Best Management Practices for Commercial Laundries of Shop Towels

Commercial laundries are often called upon to recycle used shop towels.  Follow these Best Management Practices for your safety and that of your customers. 

  1. Make sure your customers remove all free liquids from shop rags and separating hazardous from non-hazardous towels. During storage maintain separation of incompatible wastes
  2. Make sure that used shop towels with hazardous solvents are collected, transported and stored in closed containers. Store in containers that are in good condition and labeled with the words “contaminated shop towels.” Make sure that there is adequate separation between containers to allow access for emergency equipment in case of fire. Ensure that containers are compatible with the materials stored in them.
  3. Containers holding flammable materials must be managed according to all local fire department standards. They must be sufficiently separated from all external sources of ignition. “No smoking signs shall be legible and placed at all accumulation areas. Such areas must meet the minimum property line setback requirements. Container type, color, and labels must also meet local fire department codes.
  4. Make sure you meet all applicable federal, state, and local environmental standards such as pretreatment requirements for the discharge of wastewater to a publicly owned treatment works (POTW), requirements for maintaining closed loop systems (for dry cleaners) or other recycling systems, and requirements for the proper disposal of pre-treatment and/or recycling residuals.
  5. The owner/operator must ensure that all employees are thoroughly familiar with proper waste handling, and emergency procedures, relevant to their responsibilities during normal facility operations and emergencies. Employees must know the location of all fire extinguishers and fire alarm(s) and the telephone number of the fire department must be clearly visible next to all emergency communication devices such as telephones.

Related information

Solvents addresses handling and best practices for solvent safety

Focus on: Used Shop Towels is an Ecology publication that discusses the Best Management Practices for generators and recyclers.