Replacing linen can be a huge expense for hotels -- everybody knows they have to do it sometimes, but sometimes replacement costs can swing wildly up and down. Linen is one of the items that almost everybody in the hotel touches -- laundry operators, delivery people, housemen, housekeepers, and guests all touch just about every sheet and towel in a hotel. As a result, reducing linen replacement costs has to be a team effort, since improper care at any step along the way will lead to higher costs. Here at Wash Cycle Laundry, we like to think of three sets of things that laundry operators can do in partnership with Executive Housekeepers and Hotel General Managers in order to lengthen linen life and reduce hotel linen replacement costs:
- Solutions inside the washing machine
- Solutions inside the laundry plant
- Solutions in the hotel
Here's the first in a three-part series about how to manage each one of these areas to reduce your hotel's linen replacement costs.
Reducing Linen Costs: Inside the Washing Machine
- Make sure your laundry is getting properly rinsed. A lot of issues with yellowing or greying of hotel sheets and towels has to do with the impact of ineffective rinses over time. Commercial wash cycles will often have two or three rinses at the end, but there's always a temptation for operators to skip a rinse or two to save time and water. Chemical residue that stays in the sheets after they're washed can cause guest complaints if it's bad enough, but even minor residues will lead to yellowing or greying over time, again shortening linen life.
- Make sure chemicals are balanced between a "first wash" and "reclaim cycle." If your outsourced laundry vendor or in-house laundry manager is telling you that 99% of your linen items come clean on the first wash, it may sound like a good thing, but it probably indicates that the laundry is using a very aggressive set of chemicals on the first wash. Using aggressive detergents in every single wash load may reduce an item's lifetime from 60-70 washes to 30-40, which will come close to doubling your replacement cost. Rather than blasting every sheet with aggressive detergents every single time, make sure your laundry has a solid first wash cycle, and reserve the harsh chemicals for a "reclaim" cycle targeted at only stained linen. If 97% of your linen comes clean on a first wash, it's a good indication you have a good balance between stain-fighting and keeping your linen in good shape.
- Get your washing machine's wash cycles tested. Your laundry vendor should be able to provide a lab analysis of their wash cycle based on a "test piece" that they have laundered 10 or 20 times. These lab results can scientifically measure whether a wash cycle is weakening the textile fibers with aggressive detergents, whether there is any discoloration (even if it's subtle), and whether there's any detergent left in the linen after washing.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this series -- how to control linen replacement costs outside the washing machine and inside the laundry plant, and what to do outside the laundry plant and inside the hotel. And also check out our article on managing your hotel laundry detergent vendor if you run an in-house laundry.
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