Let’s face it: Dirty linens are a real buzzkill for guests. On the other hand, there’s comfort in a freshly cleaned bed that’s piled high with crisp, white, fluffy bedding. It’s enough to make you want to jump right in. Stains found on guestroom linens and upholstery can affect a hotel’s bottom line and hurt the property’s standing with customers.
Diversey Care, a brand of Sealed Air Corporation under its Diversey Care Division, is a provider of sustainable solutions for cleaning and hygiene aimed at driving increased productivity, food safety and infection prevention through the integration of new technology-enabled services and systems. The company’s clients vary from large international hotel chains to small, family-owned B&Bs, as well as hospitality clients around the world.
“With over 90 years of experience and a global footprint in 175 countries, we know our business, and the business of our customers,” said Simon Hemmes, senior global application expert, fabric washing, Sealed Air’s Diversey Care Division.
It’s not as simple as just throwing linens in the wash, there are challenges associated with laundering in a hotel setting. Getting it right on the first go can save time and money.
“Stains are the number-one reason for re-wash. When using the correct methods and products for stain removal, hotels are able to significantly reduce the amount of re-washing needed,” said Hemmes. “This ‘first-time right’ approach is proven to be most effective in overall stain removal, and therefore reduces the need for additional chemicals, energy, water and labor caused by a second wash process. Most importantly, through avoiding a further wash, fabrics are protected from extra chemical and mechanical wear, thus increasing the linen lifetime.”
In a conversation with Hotel Business, Hemmes shared actionable items for hoteliers to ensure a cleaner hotel linen experience for guests:
The choice of detergents and an investment in proper water treatment play a significant role in removing stains. Selecting the appropriate product combination is very important to achieve the right performance, noted Hemmes.
“Good water quality is key. A high water hardness can have a negative impact on performance and it could lead to deposits. Deposits on linen can lead to graying, bad odor, ironing problems, water repellency and deposits on machine parts. Also, metals should be avoided,” he said. “For a laundry operation, the quality requirements are neutral soft water with very low levels of metal traces. If these quality specifications are not met, special measurements are to be taken to avoid harmful effects. These measures include pretreatment of the feed water and/or conditioning of the water during the wash, rinse or bleach process.”
We all know it’s true: Some stains are harder to wash out than others. For example, it’s a challenge to remove Asian food dyes from table linens and napkins if chlorine bleach can’t be used, noted Hemmes.
“Iron or rust stains can be present in all wash classifications, from bed sheets to towels,” he said. “These stains can’t be removed in any standard wash process and can only be removed with a stain remover—in the case of a small number of stains—or with a defined wash process that applies ethanedioic acid, also known as oxalic acid.”
Hemmes urges hoteliers to follow best practices when striving to prevent various types of stains, including properly training staff to avoid situations that lead to these issues. “Hotel management should also make sure special cleaning cloths or even rags are available so that bath towels and hand towels are not used by staff for cleaning bedrooms and bathrooms, and napkins aren’t used for polishing cutlery,” he said.
While hotel associates may need to be more careful in handling linens, it is also the guest who can cause some of those hard-to-remove stains. Guests’ misuse stains can arise if a guest uses a towel for polishing shoes, for example. “Housekeeping managers can dramatically reduce this misuse by supplying a special shoe-cleaning cloth in the room,” he said.
And then there are the linen stains not caused by human hands; it’s more of a manufacturing issue. Color bleeding and dye transfer often happens with table linen, according to Hemmes, which occurs when the textile supplier doesn’t properly fix the dye to the fabric.
“Dye bleeding is accelerated by washing at high temperatures and/or high pH,” he said. “Purchasing high-quality linen made from 100% cotton can alleviate color-bleeding concerns. Colored paper napkins typically cause color bleeding on white table linen. The whiteness of this linen can be recovered provided that the linen is made from 100% cotton. However, color bleeding will be permanent if any polyester has been incorporated into the fabric.”
Cleanliness is essential for a positive “first impression” of a hotel and the willingness of guests to recommend the hotel to others. The importance of cleanliness to guests was demonstrated in various studies, he noted.
“Findings clearly demonstrate the importance of cleanliness to guests, the impact when expectations aren’t met and the financial impact to hotels. Guestrooms and bathrooms are the essential areas to get right. The most critical areas are all ‘body contact’ areas such as the bed linen and toilet seats. These must be clean as they are the ‘zero tolerance’ areas for guests,” he said. “Negative experiences clearly impact retention and revenue. In our research, of those who had a negative experience: 75% of the hotel guests had been put off returning to the hotel and 72% had made negative recommendations to family and friends.”