Any number of commercial jingles will advise you how to get your laundry “clean and bright” but when it comes to wrangling hotel laundry, the tune comes with an amplified “base” line, and in recent years, a variety of riffs.

“During the pandemic we had team members working the laundry that had never done it before,” said Jessica Reid, operations manager for Hospitality Ventures Management Group. Now, she said, “If we have a rush on, say, napkins for a function, our sales team knows how to go in, start the machines and get the napkins washed and ironed.”

At Reid’s 294-room Atlanta Marriott Northeast/Emory Area property, the 1,000-square-foot on-premises laundry turns approximately 2,000 pounds of laundry (plus banquet linen) per day, processed by three to five housekeeping associates.

Essex Hotel Management has more than a dozen hotels (approximately 1,538 rooms), each with an OPL run by housekeeping, which on average deploys two staff members to the operation. Its largest hotel, the 244-unit Crowne Plaza Lake Placid in New York, operates with four associates to turn approximately 3,000 pounds of laundry on heavy check-out days.

“Staff members are the key to running a smooth laundry operation in a hotel,” said 25-year industry veteran Yomara De Jesus, regional director of hotel operations for Essex. She noted that the “massive furloughs” at the onset of the pandemic found staff members working together to overcome the challenge of running laundry and housekeeping operations, keeping them “as normal as possible.”

Also key has been industry strategies to make operations more cost-effective. For example, properties washing more in cold water as opposed to hot (thus saving on energy), streamlining staff and shifts (less payroll), switching to concentrated cleaning products, etc.

“Most of the hotels in our portfolio implemented the Ecolab Aquanomics Low-Temperature program before the pandemic,” said De Jesus, saying the program offers “consistently excellent results” that reduce rewash and extend the life of the linen and terry. “The program delivers significant energy and water savings over traditional laundry programs, improving the bottom line,” she said. “For example, a hotel with nearly 100 rooms saved 25,000 gallons of water and 150 therms over a specific time period by using Aquanomics and compared to conventional laundry operations.”

Equipment also is a significant factor in an OPL. At the Atlanta Marriott Northeast/Emory Area, staff struggled to get linen out due to the ironer. Ownership agreed to upgrade and switch to an ironer from Chicago Dryer Co. “This was a big expense for us in the past year, but it made a huge difference in payroll, guest experience and our overall profitability,” Reid said.

Multitasking remains a tool. “Cross training has been big for us, out of necessity,” Reid said, reiterating it’s not uncommon to see someone other than dedicated laundry staff in the OPL. “Sometimes it’s only 20 minutes to help get simple things done on the ironer, such as napkins or pillowcases. We all learned other jobs over the past few years and it’s nice to see how the teams continue to help in areas other than their normal tasks.”