weight of the load, easily calculate the amount of detergent needed to match, or reliably dispense it, whereas the commercial auto-dosing systems weigh the load in situ, and calculate and add the correct amount of detergent automatically, carrying out this task with ease and consistently.
Electrical power and efficiency
Thanks to their larger loads and faster washing times, commercial washing machines consume less electricity per kilogramme of laundry washed than domestic ones, although they usually run at higher power settings to give them the extra performance they need.
Commercial washing machines are hard-wired to the electrical mains using a dedicated 25-amp supply, ensuring a stable and safe connection and allowing for higher-speed performance by supplying more current, whereas domestic machines are limited to standard domestic socketry via detachable wall plugs, which in the UK allows a maximum current of 13 amps, limiting performance.
We can see that there are many points to consider when contemplating the use of a commercial washing machine over a domestic one. Generally, in a professional setting, where washes will be frequent and heavy loads will be required, commercial machines are the best and longest-lasting option. They offer reliability and durability, along with flexible options in terms of payment, encompassing either buying outright or renting. If you are thinking a commercial machine might be right for your business and would like to discuss your options, get in touch with Brewer & Bunney today. We would be happy to offer guidance and advice on the options that are best-suited to your business requirements.