How to save, and waste, in the laundry room

Laundry Room

Hotels actively running laundry operations know them to be expensive and time consuming, but in many cases equipment is not being right-sized with the number of rooms they are servicing. According to Marcela Arciniegas, SVP of global operations at laundry service consulting agency PDQ Consulting, the majority of midscale hotels between 200 and 450 rooms lack the necessary equipment to handle the linens they are stocked with, leading to a longer and costlier wash cycle.

“Over the last decade, linen presentation at the majority of hotels has increased dramatically without increasing laundry machine capacity,” Arciniegas said. “What was made 20 years ago could be washed with three machines. Hotels now have duvets that must be washed every day.”

Arciniegas warned against the pitfalls of improper upgrades as well, citing examples where hotels will invest in a new washer but not a new dryer. A stronger washer that can clean more linen at once introduces problems for an underpowered dryer that will not only fail to do its job but will go on to damage both itself and the linen it is drying.

“If you have a washer designed to clean 100 pounds of linens, you will need a dryer calibrated to dry 150 pounds of linens,” Arciniegas said. “Material is heavier when wet. The weaker dryer will take longer to dry the linen, wearing them out in the process and eventually scorching them.”

“With textiles in general, the biggest enemy is heat,” said Greg Fuller, national account manager for textile manufacturer WestPoint Hospitality.  “Ironing a sheet will change its color if done incorrectly. And if a dryer is too weak, a lower temperature can stress the yarns. A moderate temperature for extended periods is often your biggest enemy.”

Even when a hotel has the right equipment, training is often a challenge because hotel laundry workers tend to have a high turnover rate. Fuller said that washing instructions for textiles are often not followed properly, even though detailed instructions are given. 

“Employees end up cranking the heat up, or turning up dryer time,” Fuller said. “There needs to be some re-education.”

Joseph Ricci, president & CEO of textile advocacy organization TRSA, said that the washing process is most simply broken down into four categories: water, chemicals, agitation and time. If any of those factors is altered, such as using more sophisticated chemicals or machinery, each of the other three are also affected in turn. A new detergent could potentially lower the necessary water temperature for washes, meaning less energy is being used per wash. 

But all of these savings are for naught should employees fail to change the washing process after acquiring new technology. And according to Ricci, many hotels are unaware of whether or not they are saving money at all due to the way utilities bills lump all of a hotel’s costs together.

“Everything is built into the hotel bill as one piece, so [hotels] don’t have a firm grasp on their individual costs,” Ricci said. “They have to understand their actual use of water and energy before savings can be made.”