My hotel has upgraded its guest-room linens and bedding package, as well as its restaurant linens. It’s made a sizable investment, so the pressure’s on to clean, handle and store these goods carefully for the longest useful life possible. What advice can you give me?
CORRECTIONAL LAUNDERING: Nancy Greene has been laundry manager for the Kenosha County, Wis., Detention Center and Sheriff’s Department for eight years. Other experience includes laundry/environmental services work with ServiceMaster, as well as in private hospitals and nursing homes.
Always start with the manufacturer’s laundering suggestions. When you expose high-end textiles to formulas and temperatures set up for institutional textiles, you can do a lot of damage over a short period of time.
If you don’t understand the peculiarities of these types of textiles, then it’s time to learn. Your vendor can assist you with this increased knowledge, and there are trade associations and magazines that can help. The vendor can provide you with the proper wash formula and an understanding of how the textile is constructed. Not all cottons are alike and not all synthetics are alike. Different fabric constructions require our understanding of what they can tolerate.
Since the hotel has decided to invest a sizable amount, I hope it has taken into account the increased need for stock. Since it has upgraded its guest-room linens, theft will be a constant worry. Many guests consider it a rite of passage to swipe a towel. I hope the hotel took that into consideration when it prepared its initial investment and budget.
The old standard of putting the hotel’s name on the towel can work against you.
A towel with a hotel logo becomes an even greater temptation for guests with sticky fingers. You can’t ask to search each guest’s luggage as they check out to ensure your textiles aren’t leaving with them. Save the money and leave the logo off.
Consideration into what par level is established will greatly impact the life of your textiles. These textiles can’t be washed and placed back on the bed the very same day or the next. Insufficient circulation levels impact the life and hand of the product when they are washed too frequently. Stock rotation – allowing the textiles to “take a break” – will keep your textiles in the system longer.
Storage in any facility can be interesting. It’s quite common that linen storage is an afterthought. Items are sometimes stored in humid, little cubbyholes in basements of facilities or stuffed into tiny storage closets on the floors. Either way, improper storage of your textiles can cause additional problems: musty smells and even mold growth in the humidity, added stress on the textile construction and hand in a cramped space. Considering where and how you’re going to store them is imperative.
TECHNICAL SUPPORT: Jim Mitchell, principal support specialist, is a 26-year Ecolab veteran. He’s currently its OPL lead in providing technical support to field associates. He edits Institutional Technical Digest, a monthly publication reaching 2,800 employees.
When seeking information on linen care, always start with the textile manufacturer. They should be your first contact for linen care guidelines for two basic reasons: 1. The manufacturer is the expert on its product and should be able to provide you with all the care information you need to protect your investment. 2. If you launder these linens contrary to the care guidelines and the linens are damaged, you may have a difficult time receiving compensation.
Be aware of the impact these guidelines may have on your operation. The new rage in care guidelines from manufacturers is the limitation of “caustic chemistry” when washing these new linens.
An increasing percentage of linen care guidelines warn against the use of bleach. Some also specify the use of a mild detergent for washing. In some cases, these restrictions appear to be an effort by the manufacturer to help extend linen life. However, these chemistry limitations can also create processing problems for the customer.
Destaining and whitening bed sheets in the past was a relatively simple process: Wash in a hot suds bath with a high-pH detergent, followed by a hot chlorine bath. Luxury decorative sheets (and other types of white linens) on the market today can include a visible decorative design. Laundering these items usually specifies a moderate wash temperature with a low-pH detergent and no bleach to protect the design.
Following guidelines that restrict product chemistry can increase linen reject rates. Processing rejects can be time-consuming for employees and increase chemical and replacement costs.
Each time new linen is purchased and received, carefully check the care guidelines. Don’t assume that the guidelines for the new linen purchased today are the same as similar linen purchased in the past. You can also try the manufacturer’s website for care information.
If you’re unable to secure care guidelines from the manufacturer, check a sample of the new linen purchased for any laundering care information on the identification tag. These tags often provide information on washing temperatures, chemical restrictions and drying temperatures. You may also see a number of international care symbols.
If you’re unable to obtain any care guidelines for the linen in question, contact your chemical supplier. It may have experience with this type of linen and may be able to help provide care information. Some suppliers have a laundry lab at their manufacturing or research facility, where they perform tests for customers. Although their lab may be able to perform some cycle testing for you, there may be a charge.
Obtain a small list of the manufacturer’s customers already using the new linen. This could be your most helpful tool. Since these customers have had working experience with this linen, contacting a couple of them could give you invaluable insight on what to do and what to avoid.
If all else fails, run a number of on-site test experiments with samples of the linen you have purchased. It’s possible that the laundering parameters you have in place will cause issues with your new linen. By isolating issues first with a small batch of your new linen (before you wash the entire purchase), any damage will be confined.
Consider these points when conducting any on-premise tests:
• Wash temperature – An increasing percentage of new linens on the market today feature specific wash temperature recommendations from the manufacturer. “Wash in warm water only” or “wash temperature not to exceed 120 degrees F” are common restrictions. Shrinkage, color loss and/or wrinkling may occur if wash temperatures are too high.
• Washer extract time/speed – Some of the new duvet covers and sheets have proven to be susceptible to wrinkling. Keep your washer’s final extract time and speed to a minimum with these items if you encounter wrinkling.
• Dryer time, temperature and cool-down – If there’s wrinkling, try lowering the dryer temperature and extending the cool-down. This procedure may be critical when drying new, high-thread-count sheets. Bed sheets (including “decorative”) have traditionally had a thread count in the range of 130-180. Thread counts in new “luxury linen” are typically 200 to 300 but can go as high as 400. This higher thread count can cause some finishing issues.
• Linen separation – Some of the new sheets and duvets on the market have a tendency to trap fibers from other linens washed in the load. Separating these linens prior to washing can be critical.
If the linen care guidelines cause issues in your facility, contact your supplier and see if there are alternatives. Care guidelines that specify no bleach usually refer to chlorine. Contact the manufacturer to see if that restriction also includes oxygen bleach. If the restriction only applies to chlorine, oxygen bleach would be a good alternative. If the restriction applies to both and your reject rate becomes excessive, contact the supplier to see if there are any alternative luxury products without such restrictions.