How hotels can reduce laundry costs and preserve linens

(Sometimes all a property needs is new equipment to improve its laundry operations, but most often improvements can be made before investments are necessary.)

Modern laundry equipment has never been more energy efficient, sustainable and conducive to maintaining and extending the life of linens, but it’s all for nothing if laundry operators are overloading machines with too many sheets. That’s why a growing number of hotels are choosing to outsource their own laundry operations, but for those that choose to keep these facilities in-house, the timing couldn’t be better.

“Overall, the quality of in-house laundry operations has gone up, simply because hotels in general are striving to provide a better level of service,” said Seth Willer, national sales manager for laundry equipment provider Continental Girbau. “They want to differentiate from others, and the guestroom bed is a great place to differentiate.”

Willer said that hotels choosing to handle their own linens can utilize a number of different back-of-house strategies to shave costs and preserve their linens. For instance, he said if a hotel has an on-property ironing system, operators should consider taking sheets directly from the washer to the ironer, skipping the dryer and cutting out the process entirely.

“The preconception is that you have to run your ironer at a certain speed, say you want to process 10 sheets per minute,” Willer said. “If you eliminate the dryer completely you may only be able to process six sheets per minute, but there will be no downtime waiting for linen to dry, and you’ll also cut out all those extra utilities.”

Newer equipment, such as industrial irons, can be used to skip the drying process entirely.

Joel Hommes, director, business development for laundry company Wash Cycle Laundry, said his company took off after picking up business from a Philadelphia hotel looking to outsource operations as their on-property facilities aged. Hommes said hotels looking to reinvest in new equipment, manned by a single employee, have the ability to handle what three or four employees would be in charge of 10 years ago. However, he said that older equipment still can be used effectively, and many properties are held back by training missteps.

“I tour on-property laundry facilities often, and I see wash drums white with suds to the point where you can’t see the linen in the drum,” Hommes said. “You have a lot of situations where workers in other areas of the hotel are tapped to go to the laundry department one day, and they won’t know all the nuances. Training and accreditation at the Association for Linen Management goes a long way.”

Jamison Conrey, corporate director of engineering and project management at Hospitality Ventures Management Group, said too often hotels are simply stuck upgrading or outsourcing, with no single reason why. He attributes the shift to everything from the rising cost of water to reallocation of space, making laundry rooms in hotels an unnecessary luxury.

“Hotels are also buying higher-quality linens, and older equipment is not built for some of the better linens out there,” Conrey said. “Maybe they don’t have the capital to replace their equipment, since costs can go up to a quarter of a million dollars in some cases. Outsourcing and paying month-to-month is a lot less complicated than coming up with that capital.”