Hotel Laundry Management Guide: Process, Tips & Checklists

Published on:
March 26, 2024
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Laundry day is everyday when it comes to hotels—a property with 100 rooms will go through 400,000 pounds of laundry in a single year. And just as you’d suspect: it isn’t cheap to maintain. It takes about $100,000 - $140,000 to wash those 400K pounds.

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Consider the workload for a hotel with twice as many rooms or more! Hotel laundry has to essentially be run like its own business to keep things going smoothly. 

It’s of critical importance for overall Hotel Operations Management that laundry procedures run smoothly since guest satisfaction is on the line.

Consider the impact of running out of linens at your property when your guest calls asking for more towels.

It could mean the difference between a stellar customer experience and a negative review that damages the reputation of your hotel. That’s ultimately why laundry management is so important. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some top tips and process details for hotel laundry management, including the pros and cons of running in-house vs. outsourcing, common types of equipment, costs and expenses, and more.

We also include a room inspection checklist to help you stay on top of laundry needs from room to room.

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What is Hotel Laundry Management?

Hotel laundry management includes the handling of all laundry operations at a property. Laundry management oversees the collection, cleaning, and distribution of laundry.

This includes the distribution of bedsheets and towels, the retrieval of soiled articles of laundry from guest rooms and facilities, and the sanitizing and washing of laundry items before redistribution. It’s an ongoing cycle that takes the right space, equipment, employees, and planning. 

From a broad spectrum point of view, hotel laundry management is part of the overall hotel work order eco system.

Hotel Laundry In-House vs Outsourcing

Hotels can utilize in-house laundry operations or outsource laundry processes, but operating in-house is generally cheaper. Hotels that outsource laundry are usually high-volume properties located in metro areas.

But only about 20% of hotels outsource their laundry operations

With in-house operations, laundry transportation is completed more quickly because it’s already on site. It also ensures that linens and other articles are readily available in case of emergencies.

In addition to that, if you’re handling guest laundry items, the likelihood of these items being lost or stolen is reduced with in-house operations. 

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Hotel Laundry Management - Linen Care
Hotel Laundry via Canva

There are some cons to running laundry in-house though. The cost of operating and maintaining laundry equipment can be quite high. You’ll also need adequate space for all the equipment and your property will need technically qualified staff to man laundry machines. 

So while hotels can save money on equipment and staff by outsourcing, outsourcing can also mean hotels have to compromise on the quality of cleanliness and linens won’t be available in case of emergency circumstances. Plus the likelihood of lost or stolen articles goes up when the laundry leaves the hotel.  

Common Types of Hotel Laundry & Equipment

Hotel Laundry can be divided into categories based on where they originate, as well as the type of material.

Guest Rooms have two main types of material: Bed Linens and Terry Cloth. Food and Beverage has linens and uniforms. See below for a list of possible hotel laundry items. If your housekeeping team is having trouble with consistent material collection, consider implementing a free checklist.

Common Types of Hotel Laundry
Common Types of Hotel Laundry

The type of laundry done at hotels is usually guest room linens, facility uniforms and towels, curtains and decorative textiles, and other hotel articles. But some hotels offer laundry services for guest items, too, so guests can have their clothes washed and pressed during their stay. 

If a hotel has in-house laundry operations, they usually have the following equipment: 

  • A large-capacity washing machine with stainless steel barrels
  • A hydro-extractor that the clothes will go in after washing to remove 50% - 70% of any excess water and cut down drying times
  • A high capacity dryer 
  • Pressing equipment to press or iron items such as bed linens or curtains 

Main Cost drivers of In-House Hotel Laundry

Around 50% of the cost of in-house hotel laundry operations is the cost of labor. This includes staff to operate and service laundry equipment, keep linens and clothes moving from one machine to the next, collect and redistribute linens, etc.

For hoteliers looking to improve their laundry operations, this should be the main area of focus. Consider the layout of your laundry room – Is your team running into each other, or waiting for turns to do their job?

Is there ample space to handle intake, washing and folding in the same space?

Is your team disorganized or unsure of their next move? All of these elements add up and directly threaten a hotelier’s bottom line. 

