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How To Wash Restaurant Uniforms: Step-By-Step Guide

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Having a clean and professional-looking uniform is important for anyone working at a restaurant. Properly washing restaurant uniforms not only keeps chefs and waitstaff looking sharp but also prevents the spread of germs.

You can wash your restaurant uniforms by pre-cleaning stains and doing an entire wash cycle. Stain removal products will treat dirty spots within a few minutes, and the washing machine will clean the rest. Afterward, you can dry the uniforms using a commercial dryer and hang them neatly.

Washing your restaurant uniforms doesn’t have to be a complicated process. You can keep your uniforms clean and professional by following a few simple steps. So let’s dive in to learn how to wash restaurant uniforms correctly.

1. Separate Restaurant Uniforms by Color Type

Light-colored uniforms should be separated from dark-colored uniforms to avoid color transfer when washing.

Some people take it a step further by separating the restaurant uniforms according to the material they are made from, including cotton, polyester, and any other specialty fabric used in the uniform construction. 

Separating restaurant uniforms by color and material type is also vital for easy laundering; it prevents colors from running onto other items and minimizes wear and tear on delicate fabrics.

2. Check for Stains

Check each uniform separately for any visible stains or spots on the fabric. Removing stains from restaurant uniforms helps preserve the fabric’s integrity and extends its useful life.

I recommend using a stain remover from your local store and following the instructions on the bottle.

Most Common Types of Restaurant Uniform Grease Stains

Oil and food-based stains, usually caused by food spills, are the most common stains on restaurant uniforms.

  • Cooking oil
  • Dairy products
  • Tomato sauce
  • Splash from cooking
  • Food residue
  • Food colorings

Oil-based stains should be treated with a mixture of laundry detergent and warm water for easy removal. Stained uniforms must be soaked in hot water with a bit of white vinegar added to it for at least an hour before washing them in the machine with regular detergent.

On the other hand, food-based stains can be removed from restaurant uniforms by soaking the fabric in a mixture of laundry detergent and warm water for 15 minutes before washing.

  • Grease from fryers: These are often caused by kitchen grease or butter splatter. To remove these stains, pre-treat them with a mixture of baking soda and water. Allow the paste to sit on the stain for at least 20 minutes before rinsing it with warm water. Then, machine wash the uniform with regular detergent.
  • Coffee stains: Pre-treat these stains with a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water, then soak them in it for at least 30 minutes before washing them in the machine with regular detergent.

Most Common Types of Smells on a Restaurant Uniform

Smells can quickly become trapped in restaurant uniforms. From the lingering scent of fryer oil to the sharp aroma of onions, many odors can make uniforms feel less than fresh. The smell of cooking food can odor can quickly become embedded in your clothing, whether it’s the smell of frying onions or grilled steak. Other common smells include body odor, perfume, and smoke.

3. Fill the Washing Machine

Load the washer with the restaurant uniforms according to their color and use an appropriate amount of detergent recommended for the number of garments being washed, water temperature, and cycle type. Check the care labels on each garment to determine the best settings.

I have written up a list of all your best detergent options towards the end of this article.

4. Pre-Soak Soiled Uniforms

For heavily soiled uniforms or items with stubborn stains, use a pre-soak cycle to ensure deeper cleaning. This means you should add a special enzyme cleaner to the washer and allow it to absorb for several minutes before adding your laundry.

5. Run a Full Rinse Cycle

Run a full rinse cycle to ensure all detergent is removed from each uniform. Detergent residue can cause irritation if it makes contact with the skin and leave marks or streaks on the fabric.

It’s recommended to use cold water for both the wash and rinse cycles. The cold water helps keep colors vibrant and prevents the shrinkage of fabrics such as polyester or cotton blends.

6. Inspect for Stains Once More

Many people make the mistake of assuming that all stains will come out in the wash. However, this is only sometimes the case. Some stains, such as grease or wine, can be tough to remove.

If they are not removed promptly, they may become permanent. For this reason, it is important to inspect your uniform for stains after each wash and treat them accordingly.

7. Dry the Uniforms

When drying your whites and light-colored garments, air drying or using lower temperature settings are more appropriate than high-heat dryers, which can cause fading.

Commercial Dryer

Investing in a commercial dryer for your restaurant is a more cost-effective solution. Commercial dryers are designed to quickly and evenly dry large loads of laundry, including restaurant uniforms.

They also have powerful filters that trap lint and dust, keeping your air quality high. Plus, a commercial dryer’s high heat helps kill any remaining bacteria on the fabric.

Commercial Drying Rack

Dry Clothes WITHOUT a Dryer (Using Indoors Drying Rack)
Here’s a video I made on how to dry clothes on a drying rack.

If you’re trying to save money by avoiding the dryer, you might end up with a damp, musty-smelling uniform.

These racks are designed to evenly distribute the weight of wet garments, preventing them from sagging or stretching out of shape. And they come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit any restaurant’s needs.

8. Hang Uniforms

The best way to keep your restaurant uniforms looking new is to hang them after they come out of the dryer. This will help reduce wrinkling and prevent fading over time. The uniform shirts will retain their shape, and the pants will hang straight without wrinkles.

