Each year, the lodging industry spends millions of dollars on linens. With that much invested, it's important to keep linens in top shape for as long as possible to maximize value and customer satisfaction. For high-quality linens, the laundry process is as important as the linens themselves to maximize return on investment.

The key to protecting your investment when washing linens is to use a laundering program comprised of powerful cleaners that are not overly harsh and that can remove tough stains.

Look for a laundry program that includes a detergent with outstanding stain removal and whitening. Also be sure your wash system is a near-neutral pH to help avoid the mishaps that are possible with high alkalinity systems, which require precise dosing of both the washing chemical (alkaline) and the sour chemical (acidic) in the rinse. The laundry program should also include a bleach which removes residual color from stains while keeping whites white, and a fabric softener that softens without dyes and perfumes.

Unfortunately, though, maximizing linen life can be out of the hands of the housekeeping staff, as linens tend to stain out before they wear out. Blood, shoe polish and make-up are among the toughest stains to remove from linens, especially after they've had a chance to set. Therefore, it's important to include a stain spotter on the housekeeping carts that attendants can use to treat these and other stains as soon as they are noticed.

Multi-purpose stain removers are often the best choice as they're designed to handle a wide variety of stains — particularly important because many times it can be difficult to identify a stain's exact origin. Rather than trying to identify a specific stain, room attendants can apply a more general product that's effective on a wider variety of common stains. This can increase the chances of getting the stain out with the first wash, as well as make housekeeping more efficient.

Avoiding harsh chemicals that can quickly break down fibers and treating stains as soon as possible are two important ways to maximize the life of sheets and towels. These and the other variables discussed here, when combined, create a strong force that will enable hotels to get more use out of sheets and towels, while still offering guests the quality they demand.

Craig Monsell is janitorial marketing manager and proposition development team leader within the P&G Professional division of the Procter & Gamble Company in Cincinnati. He can be reached at (513) 983-3564 or e-mail

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