Hotel bedding trends promote wellness, cleanliness

With hotel guests increasingly concerned with health and cleanliness, hotels are taking steps to make sure the guestroom bed looks and feels as neat as the beds in a guest's home. But there are some big differences between the two that hoteliers need to know about.

One of those issues is cleanliness. While it may be tempting to add color to the bedding, there is a very good reason why sheets should always be classic white. “Hotels and guests equate white with being clean,” said Chris Gowdy, VP of Liddell. 

Related story: What colors and materials are tops in hotel bedding?

That sense of cleanliness has to go beyond the sheets. In fact, everything on top of a bed mattress has to be launderable. Kim Deetjen, principal of TruexCullins Interiors, said that hotels are “triple-sheeting” beds with a top sheet over the duvet to make sure no grime gets on the thicker material. 

When hotels do want bedscarves and decorative pillows, they are increasingly selecting washable materials, and are cutting down on the number of items on a bed. “The only decorative item on the bed is usually one decorative pillow,” Deetjen said—and in some cases, those decorative pillows have a washable cover that housekeepers can change out regularly. 

Retail Trends vs. Hotel Trends

As new materials and fabrics for bedding come into the retail sector, Brett Rife, VP of sales for international hospitality at the Pacific Coast Feather Company, said hotel guests have come to expect similar products when they stay in hotels. 

For example, some high-tech retail bedding products do more than just keep guests warm at night. “They do things like take moisture away from your body and fight microbes,” Rife said. “They give you a more restful night’s sleep through a cleaner night’s sleep.”

Classic white sheets and several pillow options are the new normal

This can also be seen in the pillow menus that were once the domain only of luxury hotels. Lately, Rife said, full-service and midscale properties are offering guests their choice of pillows. “Almost any hotel you go into nowadays will offer a soft and a firm pillow on the bed,” he said. “Pillows are unique because they’re a specialized and personal product. You have to be able to accommodate the widest variety of customers.” Guests who prefer soft pillows at home shouldn’t feel like they’re sleeping on a rock at a hotel, Rife said, and those that prefer firm pillows shouldn’t feel like their heads are sinking down to the mattress. The best solution, he said, is to select pillows that are in the middle in terms of firmness—but have a few extra on hand for special requests.  

While guests may want similar products in hotels as they have at home, some residential materials are simply not suitable for hotel bedding. “Foam is a trend in retail,” he said, noting the popularity of “memory foam” products, “but foam in hospitality is a real challenge for a few reasons. It’s typically warm to sleep on top of, and it’s also not launderable.”  

That, Rife said, is a key factor for separating what is trendy in retail from what is suitable for hotels. Hotels are expected to wash their bedding after every guest leaves—hundreds of times per year. “If you have a foam product, you can’t wash it once,” Rife said. “They have no durability component. Without the durability component, it’s worthless to put the product in hotels.”

The Beds

For the beds themselves, box springs are increasingly being replaced by platforms or upholstered foundations—a move that eliminates the need for a bedskirt. “We don’t do much skirting anymore,” Gowdy said. “That’s passed.”

And with good reason: As Deetjen noted, bedskirts and box-spring covers are more difficult to keep clean and in good condition over the years. 

But not all beds are ideal for all hotels, Deetjen said, and noted that for a classic, traditional property, a hotelier may not want a contemporary platform bed. “It wouldn’t be appropriate,” she said. To accommodate, Deetjen has found a happy medium, using four-post beds with side rails and a platform that have a classic appearance, but don’t require boxsprings.  

Deetjen has also seen a move toward upholstered foundations for platform beds. “It’s almost like a sofa,” she explained, describing the mattress as the seat cushion and the foundation as the sofa’s apron. The upholstered foundation can tie into the headboard and complement the rest of the room. “It takes the place of what bedskirts would have done, and the great thing is that now you can use a more durable fabric and you’re not going to get the wear and tear you would get with a bedskirt," she said. "It’s a very clean look.” If the foundation’s baseboard goes all the way around the bed, she said, the whole setup looks neat and clean, and can still have a classic vibe for a more traditional hotel. Even better? Housekeepers don’t have to clean under the bed if the entire space is protected.