Have you ever suffered the indignity of sneaking into the laundromat late at night with a basketful of pads and sheets, only to return the next week to find a sign saying “NO HORSE LAUNDRY?” Or, perhaps you prefer to do your horse laundry at home, but your family doesn’t particularly enjoy having horsehair embedded in their clean clothes. It might be time for you to consider a machine for the barn. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions that can help you decide what kind of washer and dryer will best suit your needs. (Note: The focus of this article is primarily on commercial rather than residential appliances, which are better suited to handle equine demands. Also, we cite certain manufacturers’ names, but that does not imply an endorsement, nor does it mean that they are the only company to offer the particular item, style of machine, or feature mentioned.)
What To Consider
Consider the nature of your laundry when determining what kind of washer and dryer will meet your needs. Do you only wash pads, towels, boots, and light sheets? Or do you wash winter blankets as well? What about turnout rugs? The heavier the laundry, the larger and stronger your machine needs to be. If you plan to regularly launder heavy winter rugs, a commercial machine, while costly, pays off long-term. “In our experience, residential machines last about a year before needing repairs and replacement,” explains Celeste Kopyscianski, marketing manager in the specialty division of Miele Corporation (www.miele.com). “Over time, those costs—to say nothing of the inconvenience and frustration of being without a washer and dryer—really add up,” she notes.
Also review the volume and frequency of your laundry loads. If you wash everything from blankets to wraps for a large number of horses every day, again, a commercial machine is your best choice.
“Commercial machines are designed specifically to run constantly for 8 to 10 hours a day,” explains Celeste. On the other hand, if you only do light laundry (pads, light sheets, towels, wraps) for a few horses once daily or a few times weekly, and you use a service for winter and turnout blankets, a heavy-duty domestic or smaller commercial washer and dryer might suffice.
Do you have water restrictions? If you have a well or live in an area with frequent droughts, a high efficiency washer that conserves water becomes the leader on the roster of choices. Celeste points out, “Any front loader will use far less water than a top loader. A domestic top loader will use about 40 gallons of water per load, whereas a stackable machine will use as little as 14 gallons.” Water-saving machines also reduce heating bills because less water needs to be heated during the wash cycle.
How much space do you have to devote to your laundry area? If space is limited, a stackable commercial washer and dryer, such as that
newly introduced from Maytag (www.maytagcommerciallaundry. com), could be the perfect solution. It has a 3.2 cubic-foot washer atop a 6.7 cubic-foot dryer. Miele’s Little Giant is another stackable commercial choice.
Do you have a laundry room that is closed off from the rest of the barn, or will the machine sit in a more open area? If the latter, you might need to ask the dealer about noise levels associated with various models. A softmount commercial washer will be quieter than one that is hard-mounted (see tables in slideshow).
Finally, examine the controls. Are they easy to reach, read and operate? How about access to the washer and dryer interior? A front-loader with a large door is easier to load than a top loader—especially if you are washing heavy turnout rugs or cannot lift heavy laundry.
It’s not a bad idea to ask the dealer for the names of people who have the washer and dryer you’re interested in. Ask them about their experience with the appliances, in terms of performance, service, availability of replacement parts, and operating costs. Online consumer reviews can also be very useful.
Commercial Vs. Residential?
As you might expect, commercial laundry machines are heavier, more durable, and more expensive than domestic models. They also are available in sizes that offer larger capacity. Most commercial washers and dryers have a steel drum and frame, for especially rugged durability.
You can also expect cleaner laundry from a commercial versus a domestic washer. Celeste from Miele explains why. “Commercial washers reach water temperatures in excess of 200°F, while residential machines only heat to around 115°F. The additional heat strips body oils from the fabric, so you get cleaner results.”
Wash times are faster with commercial machines—on average, 45 minutes to the 60 minutes needed for residential machines. Also, check to make sure that the washer is a washer/extractor, not just a washer. The very high extraction force of these commercial washers allows for faster, less costly, drying times. When choosing a dryer, Celeste recommends looking for one that has a moisture sensor feature. “This sensor automatically shuts off the dryer when the clothing is totally dry. It saves a considerable amount of money,” she says.
Most commercial machines are programmable, but only some offer programs that are specifically designed to handle horse laundry. “Miele offer programs just for saddle pads, and our program for heavy winter blankets includes a prewash and additional rinses,” Celeste explains. “We also offer a waterproofing program for turnout rugs that includes a special wash with a waterproofing agent that is then set during the drying cycle. And our disinfection program is popular with veterinary clinics.” Programs also have automatic dosing of detergent, for cost savings. Celeste strongly encourages buyers to verify that the manufacturer has pre-set the desired programs before taking delivery of the machine, since the programs are not particularly intuitive or easy to set up.