Hotel Laundry Cost Drivers Chart
Hotel Laundry Cost Drivers Chart

About 8-10% of a hotel laundry operation cost are water and electric utilities.

Of this cost, the natural gas for heating dryers and the hot water for washers are the largest expenses. Aside from labor and utilities, hotel owners need to allocate budget to equipment, linen replacement and chemicals.

The equipment itself can also be a large initial investment but should be expensed over 10 - 15 years of operational use. Owners should invest in a preventive maintenance schedule to ensure that there are minimal breakdowns over that useful life period. Smaller costs include the cost of linen replacement and cleaning chemicals.

Proper laundry equipment helps to minimize the amount of damaged linen through use of efficient washers and dryer.

Common problems with Hotel Laundry Operations

Poor equipment is one of the biggest issues when it comes to hotel laundry operations. Having the wrong machines for washing and drying linens can lead to improperly cleaned items, slow dry times, and overall inefficient operations.

For example, the lack of an appropriate hydro extractor or g-force dryer to pull out additional water from linens can lead to significantly increased dry times that cause significant inconvenience to guests and staff. 

Hotel Laundry Common Problems
Digg via Giphy

The lack of a proper dryer is just as much of an issue. Even if your clothes are washed appropriately and additional water is spun out, if your dryer isn’t properly serviced or doesn’t have the necessary capacity it’s going to lead to issues such a slow dry times and damaged linens. 

Ensure your laundry operation has proper equipment and space to minimize efficiency loss

Another common issue with hotel laundry operations is a general need for more space. Hotels generate a large amount of laundry, and there has to be an adequate space for not only the equipment, but the laundry being washed and the staff operating everything.

Depending on the size of your hotel, your laundry facilities should ideally be an industrial-use space.

Remember, you have to consider laundry management as almost its own business and labor input is the largest cost contributor. If your staff is waiting to use a work station, you are losing money.

On top of these facility and equipment issues, sometimes hotels simply face a lack of procedure that causes issues with laundry management. Without clear processes, guest laundry items and hotel inventory can be easily lost or misplaced.

And a lack of proper documentation or lack of an audit trail makes it hard to locate any misplaced articles—it also makes miscommunication and general oversight far more likely. 

How to Manage Hotel Laundry Staff 

When you’re managing hotel laundry staff, it’s important to designate roles and responsibilities right off the bat.

Take time during your onboarding and training to make it clear what kind of expectations you have of your team. You’ll also need to schedule safety training for anyone handling machines or potentially dangerous cleaning chemicals. 

As far as roles, you’ll need individuals who can manage loading and unloading machines, sorting laundry items, transporting linens and towels to the appropriate drop-offs for housekeeping and cleaning staff to take cleaned articles to guests.

How these roles are designated can vary from property to property, but typically you will find the following laundry roles:

  • Laundry Manager: Responsible for efficient and effective in-house laundry operations and reports directly to the executive housekeeper
  • Laundry Supervisor: Principal assistant to the laundry manager, supervises attendants. Typically the head wash person who manages equipment and chemical inventory
  • Linen Room Supervisor: In charge of linen room operations and keeping status communication with housekeeping and front desk. Oversees linen room attendants.
  • Laundry Intake Helper:  Sorts all inbound, soiled laundry by type for washing
  • Laundry Attendant - Ironer: Responsible for ironing all linens
  • Laundry Attendant - Folder: Responsible for folding ironed linens
  • Laundry Attendant - Stacker: Responsible for organizing cleaned laundry for delivery

How to Manage Hotel Laundry Inventory

Hotel laundry inventory doesn’t just include the number of sheets and towels you have on hand at the property. You’ll also need to log and track supplies like soap, fabric softener, carts, machines—anything your team uses to work through operations. You can utilize checklists and logs to ensure you and your team adequately track stock and usage of these items to keep everything needed on hand. 

Housekeeping teams must understand linen par stock, the laundry process and how it relates to guest success

When it comes to tracking linen inventory itself, your team will likely follow linen par stock, which is just a calculation of the standard amount of linens needed for the hotel to run smoothly. This will help your team to measure and understand whether or not there are enough linens in circulation, if you’re running behind, if items are missing, etc. 

