Tunnel washers: pros, cons and alternatives

tunnel washer
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Tunnel washers have been the go-to washing solution in many industries for decades. Few dispute they can improve employee safety, save space, increase wash performance and even help the environment compared to traditional or manual washing. In recent years, however, technology in the field has gathered pace, leaving many to wonder if tunnel washers are still the best choice for their needs. In this guide, we dive into what tunnel washers actually are, how they are helping businesses, and how to choose one.

What are tunnel washers?

Tunnel washers, also known as continuous batch washers, are advanced industrial cleaning machines designed to wash large, continuous streams of items. Unlike traditional washing machines that operate on a batch basis, tunnel washers utilize a continuous process, allowing for high throughput and consistent cleaning results.

These machines are made of a long, tunnel-like chamber through which items are transported via a conveyor belt or similar mechanism. Within the chamber, the items undergo a series of cleaning stages, including washing, rinsing and drying. The design of tunnel washers ensures thorough cleaning and rinsing while minimizing water, energy, and chemical usage.

Tunnel washers are renowned for their versatility and adaptability to various applications. They can accommodate a wide range of items and even industrial components. This versatility makes tunnel washers indispensable in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and beyond, where maintaining cleanliness and hygiene standards is paramount.

Tunnel washers: history and evolution

Tunnel washers have a rich history dating back several decades, evolving from simple cleaning systems to sophisticated industrial machines. The concept of tunnel washers emerged in the mid-20th century as companies sought more efficient ways to wash large volumes of items. Early iterations were rudimentary compared to modern tunnel washers, often utilizing basic conveyor systems and manual controls. However, even these early models represented a significant leap forward in cleaning technology.

Over the years, tunnel washers have undergone remarkable advancements in automation, digital controls, and materials that transformed them into highly efficient and versatile machines. The latest models allow for precise control over various parameters such as temperature, water flow, and detergent dosage, improving cleaning consistency and reducing manual intervention.

Another significant development in tunnel washer technology is the incorporation of eco-friendly features to minimize energy and water consumption. Innovations such as closed-loop water recycling systems, heat recovery units, and low-temperature washing programs have made tunnel washers more sustainable and cost-effective to operate.

Benefits of tunnel washers

Tunnel washers offer significant advantages over traditional washing methods,


One of the primary benefits of tunnel washers is their ability to handle large volumes of items. Tnnel washers employ a continuous process, allowing for high throughput and rapid cleaning cycles. This translates to increased productivity and shorter turnaround times for businesses, enabling them to meet the demands of busy environments.

Labour savings

Another key advantage of tunnel washers is their ability to save time and costs. Traditional washing methods often rely on manual labour for loading, unloading, and monitoring washing cycles, which can be time-consuming and labour-intensive. In contrast, tunnel washers are equipped with automated loading and unloading systems, as well as programmable controls that minimize the need for manual intervention. This streamlines the cleaning process and frees up personnel to focus on other tasks.

Limitations of tunnel washers

While tunnel washers offer some advantages, they also have some limitations that businesses should consider.

Energy and water consumption

Tunnel washers are not fully closed systems, which can result in higher energy and water consumption. The open-end design of tunnel washers (where both the input and output points remain open during operation) leads to energy loss due to heat escaping from the washing chamber, requiring additional energy to maintain the desired temperatures. Similarly, water usage is higher than a close casket system, as there is potential for water to evaporate or escape during the washing process.

Moisture retention

Items washed in tunnel washers may not emerge completely dry at the end of the cleaning cycle. This can be problematic for industries where dry items are required immediately for further processing or use. Additionally, residual moisture left on items may increase the risk of mold or mildew growth if not properly managed. Businesses may need to invest in separate drying equipment or processes to achieve desired levels of dryness.

High energy consumption with drying features

Tunnel washers equipped with drying features, such as hot air blasts, can significantly increase energy consumption. The use of heat for drying purposes can lead to elevated energy costs, especially in facilities with high volumes of items requiring extensive drying.

Space requirements

Tunnel washers typically require significant floor space for installation and operation, which may pose challenges for businesses with limited space availability. The large footprint of tunnel washers can restrict flexibility and require dedicated space for installation, potentially impacting workflow efficiency.

Cabinet washers, the alternative for efficiency and superior results

Cabinet washers are a key alternative to tunnel washers, particularly in situations where the limitations of tunnel washers need to be addressed. Cabinet washers, also known as enclosed or closed-loop washers, offer several advantages, including:

Enclosed design

Cabinet washers feature an enclosed design that helps contain the washing process within a controlled environment. This minimizes energy loss, reduces water consumption, and enhances cleaning efficiency compared to open tunnel washers.

Energy efficiency

Cabinet washers incorporate energy-efficiency features such as insulated chambers, heat recovery systems, and programmable controls to optimize energy usage. This results in lower energy consumption and lower operating costs compared to tunnel washers, especially when drying features are employed.

Improved drying

This system includes effective drying options, ensuring that items emerge thoroughly dry at the end of the cleaning process. This eliminates the need for separate drying equipment and minimizes the risk of mold or mildew growth on damp items.

Space-saving design

Cabinet washers typically have a smaller footprint compared to tunnel washers, making them suitable for businesses with limited space availability. Their compact design allows for easy integration into existing facilities without sacrificing cleaning performance or workflow efficiency.

 Tunnel WasherClosed Cabinet washer
Fully closed designNoYes
Productivity and efficiencyHigher than traditional methods, due to continuous operation, but lower than closed cabinet washersOptimal efficiency since large batches can be washed in full without pre-wash
Washing qualitySuitable for daily operationsIn-depth wash compliant with stringent standards (such as healthcare)
FlexibilityContinuous operation hinders flexibityCycle time, duration and temperature adjustable for each wash
Energy and water consumptionLower than manual washing but lagging behing closed cabinet washers      Minimal, up to 70% lower than manual washing
Space requirementsRequires a larger footprint thanTypically much smaller than in tunnel washers
Drying featuresItems washed in tunnel washers may not emerge completely dry. Additional drying features may be requiredItems come out fully dried and ready to use
Environmental footprintSignificantly reduce but still existent due to open-ended design at entry and exit pointsMinimal, due to fully close system and very low energy, water and detergent consumption
Employee safety and ergonomicsLoading and unloading of batches still requiredOptimal, as trolleys and carts can be placed inside the washer

MultiWasher: the next generation of enclosed industrial washing solutions

MultiWasher is a leading closed casket washing solution, a more efficient alternative compared to traditional tunnel washers. This innovative machine not only offers the versatility and reliability of traditional cabinet washers but also incorporates cutting-edge technologies to meet the evolving needs of modern businesses. With MultiWasher, businesses can achieve superior cleaning results, minimize water, energy and detergent consumption, and streamline their operations, making it the ultimate solution for efficient and effective industrial cleaning. Get in touch.

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