A deep dive into the Big Blue

Laundry & Cleaning Today attended Oxwash’s recent open day in Swindon to showcase their new Big Blue I facility.

Jan Raycroft reports

Visitors were shown around Oxwash’s first 20,000 square feet industrial laundry and wetcleaning facility

Standing in the centre of what is mostly still a wide-open space at Big Blue I, Oxwash’s first 20,000 square feet industrial laundry and wetcleaning facility, it’s impossible not to pick up on the energy and enthusiasm of co-founder Dr Kyle Grant as he takes us round the operation in Swindon.

We, along with some other selected guests, are getting a peek behind the scenes of the world’s only carbon-neutral industrial laundry plant during an open morning in support of B Corp month, how the most scrupulous for-profit corporations are certified by B Lab for their commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

Afterwards, he emails me to ask that we don’t mention a couple of the things we saw or heard about during the visit – and that’s fine because there is something of a giant R&D lab feel to Big Blue 1 right now. This request is about procedures and cutting-edge technology which the Oxwash team believes will revolutionise the industrial laundry industry, so we’re not surprised by the polite and professional email from a man who’s previously worked at NASA and SpaceX and revels in the role of being a disruptor.

In any case, and in most ways, Oxwash is an open book when it comes to what they’re up to and the challenges they face. It’s been that way since Grant started cycling around Oxford in an operation co-founded with Tom de Wilton while both were conducting PhDs there.

Grant has pedalled a long way since the days of collecting and laundering students’ garments. There was the growth to having three ‘lagoons’ servicing laundry, and now the ultimate test of the environment-first ethos: Can it be scaled up to encompass supplying healthcare and hospitality in an operation processing much larger volumes of linen and so have greater potential to create a positive impact on the environment and society? Grant and the Swindon pioneers are determined to achieve just that. They have EN 14065 accreditation for handling healthcare and hospitality linen and aim to set standards along the way which others will be duty-bound to copy and follow. He says: “This is very different to what we’ve done so far. It started in 2022, we’ve been working on it since then and so much more will happen during 2024.”

Indeed it will. While a bank of washers and dryers are in place and already processing clients’ laundry, alongside a spotting system and RFID-reading technology, a CBW is set to be up and running in August, supplied by Jensen. Four more dryers, a barrier washer, towel folder and an ironer are also on order and 2025 will see the arrival of another CBW, more dryers, extra barrier washer and two more ironers at the operation, fully powered and heated by renewable energy and biogas.

Oxwash may see themselves as disruptors but it’s interesting that many of the companies and suppliers they are working with while kitting out Big Blue 1 include some long-established names which have thrived on the back off their own R&D, technological advancement and most recently commitment to environmental and energy-conscious activities. For instance, there’s Christeyns, who’ve worked on a water reclamation system, and Cole & Wilson for the spotting chemicals. Michelle Urvall-Ashraf, head of sustainability at Oxwash, led a textile workshop and invited open day guests to test their own skills on the spotting tables. Even here, the Oxwash way is to look at when is the best time in the process chain to use spot cleaning to limit and even eradicate rewashes. As for us, our spot cleaning techniques might need improvement but we can spot something interesting next to the Electrolux Professional washers. Oxwash has partnered with UK green-tech company Cleaner Seas Group to eliminate microfibres as a waste byproduct from the cleaning process.

This is where high-tech innovation needs to conquer typical human behaviour as the specialist filter systems will sometimes meet obstacles like tissues, pens, or the occasional stray coin. It’s just the sort of challenge the engineers and undoubtedly Grant love to face.

The opening of Big Blue I saw 33 new employees join the Oxwash team but you’d be wrong to think they were all bright-eyed university grads looking to join a great adventure in The Next Big Thing. One thing Grant didn’t ask us to leave out of this report was his mischievous grin near the end when he pointed to a gathering of the (forgive me as one myself) ‘golden oldies’ beavering away testing and checking trials at work benches.

Some of his ‘newbies’ are old hands at the laundry businesses, familiar faces who are experts and former senior managers reinvigorated by new challenges. Disruptors come in all shapes, sizes and ages – it’s just that some, like Grant, have decided their bike pedalling days are over.

Open day guests were invited to try their hand at spotting

The day was hosted by Oxwash cofounder Dr Kyle Grant who enthusiastically showcased their new Big Blue I, the world’s only carbon-neutral industrial laundry plant

Laundry & Cleaning Today attended Oxwash’s recent open day in Swindon to showcase their new Big Blue I facility.