It’s important you make a point to prioritize communication of damaged materials too. Sometimes linens come back from guest rooms damaged or stained to the point of needing replacement—usually this is reported by housekeepers, but if linens make it to laundry and your team finds something can’t be cleaned as expected, you’ll need to know so it can be replaced. 

This is also important for items that are damaged during the laundry process. Sometimes towels or sheets get stuck or caught in machines and unravel or something gets torn in the process of transportation or pressing. It’s crucial for all of this important information to be logged so proper inventory can be kept. 

How to Manage Hotel Laundry Operations

Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the high-level details of laundry operations at your hotel, let’s take a moment to examine how the day-to-day of these processes often look. 

🛏️ Linen Collection 

First, your team will collect linens that need to be cleaned. This can be done by housekeepers and laundry staff. Housekeepers will often collect linens from guest rooms and take them to a linen room for transportation to laundry facilities. Some linen items may be collected separately, such as staff uniforms or kitchen towels. Guest laundry is handled separately from hotel linens to ensure their safe return. 

🛒 Transportation and Sorting

Once the linens are transported and arrive at the laundry facility, linens are quickly sorted to ensure fast turnaround times. Items are usually sorted by the types of fabric, colors, and sometimes how soiled they are. Items that require dry cleaning are separated from any that will go through a typical washing process, and if something needs additional spot cleaning or stain removal that will be sorted out as well. 

⚖️ Weighing and Loading 

After things are sorted, many times the laundry loads are weighed to make sure that the loads fit washing machine capacity and machines aren’t overloaded. Then a member of the laundry staff will manually load the linens into a machine. Sometimes loading is partially automated, but many times it’s simply a manual process. 

🧼 Washing, Hydro-Extracting, Drying

From there, linens are washed, rinsed, and moved to hydro-extraction to remove excess water before they’re moved to a dryer to tumble dry. Once items are in the tumble dryer, they’ll be there until they’re fully dry. For articles that can be damaged by heat, they may be air dried or gently dried in a separate machine. 

🧺 Finishing: Pressing, Folding, Hanging 

When everything is washed and dried, they’ll usually either be folded or placed on a hanger. If the items need additional care such as ironing or pressing, that will be taken care of before the article is folded or hung on a hanger. Some hotel linens may be aired out first to protect them from mildew. Then all the fresh linens will be carefully stored for distribution. 

✅ Checklists and SOPs

You can write out all of these processes in a checklist to clarify your standard operating procedures (SOPs) with your staff and keep everyone on the same page. Staff can then work through the checklist to make sure they don’t miss any critical parts of the process. This keeps laundry work consistent and streamlined. 

You can even utilize a digital operations solution such as Xenia to create a digital checklist that your team can access directly from their individual mobile devices. Digital solutions like Xenia provide a single source of truth for SOPs and make it simple for your team to stay accountable. It also creates an easy means of logging information and keeping an audit trail. 

How to conduct Hotel Laundry Equipment Preventive Maintenance 

Just like preventative maintenance is important for keeping hotel assets functional for staff and guests, it’s also incredibly important for keeping laundry equipment operational. You should perform regular preventative maintenance checks and tune-ups on all of your laundry equipment to ensure functionality and longevity. 

When you first install your equipment, assess the assets current value and condition and keep that logged somewhere. From there, you can build an asset health scorecard or checklist for your team to conduct regular checks themselves and track machine health. Create a regular inspection cadence monthly, quarterly, and/or annually to build checks into your process. 

Make sure you regularly grease any bearings. You should also record drain and fill times on washing machines to identify any issues sooner, and keep clear logs on any other issues that pop up no matter how minor they seem. This way you always have a full picture of machine health over time. For a more detailed approach, check out Xenia's Free Laundry Preventive Maintenance Checklist.

