What is Laundry?

  • Post last modified:16 March 2023
  • Reading time:32 mins read
  • Post category:Hotel Management

What is Laundry?

Laundry refers to the process of washing, drying, and folding or ironing clothes, linens, and other textiles. It is a necessary household chore and is also a commercial service provided by laundromats, dry cleaners, and hotels. The process involves sorting clothes by color, fabric type, and washing instructions, then using water, detergent, and sometimes fabric softener to clean the items.

In any hotel, a lot of dirty linen accumulates in the various units and departments. It is necessary to ensure a continuous supply of linen, which is well-laundered so that operations can be carried out smoothly and efficiently. Linen in hotels is expensive hence special care is to be taken during laundering. People involved in handling linen should have some knowledge of the process.

The Housekeeper and Linen keeper should have a good rapport with the Laundry Manager. The life of the linen depends on the care of linen in use and the treatment it gets at the laundry.

Advantages of Laundry in Premises of Hotel

  1. Time taken for laundering is reduced because transportation is eliminated.
  2. Linen is readily available especially in the case of emergency requirements.
  3. Control over the wash process and the laundry agents used making the wear and tear on linen comparatively much lesser.
  4. Revenue is earned from guest laundry.

Disadvantages of Laundry on Premises

  • Cost of equipment and its maintenance is fairly high.
  • Related expenses like printing of forms, employee taxes, water taxes, energy costs and insurance are high.
  • More staff who are technically qualified and adequate space is required.
  • Must be justified by an adequate amount of linen.

Process of Laundry

The following flowchart shows the process of laundering in chronological order:

Collection & Transportation of Linen

Collection of linen may be done in the Linen Room. Linen items are collected separately such as kitchen uniforms or dusters are from butchery aprons and dusters, a surgical ward in a hospital. The linen is usually packaged in canvas bags lined with polyvinyl or elasticized net bags called ‘skips’ for transportation.

Trolleys can be used to transport soiled as well as clean linen. If the laundry is planned at the construction stage, an in-built chute is used for transporting linen from the floor pantries.


On arrival, linen must be dealt with as quickly as possible to ensure a fast turnaround time for linen. There must be a separate unit for guest laundry.


Marking may be temporary (guest laundry) or permanent(monogramming of hotel linen). For guest laundry initials of the guest as well as the room number, helps provides a clear identification and helps correct billing.


Sorting is carried out according to the type of fabric and item, colour and type of soil. Sorting is done to separate those articles that need dry cleaning from those that will go through the normal wash process. Those that need mending or stain removal must be separated so that they can be dealt with accordingly.

Also, different articles take a different wash process in terms of the temperature of the water, type of laundering agent, length of the wash cycle, whether hydro-extraction should be done and if so, the length of the hydro extraction cycle.

In hospitals, the infection risk necessitates the need for using gloves when sorting out linen. It takes less effort to pre-sort soiled 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.


Weighing is carried out to conform to the capacity of the washing machine and to avoid overloading. Repeated overloading can cause the machine to break down. Under loading will lead to wastage of detergents and water, both cold and hot.


Loading is often done manually or with a certain degree of full or partial automation. Machines may be top loading, front loading or side loading.


This process is designed to perform three basic functions:

  • Removal of soil / dirt.
  • Suspension of soil.
  • Discharge of the soil from the machine to the drain

In the wash process, the following factors must be considered:

Setting Length of Wash Cycle

If the cycle is too short, the linen will not be cleaned properly and sufficiently. If the cycle is too long, there will be unnecessary wear and tear and the clothes may actually become dirtier as a result of redeposition of soil.

Temperature of Water

For hot water washing, if the temperature of the water is too high, it is likely to damage the linen. If the temperature is inadequate, the chemicals will not work effectively.

Water Level

Incorrect ‘dip’ levels can alter the concentration of the laundry agents rendering them ineffective. In case of a gentle action, the water level is usually higher forming a protective envelope to the delicate linen.

Type and Amount of Detergent and the Time of Dispensing

This is also a crucial factor that affects the quality of wash deciding which laundry agent should be used is dependent on the nature of the fabric being washed. Too little detergent will result in an incomplete cleaning process. And too much may remain as a residue on the cloth after the rinse cycle is complete. It is important that the laundry agent is introduced into the wash cycle at the appropriate time for best results.