Jan Raycroft reports

Visitors were shown around Oxwash’s first 20,000 square feet industrial laundry and wetcleaning facility

Standing in the centre of what is mostly still a wide-open space at Big Blue I, Oxwash’s first 20,000 square feet industrial laundry and wetcleaning facility, it’s impossible not to pick up on the energy and enthusiasm of co-founder Dr Kyle Grant as he takes us round the operation in Swindon.

We, along with some other selected guests, are getting a peek behind the scenes of the world’s only carbon-neutral industrial laundry plant during an open morning in support of B Corp month, how the most scrupulous for-profit corporations are certified by B Lab for their commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

Afterwards, he emails me to ask that we don’t mention a couple of the things we saw or heard about during the visit – and that’s fine because there is something of a giant R&D lab feel to Big Blue 1 right now. This request is about procedures and cutting-edge technology which the Oxwash team believes will revolutionise the industrial laundry industry, so we’re not surprised by the polite and professional email from a man who’s previously worked at NASA and SpaceX and revels in the role of being a disruptor.

In any case, and in most ways, Oxwash is an open book when it comes to what they’re up to and the challenges they face. It’s been that way since Grant started cycling around Oxford in an operation co-founded with Tom de Wilton while both were conducting PhDs there.

Grant has pedalled a long way since the days of collecting and laundering students’ garments. There was the growth to having three ‘lagoons’ servicing laundry, and now the ultimate test of the environment-first ethos: Can it be scaled up to encompass supplying healthcare and hospitality in an operation processing much larger volumes of linen and so have greater potential to create a positive impact on the environment and society? Grant and the Swindon pioneers are determined to achieve just that. They have EN 14065 accreditation for handling healthcare and hospitality linen and aim to set standards along the way which others will be duty-bound to copy and follow. He says: “This is very different to what we’ve done so far. It started in 2022, we’ve been working on it since then and so much more will happen during 2024.”

Indeed it will. While a bank of washers and dryers are in place and already processing clients’ laundry, alongside a spotting system and RFID-reading technology, a CBW is set to be up and running in August, supplied by Jensen. Four more dryers, a barrier washer, towel folder and an ironer are also on order and 2025 will see the arrival of another CBW, more dryers, extra barrier washer and two more ironers at the operation, fully powered and heated by renewable energy and biogas.

Oxwash may see themselves as disruptors but it’s interesting that many of the companies and suppliers they are working with while kitting out Big Blue 1 include some long-established names which have thrived on the back off their own R&D, technological advancement and most recently commitment to environmental and energy-conscious activities. For instance, there’s Christeyns, who’ve worked on a water reclamation system, and Cole & Wilson for the spotting chemicals. Michelle Urvall-Ashraf, head of sustainability at Oxwash, led a textile workshop and invited open day guests to test their own skills on the spotting tables. Even here, the Oxwash way is to look at when is the best time in the process chain to use spot cleaning to limit and even eradicate rewashes. As for us, our spot cleaning techniques might need improvement but we can spot something interesting next to the Electrolux Professional washers. Oxwash has partnered with UK green-tech company Cleaner Seas Group to eliminate microfibres as a waste byproduct from the cleaning process.

This is where high-tech innovation needs to conquer typical human behaviour as the specialist filter systems will sometimes meet obstacles like tissues, pens, or the occasional stray coin. It’s just the sort of challenge the engineers and undoubtedly Grant love to face.

The opening of Big Blue I saw 33 new employees join the Oxwash team but you’d be wrong to think they were all bright-eyed university grads looking to join a great adventure in The Next Big Thing. One thing Grant didn’t ask us to leave out of this report was his mischievous grin near the end when he pointed to a gathering of the (forgive me as one myself) ‘golden oldies’ beavering away testing and checking trials at work benches.

Some of his ‘newbies’ are old hands at the laundry businesses, familiar faces who are experts and former senior managers reinvigorated by new challenges. Disruptors come in all shapes, sizes and ages – it’s just that some, like Grant, have decided their bike pedalling days are over.

Open day guests were invited to try their hand at spotting

The day was hosted by Oxwash cofounder Dr Kyle Grant who enthusiastically showcased their new Big Blue I, the world’s only carbon-neutral industrial laundry plant

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