Towel supplier keeps it clean

Becky Cook/For the Capital Press Jason Phillips stands in front of one of the industrial washing machines used to clean dairy towels.

Round-the-clock operation helps dairymen clean up

By BECKY COOK

For the Capital Press

BURLEY, Idaho -- Jason Phillips has a behind-the-scenes role in the dairy industry -- one that few people think about. His company washes the towels dairy farmers use in their operations.

A former chemical supplier, Phillips converted to washing hand towels for dairies about seven years ago.

"I had several dairies approach me about washing their towels, and the business just kind of evolved from there," Phillips said.

The towels look like lightweight washcloths. Phillips purchases them for about 12 cents each and goes through about 48,000 a year.

His industrial washers and dryers operate around the clock, keeping 12 employees going full time. A new washer costs about $290,000 and can handle a 500-pound load of towels.

The washers weigh about 20,000 pounds and sit on reinforced concrete in a converted warehouse.

"We ship out 66 barrels (of towels) on a trailer two or three times a day," Phillips said. "There are between 13 and 16,000 towels in each barrel and over a thousand barrels in distribution at any given time with roughly 15 million towels being used."

With dairies facing hard times, he said, some dairymen have wanted to do their own laundry. However, after running the figures they usually see that they can't afford to do it cheaper than Phillips.

"It costs about a penny per towel to wash it and at that price paper products are out of the question. I can do this (wash towels) cheaper than they can," he said. While a dairyman might have just one machine that has a lot of downtime, he said he has his machines running every hour of every day.

He uses chlorine and ozone to get the towels clean and ready for use again. He also uses a lot of water, soaps and acids to get the towels as clean as they need to be.

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