Durability, comfort, hygiene, sustainability and affordability…these are the characteristics that hoteliers desire in their linen, but almost never get all together. If a product is sustainable, it also tends to be too expensive; if hygiene is its defining feature, perhaps comfort is compromised.
No more. Austria-headquartered, eight-decade-old fiber giant Lenzing Group and Dubai-based linen management company Rent-A-Towel have come together to produce, process and supply bed and bath linen via a rental model to the global hospitality and healthcare industry. Their innovative product combines all five characteristics in a single, science-backed, tested solution that is the future of linen – Dr. LinenTM.
Avinash Mane, Commercial Director, Lenzing Group and Narayanan Raghavan, Founder | CEO, Rent-A-Towel discussed the synergy of their partnership, the sustainability that is integrated into every step, why Dr. Linen is ideally suited for the pandemic age and more.
100% sustainable production of fiber
“Starting from raw material to when the product is returned to nature, at Lenzing, we ensure sustainability throughout the life cycle of any fiber product”, emphasized Mane.
Lenzing’s TENCELTM Lyocell fibers are made from the bark of the eucalyptus tree. A pulp conversion process transforms this into white pulp, which is dissolved in an organic solvent, much like dissolving sugar in water. This solution is then passed through a spinnerette and reprecipitated in the form of strands of Lyocell fiber.
The trees which provide the raw material are taken only from those forests which are certified as sustainable. The solvent used is recirculated to the extent of 99.9%. Waste water generation is minimal; whatever is generated is properly treated.
“We call this a closed-loop manufacturing process, where all components remain within the system, with wood pulp entering it from one side and only fiber coming out of the other”, said Mane.
Final product to final disposal
Sustainability pervades the remainder of the TENCEL value chain. Lenzing makes sure that the spinning units converting the fiber into thread/yarn, and the weaving/finishing units that convert the latter into linen, also abide by all required sustainability standards and have the necessary certifications.
But what happens to such linen after its life cycle is complete? All condemned linen eventually ends up in a landfill, the soil or the sea, where it survives for years and may slowly pollute its environment…but not TENCEL. Certified as biodegradable, it becomes compost or biodegrades within 16-20 weeks, wherever it ends up, leaving no long-term, permanent impact on the environment.
This quality is built into the product, even into its name. TENCEL comes from Tenacity (‘Ten’) and Cellulose (‘Cel’). It uses fiber which has the highest strength in the cellulose fiber family, comparable to that of polyester, which has traditionally been used in linen to provide strength. But since it is cellulose-based, TENCEL Fibers provide comfort that is superior to cotton, thus offering the best of both products.
“As a rental linen provider, when we work towards affordable pricing for customers to move to this model, we need linen to endure a minimum number of washes. For us, durability is the most important factor”, said Raghavan.
That is why Rent-A-Towel chose to procure linen that blends cotton with TENCEL fibers, which introduces the durability component that will form the spine of the fabric through repeated washes.
Superior moisture management
TENCEL fibers absorb and distribute moisture quickly over a large surface. Normal cotton has 6-8% moisture regain; TENCEL has 10-12% moisture regain. Higher the regain, better is the moisture regulation and comfort.
This characteristic offers better absorption of water by bath towels, as well as shorter drying times during the laundry process. “Since it ‘breathes’ better than the average fabric, it takes care of the hygiene component in the laundry itself”, said Raghavan.
Improved guest comfort
When traditional linen such as cotton-polyester blends is used, even when the room is air-conditioned, a guest in deep sleep may be forced to wake up after a few hours because the moisture released by the body has not been absorbed by the bed linen. Synthetic fabrics incorporated in duvets also reduce moisture evaporation, making the guest uncomfortable.
TENCEL’s inherent moisture management offers thermal regulation; sleep comfort and body temperature regulation studies have found that guests’ sleep quality is much better when using TENCEL bed linen. The fabric has better touch and a cool feel at all times, and the guest wakes up fresh.
“In the pandemic scenario we are in, hygiene plays a paramount role. Anyone checking into a hotel needs and wants hygienic linen”, said Raghavan.
Dr. Linen’s better moisture management also creates unfavourable conditions for the growth of bacteria or mildew, compared to when 100% cotton products are used.
While laundering Dr. Linen fabrics, Rent-A-Towel is experimenting with SilvadurTM technology, an innovative antimicrobial treatment that improves on earlier technologies by using charged silver ions as opposed to silver particles. The silver ions are evenly distributed over a garment, making their use more efficient, and they remain on the fabric for 180-200 washes.
Cost-saving laundry process
Let us examine the picture of the hospitality industry today. With inconsistent room occupancy trends, hotels will need at least a year or two to regain financial stability. With cost optimisation at the top of their wishlist, Rent-A-Towel’s 4Ls service model is appealing for everyone.
There is no need to invest in large stocks of bed and bath linen, which can be rented instead. Since Dr. Linen fabrics dry faster, the turnaround time is also shorter. Most importantly, these fabrics require less water during the laundry process.
“Keeping the characteristics of TENCEL fibers and Silvadur technology in mind, we asked ourselves, why do we need a 45 minute wash cycle? Can we manage it in 30 minutes instead? We tested this, and found that we can save 18-20 litres of water per kg of linen”, shared Raghavan. Lower water requirements and lower utilities costs translate to more affordable linen management expenses for hoteliers and laundries.
Right product, right place, right time.
Recently, the UAE government has put sustainability at the forefront of tourism. Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing has mandated the hospitality industry to comply with sustainability measures from 1st July 2021.
Raghavan added, “The choice of linen will shift from brand standards like 100% cotton, which is a water-intensive crop, to sustainable, hygienic options like Dr. Linen”.
With Expo 2020 Dubai around the corner and expected to add 20,000 new keys to the four- and five-star hotel bracket, the football world cup in Qatar in 2022, and Saudi Arabia expanding in multiple verticals, the focus of Dr. Linen will initially be in the Middle-East.
However, one of India’s largest workwear rental companies has already expressed interest in this service model for its healthcare segment among others, for applications in 20+ countries apart from India. TENCEL and Rent-A-Towel are ready with a new product for new needs in a new age, and their market is ready too.