Best Hotel Laundry Operations Checklist: Free Template

Whether you’re just getting started setting up hotel laundry processes or you’re simply looking to fine-tune your existing procedures, we’ve included a free hotel room inspection checklist to help. Taking the time to inspect rooms in detail helps streamline laundry processes so nothing is missed during collection or guest changeover. Download your free checklist template via the link below and edit the checklist however you need to for your hotel. 

Xenia: One App to Manage your Facilities and your Frontline

Xenia goes beyond laundry operations with a full suite of tools to help simplify, track, and manage every area of hotel operations. The software contains individual and group messaging, built-in analytics, checklists and inspection tools, maintenance features, and more. Check out the list below:

  • Guest Request Management
  • Housekeeping Management
  • Team Accountability
  • Quality and Safety Inspections
  • Team Communication
  • Custom Checklist Builder
  • SOP Template Library
  • Preventive Maintenance Management
  • Inspections and Audits
  • Asset Tracking
  • Work Order Management
  • Lost and Found

Xenia checklists make it easy to create and enforce standard operating procedures and inspection protocols, simplifying quality assurance and brand standard adherence across individual properties and entire portfolios. The system’s PM and work order tools ensure your maintenance team has everything they need to track fixes on the go and log asset information for a clear understanding of asset health. Plus the software features all the internal communication features you could need to encourage collaboration, increase autonomy, and decrease miscommunication. Managers are able to message team members one on one, create chat groups for departments and teams, and even announce organization-wide news and updates via a public feed, anywhere, anytime.

With Xenia, you and your team will be able to track and manage property assets and analyze detailed analytics reports on everything from inspections and maintenance to room cleanings and task assignments, allowing you to spot patterns quickly and make long-term improvements. And to top it all off, Xenia is fully flexible and customizable, so you can tailor your digital experience to fit the way you work.

To learn more about how Xenia can help streamline operations at your hotel, check out our website and schedule a free demo. Our solutions can help you set up and maintain clear SOPs, improve accountability and team management, increase visibility into day-to-day work, and more. We’re here to make your hotel the best, most optimized property it can be!

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The program offers a visually appealing and functional system with custom solutions, catering to a variety of F&B establishments. Its focus on quality, precision, and performance helps businesses enhance their digital presence and sales efficiency.

What is Hotel Laundry Management and why is it essential for hotels?

Hotel Laundry Management encompasses all activities related to the handling, cleaning, and distribution of laundry within a hotel.

This includes managing bedsheets, towels, staff uniforms, guest laundry, and other textiles. Effective laundry management is crucial because it directly impacts guest satisfaction.

It ensures that linens are clean, available, and in good condition, thereby influencing the overall customer experience and the hotel's reputation. Poor laundry management can lead to shortages of linens, delays, and negative guest experiences.

What are the pros and cons of in-house laundry operations vs. outsourcing in hotels?

In-house laundry operations offer quicker turnaround times, immediate availability of linens in emergencies, reduced chances of lost or stolen items, and generally lower costs compared to outsourcing.

However, it requires significant investment in equipment, space, and skilled staff. Outsourcing laundry services, commonly practiced by high-volume properties in metro areas, reduces the need for space and equipment maintenance but may compromise on linen quality and availability in emergencies.

It also increases the risk of lost or stolen items and can be more expensive in the long run.

What are the common types of equipment used in hotel laundry operations, and what are the main cost drivers?

Common types of equipment in hotel laundry operations include large-capacity washing machines, hydro-extractors, high-capacity dryers, and pressing equipment.

The main cost drivers in in-house hotel laundry operations are labor (about 50% of total costs), utilities (especially natural gas and water for washing and drying), equipment maintenance, linen replacement, and cleaning chemicals. Efficient layout and operation can significantly reduce these costs.

What are some common challenges in hotel laundry operations, and how can they be managed?

Common challenges in hotel laundry operations include inadequate equipment leading to slow or inefficient washing and drying processes, lack of sufficient space for operations, and the absence of clear procedures, resulting in mismanagement and loss of linens.

These issues can be managed by investing in the right equipment, ensuring enough space for efficient operation, and establishing clear procedures and checklists for staff. Regular staff training, effective inventory management, and preventative maintenance of equipment are also crucial for smooth operations.