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A Clean Getaway

I saw Eddie at the far end of the hallway and I thought to myself,  “He’s early!”  I knew this because I was 15 minutes early, with the intention of chatting with both Eddie and Zac before their shift started. I wanted to explain my plan of spending the day in the Laundry Room with them. 


Instead, I caught up with Eddie as he collected laundry items that had been used over night and was preparing to take them downstairs for washing.


Eddie seemed happy and receptive about me joining them for the day, though I did realise that I was putting both him and Zac on the spot by turning up with no notice.


Zac and Eddie have worked together for over a decade and have developed a great working relationship. You’d need to, to stay together for that long! As the morning progressed, I saw first hand the pride that they take in their work and the excellent service they provide to residents and colleagues. They know what needs to be done and are aware of the peaks in demand. They are able to plan around the demand and always ensure that clean sheets, towels, tablecloths and importantly, residents’ personal clothing is available when needed.


There are three washing machines in the Laundry Room and as I worked with Eddie to load machines, I could see the difference between the domestic washing machines used at home and the giant machines used here. Eddie sorted and organised the items into different machines and explained about using different temperatures depending upon the nature of the fabrics and infection control requirements. Our machines also use Ozone which (and here comes the magic) somehow binds with ‘dirt’ molecules to provide effective cleaning at lower temperatures and with less detergent, so a big tick in the environmentally friendly box.


At this point, Zac appeared and looked surprised but happy to see me. I felt they were both pleased that I would be seeing how they work and for them to have the opportunity to provide feedback about the service they provide and the smooth running of the department.


I tried to make myself as useful as possible and take part in all aspects of their day. This involved sweeping the laundry, cleaning and tidying the staff rooms, collecting and returning items for the laundry, ironing, folding, mending and sorting.  Woven through all of this was plenty of banter, laughter, music and a wonderful sense of purpose in providing an essential service for residents. Zac and Eddie’s respect for residents and the Charity was obvious and very humbling. I saw first hand the knowledge they have about their responsibilities and their intentions to do their very best.


Eddie showed me how to mark residents’ clothing with a discrete marking system that involves attaching a small button like object, which is colour coded and numbered to each resident’s room. However, it occurred to me that like London Cabbies, Zac and Eddie have ‘the knowledge’ of residents’ clothes. I put this to the test and they were faultless with their identification skills. It went like this: I held up an item of resident’s clothing, and they told me who it belongs to. Pretty good recognition skills considering there are dozens of individual’s clothes to identify.


As the day progressed a large pile of ironing grew, and with Eddie taking the lead with the washing machines, driers and clothes marking, Zac was focused on ironing, sorting and folding all the items processed. That’s a LOT of shirts, trousers, sheets, tablecloths, napkins and towels, amongst other things to manage.


I had my initiation in how to use the roller iron, a formidably hot machine used for ironing large items such as sheets and tablecloths. There is definitely a knack to using this and although I had several attempts, it was clearly not my forte and Zac and I agreed that he would continue to use this and I would stick to using the traditional hand steam iron.


Zac demonstrated how to iron a shirt and I smiled to myself as I recalled my mum teaching me this task at quite an early age. I think I might have managed to impress Zac and Eddie a bit with the quality of my ironing and work output! I’m not sure how many shirts and trousers I personally ironed, but enough to develop a blister on my hand from holding the iron!


Zac and Eddie work in the laundry room day in, day out. I have even more respect for what they do, after spending the day with them, seeing just how hard they work and, how they approach their work with a can-do, positive attitude. I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to them again for being so welcoming and patient, and on behalf of everyone at the Surbiton Home and the Charity – Thank You Zac and Eddie, you’re Stars!