By Stephen R. Craig — This is the time of the year when many summertime season vacation rental companies are spending money to buy linens in preparation for the summer. And the total dollars they are spending on linens is getting higher every year. A great part of this massive increase is due to linen losses.
There are basically two types of vacation rental companies. One type of vacation rental company is the one I call “The Owners.” They own their own linens and get these linens cleaned on a guest or owner departure in one of two ways: they either send it to a laundry company for cleaning and pay per pound, or they have their own laundry machines and wash everything themselves. The other type of vacation rental company I call “The Non-Owners.” These companies do not own linens and either rent them from a linen supplier at a set price per piece, or their property owners own the linens and clean them in the unit washer and dryer on a departure clean.
I wish I had time to share the pros and cons of all these systems, but I’ll leave that for a later date. Suffice it to say that laundering in a rental unit is the worst system imaginable.
The only system where linen losses are usually not an issue is when a company rents linens. (The other systems mentioned above should strongly take a look at how they are losing linens.) The key to a successful linen system is using the same linens over and over again.
Linens that cannot be used over and over again are referred to as “shrinkage,” and these numbers are getting worse every year. Take a look at a few ways shrinkage can occur in a vacation rental company:
- Employee theft
- Stains (laying linens on oil or grease, wheel burns, etc.)
- Tears (rips occurred by removing sleeper sofa linens)
- Mildew (being stored prior to processing)
- Damage (stuffing pillow cases and dragging them on cement, etc.)
- Accidental Loss (linens can be left on landings or even thrown in the dumpster by getting mixed with trash)
- Irremovable stains
- Tears or rips from getting caught on machines and carts
- Rust from tumblers or carts
- Employee theft
- Over-drying or scorching
- Chemical residue in linens
- Employee theft
- Guest theft (when carts are left unattended)
- Irremovable stains (make-up, blood, etc.)
- Misplacement (beach, tennis court, golf course, etc.)
To put this in more common terms, I’ll cite actual examples of ways shrinkage has occurred that have been shared with me:
- Employees use room linens to do the cleaning. The stains do not come out. This is the single biggest way that linens are abused at many properties, primarily vacation rental companies.
- Owners take a pillow and it’s case when they depart so kids can sleep in the car on the way home, or they take a pillow case to hold dirty clothes.
- Golfers take face towels to clean their clubs and put a hole in the towels in order to hang them on their bags.
- Blood located on a fitted or bottom flat sheet that is not removed during cleaning.
- The owners or guests take towels home or renters exchange linens.
- Employees steal linens for their own use or for sale at flea markets.
- Dirty linens are stuffed into pillow cases and dragged along the ground causing irremovable stains on the case.
- Employees carelessly take sheets off sleeper sofas and rip the sheets on the springs.
- Wash cloths are used to shine shoes, wash cars, remove makeup, etc.
- Skis are waxed using room linens causing irremovable stains.
- Maintenance crews wipe up messes with face towels or use sheets as drop cloths.
- Guests wash linens in the in-unit washers and dryers and they become dyed from other linens.
- Chemicals are improperly added to washing machines — either too much or the wrong chemical — and damage the linens.
Regardless of the processing system you use, you can minimize your expenses by following some of these guidelines:
- Use 250-thread count for king and queen sized beds — no higher — for all sheets. Use a 65/35 blend of poly/cotton.
- Use 180-thread count for twin beds. They are cheaper than 250-thread count and kids won’t notice or care.
- Eliminate the use of double sheets and use queen sheets on double beds. You only need to have queens marked by laundry markers or threads. This saves time and money.
- Use deep pockets on all fitted sheets.
- Pillow cases: use either all regulars or all kings. No combinations. And use 180-thread count because they will take many, many stains and will need replacing.
- I believe your linens are measured by the quality of your bath towel. Invest in a good bath towel. Use at least a 14-pounder (pound weight is the total weight of 12 of the items). Many companies are investing in 17-pounders.
- Limit the quantity of towels per occupant. The oldest rule in the linens book is “the more you give, the more you will need to replace.” Most companies give two bath towels per occupant, but many companies have limited bath towels to one per occupant.
- Do not provide hand towels per occupant, but provide one per bath/half bath instead.
- Use hand towels of a lesser quality than bath towels.
- Purchase the least expensive wash cloths possible. They are now viewed as disposable, so why waste the money? They are going to go by the wayside no matter what the quality is.
- Do not provide dish rags in the kitchen. Use kitchen towels only and add an inexpensive wrapped sponge.
- Minimize the number of kitchen towels, never more than two. Consider microfiber kitchen towels instead of cotton.
Presentation can often be as important as what or how much you provide. A big trend in our industry is to display terry on the beds in attractive piles per occupant. Don’t place them under sinks or hide them in cabinets. Also, place the sleeper sofa linens on the cushions so the guests do not have to track them down.
Preventing shrinkage is critical, but in the meantime we hope these purchasing tips will help to minimize your investment.
About Steve Craig
Steve Craig is the recognized national authority on Vacation Rental Housekeeping. Steve started his adventure in housekeeping with his own cleaning company in 1984. Craig Services Management was actively servicing 13 resorts throughout the state of Florida by the time Steve sold it in 1986 and started his consulting business Pro Resort Housekeeping (firstname.lastname@example.org). Since that time Steve has consulted with over 220 vacation rental, vacation ownership and destination resorts throughout the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Great Britain. He has published over 800 articles and newsletters, including the Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP) newsletter where he served as founder and director for 13 years, spoken at numerous industry conferences by NTC, ARDA, VRMA, FVRMA, CFRMA, Colorado Lodging Association, California Lodging Association and VRHP seminars, and designed and overseen installation of 17 on-premise laundries across the country. Throughout his entire career Steve has stayed abreast of cutting employee relations, legal and operational changes in the vacation rental housekeeping industry. Steve has worked directly with numerous product manufacturers to test their products and share his findings. From new product evaluations to labor laws, Steve has recognized, monitored, evaluated and shared their impacts on the vacation rental housekeeping industry with his VR View and in his VR Maintenance newsletter (www.proresort.net).