Commercial washers are also unique from residential washers in that they lack an internal drain pump. Instead, they have a gradient drain that empties directly into the floor drain. This prevents horsehair and dirt from getting trapped in the machine.
Some manufacturers offer washers and dryers designed for semi-commercial use. These might be a perfect solution for your barn. Huesch, for instance, offers a homestyle front load washer that can be used commercially. Ipso makes several models of washers and dryers that are designed for semi-commercial use. Miele offers residential washers with a Honeycomb drum, suitable for washing the occasional horse blanket. This drum has a unique design that prevents fabric from getting pulled through water exit holes, thereby prolonging the life of the items being washed.
What Size Washer Do I Need?
Washing machines are categorized according to their drum load size or cubic capacity. Most domestic machines run from 3.5 to 4.3 cubic feet. Commercial machines in the U.S. typically have a drum capacity that ranges from 23 to 70 lbs, although Ipso manufactures washer-extractors ranging from 40 to 175 lbs. For washing horse blankets, the Mag company (www.laundrymachines.co.uk) recommends a drum size of 22 to 50 lbs. Miele Professional recommends a drum size of 23 lbs for washing one winter blanket and a drum size of 70 lbs for washing up to three blankets at a time (See Table 1 in slideshow).
Compared with residential machines, which use 110 volts, commercial washers draw more electrical current. Most run on three-phase electric (415 volts), although some can run on single- or two-phase electric (208/240 volts).
It can be expensive and/or impractical to install three-phase power. Or, three-phase power might be unavailable in your area. A phase converter, which is a box that converts one- or two-phase power supply to three-phase, is an affordable solution that can be installed with your existing electrical system.
Commercial washers are categorized as either hard-mount or soft-mount. Celeste explains the difference. “With a hard-mount machine, the entire drum spins. For this reason, the machine has to be bolted down into the floor.” This involves drilling down 18” and installing rebar, which provides the anchoring support for the machine. “This kind of installation can get pretty expensive,” Celeste notes.
Soft-mount washing machines are mounted on springs and can sit on top of any floor. They are quieter and cause less vibration than hard-mount machines. They also have higher extraction forces—400 Gs compared to 100 to 150 for hard-mount machines. This speeds drying times and saves a lot on electric bills.
To accommodate their gravity drain outlet, commercial washers must be positioned higher than the main floor drain. Setting the machine on a steel floor mounting base or atop a platform takes care of this. The drain should be fitted with a trap that can be removed for cleaning purposes. Miele offers a lint box that the dirty water passes through in transit between the washer and the floor drain.
New or Used?
If costs are a concern, you might consider purchasing a reconditioned commercial washer. Check with the manufacturer on average lifespan of the models you prefer. For instance, if the machine is expected to last for 15 to 17 years and a reconditioned 5-year-old model is available, you can probably look forward to a decade of good service from the reconditioned washer. As with cars, “previously appreciated” is an option that balances service with economy. Just make sure you have a good service contract and can get replacement parts easily and affordably.
Some manufacturers offer commercial loans for their washers and dryers, Celeste explains. “A commercial lease can be done for one or five years. It doesn’t touch your open line of credit and you don’t get to depreciate the equipment, but it is counted as a deductible expense,” Celeste points out. “You write off half the machine in your first year, and the rest in your second year. At the end of the lease, you have the option of purchasing the washer.”
However you decide to buy, pay attention to the warranty and know what you’re getting. Miele offers one year on parts and labor, which includes a preventive maintenance check at the end of a year. Many manufacturers offer three- and five-year warranties, but check to see what those cover. In some cases, they don’t cover labor or certain parts that are most likely to need replacement.
Like washers, dryers come in a range of capacities. Ipso, for instance, makes energy-efficient commercial dryers with a drum size ranging from 6.5 kg (14.33 lbs) to 28 kg (61.71 lbs). The size you need will depend on the amount of laundry you do, and your choice of manufacturer will depend on who supplies your washer. This is especially important if you choose a washer that is programmed for equine applications, since the programs incorporate the proper drying times and temperatures.
With careful research and planning, you can find the washer and dryer that will provide years of service and thousands of clean pads, towels, blankets and wraps. The key is to maintain a broad perspective that considers not just the “sticker price,” but the longevity, durability, convenience, operating costs, and maintenance of the appliances. Besides, it might turn into a service that you can charge for.