Keeping hotel linen such as sheets, blankets, comforters, and towels free of stains is an ongoing challenge given the number of guests that even smaller hotels welcome each year. From spilled room service meals to makeup and even shoe polish, there are many stains that can settle onto linen over the course of a guest’s stay.
As difficult as it is to prevent guests’ stains from occurring, there are steps that housekeeping can take to ensure effective removal so that stains do not become permanent. Additionally, hotel laundries can follow recommendations to keep misuse stains and in-wash issues, such as color bleeding, from ruining linen. Together, these best practices will help prolong the life of linen, reduce rewash rates, and support guest satisfaction, sustainability, and the bottom line.
Many hotels opt for white linen for their crisp appearance. White is also a smart choice because colored linen can be hard to match when replacing worn and stained linen. However, stains are very visible against white linen.
Common linen stains include:
• Cosmetic stains such as makeup, nail polish, lotions, and bleaching acne creams, frequently found on both towels and pillowcases
• Stains from beverages such as coffee, wine, juice, and soft drinks
• Stains from room service meals accompanied by grease, oil, sauces, dressings, and condiments, as well as mini bar treats like chocolate
• Bodily fluids including saliva, blood, and perspiration
• Shoe polish
Some of these stains are harder to wash out than others. For instance, it’s a challenge to remove Asian food dyes from table linen and napkins if chlorine bleach can’t be used. Iron or rust stains can be present in all wash classification, from bed sheets to towels. 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 oxalic acid.
Handling and washing linen correctly the first time prevents additional marks, removes the maximum number of stains, and prevents rewash, thereby lengthening linen life. If this is not managed correctly, rewash will cause the property’s laundry operational costs to increase because it requires more water, energy and labor. The rewash rate has a strong relation with the wash classification. In sheets, a property should not expect more than three percent rewash. But for towels, there is an industry standard that varies from country to country.
Proper laundering also reduces the risk that a stained piece of washed linen slips through the quality checks and ends up in the hotel room, which can negatively impact a hotel’s image and guest satisfaction.
Laundries can prevent certain stains from ever occurring, including:
• Staff misuse stains may be made in–house due to an inadequate linen transport process, during which linen drops from overloaded trolleys onto dirty floors and housekeepers walk over this linen, or this linen gets caught in feeder or folder rolls, rusty belts or in the automatic folder.
Removing these grey and black marks is almost impossible and can only be done with an extremely high dosage of a special detergent. This is costly, so the best solution is to properly train staff to avoid situations that lead to these stains. Hotel management should also make sure that special cleaning cloths or even rags are available so that staff do not use bath towels and hand towels for cleaning bedrooms and bathrooms, and cloth napkins for polishing cutlery.
• Guests misuse stains can arise if a guest uses a towel for polishing shoes. Housekeeping managers can dramatically reduce this misuse by supplying a special shoe cleaning cloth in the room.
• Color bleeding and dye transfer, which often happens with table linen, results when the textile supplier does not properly fix the dye to the fabric. Dye bleeding is accelerated by washing at high temperatures and/or high pH.