How to extend the life of hotel linen

Many launderers want to know how to minimize the progressive rotting and destructive hydrolysis of nylon and polyester fibres. This will allow them to achieve 200 wash cycles for each textile classification.

Contract customers can use this feature to sell their goods, and it is also a key contributor to a rental company’s profit. We will be looking at the minimization of chemical damage in modern washing processes. This is without affecting quality, freshness, or stain removal.

Common chemical causes

  • A low-cost, effective main wash relies on the use of alkali chemistry to remove fats from sheets and pillows. Although alkali is not harmful to cotton, if used in excess it can cause damage to nylon and polyester. This process is called ‘alkaline Hydrolysis’ by chemists. The textile life is shorter if the alkali concentration and wash temperature are higher. It is common to fail to rinse properly, which can lead to discoloration and damage during drying.
  • Many destaining systems rely on sodium hypochlorite solution . This is a great chemical stain remover, but it causes chemical damage to cotton, linen, and viscose fibres with every wash. This is what determines textile life in many organizations. If the bleaching temperature and dosage are not controlled correctly, this can lead to excessive damage. This can be especially problematic if protein stains have not been properly softened in the prewash. The necessary increase in sodium chlorite dosage to get rid of set protein stains will reduce textile life.
  • Sodium Hypochlorite can also cause additional indelible staining when used on healthcare or hotel work that has been affected by skin treatments that contain ‘chlorhexidine.’ This is a popular and efficient disinfectant, such as Savlon.
  • This is when items that are still stained are washed in the regular wash several times. They can be used up to twenty-three times before they become raggedy or grey and then are thrown out.
  • Floormarks are more difficult to remove that normal soiling and staining. Most wash processes are not designed to deal with tarmac stains or muddy boot-prints. No matter how well the washing machine does, towels that are used to open doors or clean up toilet floors won’t come out of their original state.
  • Removing oily marks and worn rubber seals from machine marking can be extremely difficult.

How do you address the challenge

  • Modern detergent systems no longer rely on strong alkali and instead use chemicals to emulsify oils and fats as well as enzymes that ‘digest’ proteins. This helps reduce the risk of damaging the polyester fibres in cotton rich and polycotton, and also extends the life expectancy to 200 cycles. This helps to reduce damage to calender clothes, which are generally made of polyester (occasionally with an aramid top layer). The wash may leave behind alkali that can cause damage to both calender and press clothing. This can be avoided by using efficient moisture extraction and effective rinsing.
  • The modern detergents have led to a much lower sodium hypochlorite consumption in the UK and virtually elimination of it in continental Europe. The new generation of premium detergents removes the more difficult stains, such as those that required over-dosing with hypochlorite. They also require a small amount of bleach to remove vegetable dye stains like red wine, blackcurrant, and tea.
  • There is still a wide gap between the industry leaders in linen care,, who have over 200 wash-and use cycles per item. The reason this might be is that the top performers keep their pre-wash temperatures below 40C so that protein stains can be softened prior to their complete (and very easy!) removal in a well-designed main washing.
  • For large amounts of beaching (for example, to remove very heavy vegetable dye stains) there have been moves to sodium percarbonate or hydrogen peroxide. It is safer than hypochlorite because it doesn’t accelerate the rotting of cotton in hot washing and is less likely to cause overdoses.
  • Floor marks must be eliminated quickly by regular training and reminders, first in the laundry, then with delivery personnel, and finally at client premises. There is no one-size fits all solution. It is the people factor that must be addressed sensitively, often repeatedly.
  • Stains on textiles after normal washing should be removed. This is because the normal washing process has been proven to not work. A specialized rewash process with chemicals and conditions that are designed to remove stubborn staining is required for stained rewash. The items from the rewash can then be divided into those that are stain-free and ready to use, those that need a final recovery (for example, because they have been marked with metal orrust) and those that require a final cleaning.
  • XOrb attraction may reach the black “snake bite” mark-off due to the degrading of inter-compartmental seals in large continuous batch washers. These marks have led to a widespread and devastating reduction in linen life in large rental stock over the past few years with total financial losses well exceeding seven figures.

How do you monitor your linen life

To keep track of linen life, there should not be any need for time-consuming stock-takes. To control a circulating stock, the standard accounting method is to count the number of issues for a specific classification in a given time period, say six to twelve months. Then, divide this total by the number you have to inject to keep the service running smoothly. If you have accumulated 151,093 duvet covers of king size over 12 months, and that you have had 1,440 covers injected in the same period, the average textile lifespan is 151,093 / 1,440 =105 wash and use cycles.

This is not a good result, as a cotton duvet covers should last at least 200 wash and use cycles. A cotton-rich cover should last even longer. For a king-sized cover, however, this would be the average for a textile rental company in a capital city.

The prize to raise textile life

This means that there is a potential savings of more than 45% by moving it up to 200 cycles. This would result in a doubled profit for many organizations, but the main benefit of this is to eliminate unnecessary spending on new textiles that shouldn’t be necessary. This involves ensuring that the wash process is under control by measuring chemical damage and then implementing the changes made by others (which are also discussed in this blog). You can use a 25-wash test-piece to determine the current level of damage. A competent detergent supplier is all that is needed to make improvements in the wash and rinse processes. You don’t need to invest – all you need is modern laundry technology and a systematic approach.


Although we are in difficult times, the global recovery is underway and seems to be moving faster than it did just weeks ago. Only a few can bring textile life to the level that it is now. This will immediately improve cashflow and profitability. While volumes are currently lower than they will in a few weeks, now is the time to do it. Good hunting!

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