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Handling Linen in Hotels & Hospitals

Bad linen service is one of the most frequently heard complaints in hotels & hospitals that leads to the various inefficiencies impacting the entire hotel operations.

“Linen should never be placed on the floor by room attendant or the laundry staff. The floor soils linen and contributes to wear. Unsealed concrete and some other surfaces will stain or change the pH (Acidity/alkalinity) of the linen at the point of contact. “

The selection of linen for a hospitality facility varies based on the type of facility and the budget. For example, when selecting linen, many hotels may select a polyester/cotton blend to obtain durability, reduced shrinkage and affordability. However, a five star hotel may prefer to make a significant investment in the luxury, strength and softness of high thread-count.

In healthcare facilities, laundry plays a critical role – it not only contributes to comfort and aesthetics, but also assists in infection control. Because of its high level of energy, chemical and water consumption, laundry processing also has a significant impact on hospitals’ environmental and financial bottom line. A study by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) showed that when laundered properly, reusable garments and drapes are 70% more effective in providing barrier protection. Like any department, laundry services must continuously find ways to increase efficiency and decrease costs.

Some hotels have contracts with third parties to manage the laundry requirements. Relationships between the launderettes and hotels get strained as hotels face shortage of linen during crisis. Many a time, it is difficult to count soiled linen resulting in tighter audits and lack of trust. Consequently, hotels lose on stock of linen, as new linen needs to be constantly bought to replace torn and soiled ones.

The room attendant should make a note of the stained linen when he/she removes it from the guest room and separates it, so that it will be noticed right away when it arrives in the laundry area later. Spotting and stain removal instruction and supplies should be readily available in the laundry.

Regular soiled laundry should be separated by type, fabric, intensity of dirt, etc. Care should be taken not to wash all linen with the heaviest concentrations of chemicals and undergo extra wash cycles. When more than one colour of linen are used, white should be separated from other colours if bleach is to be used.

Collection & Transportation

Collection of linen may be done in the linen room, if the laundry is off-site but is usually in the laundry itself, if the laundry is on-premises. All metal items, epaulettes etc. should be removed at the time of collection. Kitchen uniforms and dusters are collected separately, so are butchery aprons and dusters, because they might have a specific type of soil. Likewise, in a hospital, linen from the surgical ward would be collected separately. The linen is usually packaged in canvas bags lined with polyvinyl. Eyelets on the rim of the bag facilitate passing a nylon cord through, which can be tightened in order to shut the opening of the bag. In some cases elasticized net bags called ‘skips’ are used to collect linen.

Carrying the linen in canvas bags or skips is one means of transportation. Trolleys are most popular for transportation and the collapsible wire cart can be used to transport clean as well as soiled linen. Whatever be the type of trolley, the soiled linen should not hang over the edge of the trolley, as it looks unsightly. If planned at the construction stage, an in-built chute is used for transporting linen from the floor pantries. It is preferable to put linen into canvas bags before dropping it down the chute so that wear and tear is reduced. However, this is rarely done, so it must be ensured that the flooring at the base of the chute should be easy to clean.

The best collection system will vary from one operation to another but the increase of soil must be eliminated in order to prevent incurring unnecessary expenses.


On arrival, linen must be dealt with as quickly as possible. There must be a separate section for guest laundry that is usually handled by the most experienced staff.

Processing linen as quickly as possible is necessary:

– To ensure that linen items are available as and when required

– To avoid transfer of stains and prevent stains from becoming permanent

– To avoid a breeding ground for bacteria and pests

– To prevent the formation of mildew on damp articles particularly bath linen

– To avoid the possibility of linen getting misplaced or lost


In hospitals, the infection risk necessitates the need for using gloves when sorting out linen. Gloves may also be used when handling hotel linen. Sorting is carried out according to the type of fabric and item, colour, the degree and type of soil and method of cleaning – dry wash or normal wash. Those that need mending or stain removal will be separated so that they can be dealt with accordingly. Also, different articles take a different wash process in terms of temperature of water, type of laundering agent, length of wash cycle and length of the hydro- extraction if needed. It takes less effort to pre-sort linen than to post-sort washed linen which is 50% heavier in weight due to water retention. Post-sorting is often essential in healthcare processes.

Linen should never be placed on the floor by the room attendant or the laundry staff. The floor soils linen and contributes to wear. Unsealed concrete and some other surfaces will stain or change the pH (Acidity/alkalinity) of the linen at the point of contact. Sort linen into laundry carts.

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