A big part of the quality of linen your hotel laundry operation puts out depends on the detergents and detergent vendor that supplies your in-house laundry. Unfortunately, the laundry chemical industry has a really poor reputation for honest, straightforward, competent service -- talk to anybody who has been in the industry for more than a decade, and they'll tell you stories about the "old days" that will leave you with an icky feeling (and wondering if the old days are really so old). The standard advice that "it's not the laundry chemical company you choose, it's the technician who services your account" rings true, but if you want to get great results without suffering through a trial-and-error process, here's a number of tips for effectively managing your hotel laundry vendor:
- First, start by writing down your needs. Figure out exactly what you're going to need to launder, and in which batches. Will you separate sheets from pillowcases? Does your housekeeping team need you to launder microfiber rags? Do you have an in-house banquet operation than sends you napkins and table linen? Make sure you know anything and everything that your laundry is going to process, and in which batches. Write that list down, and have it ready for your chemical rep.
- Next, determine the shortest list of wash program formulas possible and erase all the formulas you won't use. Most washing machines can handle dozens of wash formulas, so you could program a different one for every conceivable load ("Sheets - Heavy Soil", "Sheets - Light Soil", "Colored Towels", "White Towels", etc.). That said, extra formulas often get forgotten by the techs who created them and mis-used by your laundry staff, and so are a big source of mistakes, especially as you make changes to your chemical line-up over time. Many hotels can get away with just three formulas -- sheets, towels, and reclaim -- and if you can, you should.
- Ask your chemical vendor for a reading on the water hardness level of your water in the hotel, and a quarterly titration of your wash water. Even if you don't fully understand the results, your chemical reps should, and it could raise a red flag about whether your detergents and rinses are set to the correct levels.
- Track your rewash rate. Keep a spreadsheet that records the daily total of the weight you wash and the total weight of all the linen you rejected because it was stained that day. Divide the rejected linen weight by the total weight for the day an you have your "rewash rate." It should be somewhere between 3-5%.
- Set numeric expectations for your rewash rate. Hotels literally process tons of laundry every week, so even if you're doing great, there's going to be a decent amount of stained linen accumulating every month. Skip the blame game and defensiveness and instead set a numerical expectation about the rewash rate you'd like to see (say, 3%), and let them know how they are doing with the data you're collecting on your spreadsheet.
- Save examples of the stains you see most frequently. If you're seeing a particular type of stain frequently, save a couple examples and ask your chemical vendor to perform tests. They may be able to tell you what's causing it, and could adjust your formulas to handle it better.
- Look for solutions together. If your rewash rate is above your expectation, there are usually a bunch of different contributing factors. To get your rewash rate down, ask your chemical vendor what they plan to do "inside the wash wheel" and ask them for a list of what you can do in the rest of your process, and agree to do these things together. Don't let your chemical vendor escape responsibility by pointing out all the other things wrong on your side of the operation rather than making changes themselves. At the same time, recognize that there's nothing your chemical rep can do if your housekeeping staff are using towels as janitorial rags -- that's a stain issue you'll have to solve with management, not chemistry.
Ready to have somebody else handle your hotel laundry?
There's a lot of reasons why people keep their laundry in house, but if you're ready to have somebody else handle the headache, we'd love to talk more about our outsourced hotel laundry services in Boston, Worcester, and Philadelphia.