From the outside, a large-scale hotel laundry service plant looks like any other manufacturing facility, and it’s not until you get inside that the first important difference will hit you: It’s really clean. It even smells clean.
Depending on the location and the season, the facility may be low-key or bustling with people, carts and linens in various stages of being washed, dried, ironed and folded. It may be quiet or humming with high-tech laundry equipment. Given the 24-7 nature of hospitality, the service likely operates at least two shifts of trained staff every day.
If you’ve ever been curious about what happens to laundry at an outsourcing provider, here’s a brief look at a day in the life of a hotel laundry service.
Once linens are picked up from the various hotels, resorts and timeshare properties, they’re brought to the plant and lined up to have their arrival electronically processed. The information provided by the hotel is entered into a computer system, and the linens are weighed for the first time onsite.
Once they’re logged into the computer, linens are sent for sorting.
Linens are sorted by hand by trained staff outfitted with gloves and other gear. Materials are sorted by type – pool towels, bed sheets and robes go into their own compartments, for instance.
Ultra high-capacity tunnel washers like the ones made by Jensen have an optimal capacity of around 150 pounds per load. Once that number is reached for each kind of textile, the loads are transported from the sorting area to the washers.
Jensen tunnel washers have 14 chambers that each serve a different cleaning function, and they can process more than one load at a time. A new 150-pound load can be loaded every minute and a half, and up to 5,000 pounds can be washed every hour – with up to four times less water than a conventional washer.
A compressor at the end of the wash cycle squeezes the excess water out of the laundry and presses it into a large disc shape.
A machine then loads the large laundry discs into 350-pound capacity dryers, and the kind of material determines the level of drying. Sheets, for instance, are dried just enough to pull out excess moisture, then they’re whisked away to be ironed while still slightly damp.
The dryers have built-in sensors to prevent the kind of over-drying that can waste energy and damage fibers. The technology is one reason that partnering with a hotel laundry service can lengthen the life of linens.
If you’re imagining any kind of ironing board for this part of the process, get the image out of your head. The ironers at large commercial laundry services are big enough to efficiently dry and iron king-sized sheets and banquet-sized table cloths.
Linens are loaded by hand into the ironers, where they’re dried and neatly folded. Staff on the other end stack them to be weighed one last time before they go back to the hotel.
Materials that aren’t ironed, such as towels, are processed into machines for folding, sorting and stacking.
Weighing One More Time
There’s one last weigh-in onsite before materials are loaded onto trucks for delivery. Dirty linen weighs more than clean, and staff at the end of the laundry journey check to make sure the weight discrepancy is within a normal range before it’s delivered.
Any damaged linens or stained materials that need a special wash are bagged separately so they aren’t mixed in with the rest of the linens.
Then everything goes back to the hotel, resort or timeshare, where your guests can’t get over how fluffy your towels are, how luxurious your robes feel or the feather lightness of your pillowcases. For hotel laundry services, that’s all in a day’s work.