What Hotels Can Learn From How Hospitals Do Laundry

Hospitals and hotels have a lot in common: a demanding and increasingly well-informed clientele; a large hierarchy of workers with varying levels of responsibility; and payments increasingly tied to customer evaluations. These were among the conclusions of a recent Surgical Neurology International article, a collaboration between University of California neurology faculty and Jim Treadway, a third-generation hotelier and past president of Westin North America.

The medical journal article focuses on hotel industry practices that hospitals can emulate, like preadmissions, check-in, communication between caregivers and patients, customer satisfaction, and post-discharge follow-up. But what can hotels learn from hospitals?

Linen, uniform, and facility services serve both industries. From their perspective, both are tasked with caring for visitors while facing higher costs. To make operations more efficient and cost-effective, hotels can borrow several laundry-related practices from hospitals.

Centralize laundry operations. It’s estimated that up to 90 percent of all U.S. hospital laundry (in pounds washed) is “centralized.” Multiple hospitals commingle their laundry work as opposed to each operating its own on-premises laundry (OPL) facilities. In most cases, this work is outsourced to a commercial linen service with high-capacity equipment that minimizes resource use and achieves the highest possible economies in laundry. Linen and uniform services have enough volume—some serve more than 1,000 customers from a variety of industries—to produce laundry at the lowest possible cost per pound.


These models are emerging in the hotel business. Laundry outsourcing is well established in Europe and picking up speed in the United States. In some U.S. cities and Canada, using a linen service is becoming the norm.

Save floor space. Hospitals replace a cost center with new revenue generation that better serves patients when they dedicate this space to diagnostic and therapeutic functions. Hospital administrators increasingly choose this option rather than believing they need an OPL to maintain appropriate clean linen stock. A hotel’s choice to dedicate space to a guest amenity can improve the guest experience.

Streamline linen inventory control. Hotels that begin to outsource often contract with linen services only for laundering and associated pickup and delivery. The property continues to purchase its own linen inventory. Hospitals are deploying this practice less often; more are opting to rent linen from the laundry service provider as part of the contract. This reduces cost and places the burden of ensuring the hotel has enough inventory (adequate par level) on the laundry service provider. Hoteliers are sometimes concerned that rental requires them to use lower quality linen, but a range of quality linens are available to match the level of hotel service—from budget to luxury.

Use a certified laundry provider. A third-party inspection of healthcare laundry services produces hygienically clean linens, garments, uniforms, and other reusable textiles. The newest designation introduced in 2012 is the Hygienically Clean Healthcare certification, which adds ongoing microbial testing to quantify the cleanliness of the finished product in addition to evaluating the production and delivery processes. Quality assurance documentation is the focus of certification inspectors’ evaluation of critical control points to minimize risk.

Similarly, the recently introduced Hygienically Clean Hospitality certification follows the same core protocols. Both hotel and healthcare laundries must pass three rounds of this outcome-based microbial testing to be certified initially, indicating that their processes are producing clean linens and garments with a negligible presence of harmful bacteria. Quarterly testing to maintain certification ensures that as laundry conditions change—such as water quality, textile fabric composition, and wash chemistry—laundered product quality is consistently maintained.

For both hotels and hospitals, how laundry is processed is critically important and tied to the central mission and impacting the bottom line. Because they each accommodate hundreds or thousands of individuals daily, both are at a higher risk than most businesses for spreading infection. Regarding laundry and linen, a hotels’ easiest and most cost-effective option is to follow the lead of the healthcare industry.


About the Author
Joseph Ricci is the president and CEO of TRSA.

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