For the remainder of this article, I want to dive into all the best laundry detergent options for restaurant and kitchen workers.

6 Laundry Detergent Recommendations for Kitchen and Restaurant Workers

Kitchen and restaurant workers have got a raw deal. They work long hours in a mostly thankless job under less-than-ideal conditions.

On top of that, they have to battle the toughest and most stubborn stains. I’m talking about oil stains, food stains, and grease that sets as soon as it touches the fabrics.

And since they have to show up for work every shift in spotless clean clothes, they have to look for the best laundry detergents for the ruthless conditions in kitchens and restaurants.

In this review section, I’ll cover the top laundry detergents for kitchen and restaurant workers. They are the following.

Best for Oil and Grease
Oil Eater Original 1 Gallon Cleaner and Degreaser
Best for Fighting Stains
Persil ProClean Stain Fighter Liquid
Best Stain Remover
Shout Advanced Stain Remover for Clothes
Best Value
Tide PODS 4 in 1 with Downy
Best Performance
Persil Discs Laundry Detergent Pacs, Oxi
Best Eco-friendly
Clean People Ultra Concentrated Laundry Detergent Pods
Oil Eater Original 1 Gallon Cleaner, Degreaser - Dissolve Grease Oil and Heavy-Duty Stains – Professional Strength
Persil ProClean Stain Fighter Liquid Laundry Detergent, 40 Fluid Ounces, 20 Loads
Shout Advanced Stain Remover Brush, Ultra Concentrated Gel with Built-In Scrubber Brush for Deep Set-In Stains, 8.7Oz
Tide PODS 4 in 1 with Downy, Laundry Detergent Soap PODS, April Fresh Scent, 73 Count, Packaging May Vary
Persil Discs Laundry Detergent Pacs, Oxi, 38 Count
Clean People Laundry Detergent Pods - Recyclable Packaging, Hypoallergenic, Stain Fighting - Ultra Concentrated, Laundry Soap - Fresh Scent, 96 Pack
Best for Oil and Grease
Oil Eater Original 1 Gallon Cleaner and Degreaser
Oil Eater Original 1 Gallon Cleaner, Degreaser - Dissolve Grease Oil and Heavy-Duty Stains – Professional Strength
Best for Fighting Stains
Persil ProClean Stain Fighter Liquid
Persil ProClean Stain Fighter Liquid Laundry Detergent, 40 Fluid Ounces, 20 Loads
Best Stain Remover
Shout Advanced Stain Remover for Clothes
Shout Advanced Stain Remover Brush, Ultra Concentrated Gel with Built-In Scrubber Brush for Deep Set-In Stains, 8.7Oz
Best Value
Tide PODS 4 in 1 with Downy
Tide PODS 4 in 1 with Downy, Laundry Detergent Soap PODS, April Fresh Scent, 73 Count, Packaging May Vary
Best Performance
Persil Discs Laundry Detergent Pacs, Oxi
Persil Discs Laundry Detergent Pacs, Oxi, 38 Count
Best Eco-friendly
Clean People Ultra Concentrated Laundry Detergent Pods
Clean People Laundry Detergent Pods - Recyclable Packaging, Hypoallergenic, Stain Fighting - Ultra Concentrated, Laundry Soap - Fresh Scent, 96 Pack

What Makes a Good Laundry Detergent for Kitchen and Restaurant Workers

Although the average person goes to the detergent aisle and picks the first product that catches their eye, kitchen and restaurant workers cannot afford that carefree luxury.

Instead, they have to find laundry detergents that can break down and remove tough stains that have been subjected to heat and had long hours to set.

Here are the top features that a good laundry detergent for kitchen and restaurant workers has to have.

  • Dissolve Grease and Oil: It’s no secret that oil and grease are tough stains to beat and remove. The more you wash them, the longer the stain remains and changes color. Your detergent should be able to dissolve grease and oil stains and break them down so that they don’t stick to other fabrics in the washer.
  • More Stain-lifting Power: Food stains are tough to remove because they’re usually hot and liquidy, which allows them to penetrate the fabric quickly and stick like superglue. The detergent should be able to remove all types of stains in 1 washing cycle.
  • Overpowering Fragrance: Extra scent in the detergent ensures that the laundry will smell good and all traces of food and grease odors are gone by the time the washer is done.

The 6 Best Smelling Laundry Detergents for Kitchen and Restaurant Workers

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1. Best for Oil and Grease: Oil Eater Original 1 Gallon Cleaner and Degreaser

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  • Powerful Cleaning: Dissolves Grease, Oil And Dirt From Any Washable Surface
  • Usda Approved: For Use At Food Service Facilities (A1, A4, A8)
  • Biodegradable Formula: No Harsh Solvents And Is Noncorrosive

If you ask a good sample of kitchen and restaurant workers about the most common and toughest stains they face, the majority would agree that they usually go home with their clothes soaked in and reeking of oil and grease.

Grease stains are even worse since grease is often hot, and once it falls on the shirt or pants, it latches onto the fabric and would require a special detergent with extra degreasing power to remove it. 

Oil Eater Original is the ideal solution for this particular problem. It works on grease, oil, dirt, food stains, and just about any other tough stain. And it doesn’t just work with clothes; you can also use it to remove any grease and oil stains on any surface.

Oil Eater Original is USDA-approved to be used safely in restaurants and kitchens. It uses biodegradable components and doesn’t contain any harsh solvents.

2. Best for Fighting Stains: Persil ProClean Stain Fighter Liquid

  • Combines Persil detergent plus Boosted Stain Removal
  • Power-boosted formula to fight the toughest stains
  • Also available in Power-Caps
  • Persil ProClean laundry detergents have been optimized for great performance in all types of machines, including HE

You would want your laundry detergent to deal with all types of stains, remove them, and render the clothes as good as new with every wash. And you don’t want to repeat the washing cycles just to get rid of the kitchen or food stains.

Persil ProClean has an advanced formula that gives you more stain-fighting power. The boosted stain removal feature makes it easier for you to get rid of tough food stains without the need for bleach.

The key feature that sets Persil ProClean apart is that it is optimized to work with all types of washing machines, including HE ones. The proprietary formula penetrates the fabric, breaks down the stains even at deep levels, and gets rid of all traces of the stain. It then smothers the fabrics in a fresh scent.

3. Best Stain Remover: Shout Advanced Stain Remover for Clothes

  • One bottle of Shout Advanced Ultra Concentrated Stain Remover Gel concentrates stain-lifting power directly onto the fabric to make tackling tough stains easy
  • Super-concentrated thick laundry stain remover gel made specifically to treat some of your toughest set-in stains including dried food, coffee, wine, and makeup
  • This clothing stain remover is tough on stains but gentle on fabric, available in a convenient bottle with a built-in laundry brush for stains that works the enzymes deep into the fabric fibers

While Shout isn’t technically a detergent, it’s one of those multipurpose products you will be using regularly. This is especially true if you tend to go home from work with all kinds of food-related stains on your clothes.

Shout is a thick gel that you apply directly on the tough stain before you put the clothes in the washer. 

It can tackle and remove all kinds of stains from food to wine, makeup, and coffee. However, you should only use it with colorfast clothes since it tends to impact colors. And while it has a strong formula, Shout doesn’t damage the fabrics.

4. Best Value: Tide PODS 4 in 1 with Downy

  • Only Tide PODS Plus Downy cleans and conditions in 1 step, helping protect clothes from stretching and fading in the wash.
  • Tide PODS Plus Downy have the signature Downy April Fresh Scent for outstanding freshness
  • From America’s #1 Trusted Detergent Brand* *Tide is Consumers’ #1 Trusted laundry detergent brand in Readers Digest survey

As the name implies, you get 4 products in this nifty Tide Pods container. Besides the detergent, Tide Pods contains a powerful stain remover that specializes in food stains that have been set for hours.

The stain remover targets the tough stains in the washer without the need for extra treatment or pre-wash soaking and scrubbing.

Powered by Downy Fabric Protect technology, Tide Pods keep your clothes safe from damage, even expensive and sensitive fabrics. 

5. Best Performance: Persil Discs Laundry Detergent Pacs, Oxi

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  • Unique four chamber technology, provides a deep clean, long-lasting freshness, fiber care, and a boost of stain fighting oxi power
  • Persil Discs go deep into fabric, attacking tough-to-clean stains to deliver an exceptional deep clean for your laundry
  • Persil Discs are easy to use, just place the laundry pacs into your empty washing machine drum before adding laundry

Another fantastic detergent from the Persil brand. This one has a unique four-chamber technology that works on all types of stains, including oil, coffee, and chocolate stains.

In addition, it has Oxi stain-fighting technology that breaks down stains but leaves the color and fabric safe from fading and damage.

The detergent fights stains at the root and removes them in a single wash. So you won’t need to treat the stains or soak them. 

6. Best Eco-friendly: Clean People Ultra Concentrated Laundry Detergent Pods

  • FOR EVEN THE MOST SENSITIVE SKIN: We’ve designed our laundry pods to be gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin; Our zero-waste, hypoallergenic laundry detergent contains only natural, plant-based ingredients with magic cleaning power
  • GOOD FOR YOU, GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Our eco friendly detergent pods are completely plastic free and powered by natural, plant based ingredients; That means no phosphates, parabens, phthalates, chlorine bleach, artificial dyes, petroleum, ammonia!

And last but not least, we wrap up this list of the best laundry detergents for kitchen and restaurant workers with an eco-friendly and biodegradable laundry detergent. Clean People Ultra is a concentrated detergent that works with all washers and has power stain-fighting properties.

The ingredients are plant- and mineral-based without any added toxins or hazardous materials. Besides handling tough stains, it has a natural fresh scent that makes the laundry smell great.

Final Thoughts

Washing restaurant uniforms is a necessary yet often overlooked part of running a successful restaurant. Taking the proper steps to ensure that your uniforms are clean and sanitary can make a world of difference in how customers perceive your business.

Be sure to have all necessary supplies on hand and follow instructions carefully when washing uniforms.

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