Mechanical Agitation

This refers to the centrifugal action brought about by the movement of the drum that causes friction between the linen articles and is radically affected by overloading or underloading as it affects the speed of the drum. Modern machinery often operates on sensors, which are capable of gauging and maintaining optimum conditions for a specific load.


Once the wash cycle is completed, rinsing is carried out at least twice. The purpose of this stage is to:

  • Remove residue of laundry agents,
  • Remove suspended dirt,
  • Lower the temperature of the wash load by the use of using cold water.

A running rinse with an open drain is more effective but a larger volume of water is utilized.


Is the removal of excess moisture through centrifugal action and is equivalent to wringing in hand washing. Draining must precede hydro-extraction and hydro-extraction must precede tumble drying. Some articles cannot be hydro-extracted so there is a pumping action to draw out the water from the linen load. Too short an extraction time will increase the drying time and may hinder the proper operation of finishing equipment. The compact mass of hydro-extracted clothes is referred to as ‘cheese’.


Transferring washed linen from the Hydro-extractor to the Tumble Dryer is normally done manually. It may be done by an automated system where the ‘cheese’ is unloaded onto a conveyor belt that will transport the linen to the next set of operations.

Tumble Drying

This process is capable of rendering the linen completely dry by blowing hot air ranging between 40º C and 60º C onto the articles. For articles that are susceptible to damage by heat, there is the option of simply air drying by circulating air at room temperature.


For those articles that require a pressed finish, ironing and pressing are usual. Articles like blankets, towels, candlewick bedspreads, hosiery, etc. that do not require a pressed finish are only tumble-dried.


Can be done by machine but in most cases is carried out completely manually. Employees in this area are the ones who ‘reject’ stained or damaged linen. Correct folding is important to the appearance of the article and makes it convenient to store and use.


This is essential prior to storage, especially if the articles are to be stored in closed shelves. It ensures that any moisture that is likely to cause mildew will be got rid of.


Should be properly done in a well-designed storage space. Linen should be allowed a rest period to recuperate before it is used again. As a general rule, at any given time, approximately 50% of the total linen inventory should be on the shelves, 25% in use and 25%in processing. The storage area must be isolated from the soiled linen and kept clean.

Washing Machine

A washing machine is a machine designed to clean laundry, such as clothing, towels and sheets. The term is mostly applied only to machines that use water as the primary cleaning solution, as opposed to dry cleaning (which uses alternative cleaning fluids, and is generally performed by specialist businesses)or even ultrasonic cleaners.

All washing machines operates by using mechanical energy, thermal energy, and chemical action. Mechanical energy is imparted to the clothes load by the rotation of the agitator in top loaders, or by the tumbling action of the drum in front loaders. Thermal energy is supplied by the temperature of the wash bath.

Wash Cycle

A complete wash cycle is of various stages and the time taken is approx. 40 to 50 minutes. It has been proven that quick wash cycles using large volume of water broken down into the following sequence is most effective

Flush › Suds › Bleach › Rinse › Sour & Soft › Extract

Additional Stages in the Wash Cycle

These are essential where there is a specific type of soiled or the articles are heavily soiled: Soak › Break › Carryover Suds (Intermediate Rinse) › Intermediate Extract › Starch (Sizing).

Other Machines in Laundry

Tunnel Washers

These are also called batch washers or continuous washers and are in effect a series of inter- connected washers. Each ‘wash’ is in a different cylinder and the load moves from one cylinder to the another. Computerized systems automatically adjust the time, temperature and chemicals to be used, so that each batch receives the required treatment. Machines may be top transfer or bottom transfer. Tunnel washers have distinct advantages in that they are timesaving, thereby reducing staff requirement.

Tumble Dryer

Dryers are machines that dry laundry by tumbling it slowly in a perforated drum exposed to hot air ranging from 40ºC to 60ºC in low capacity dryers and going right upto 85ºC in an industrial dryer. Dryers may operate on gas, electricity or steam. For speedy drying and less wrinkling the volume of the dryer should be 25% more than the washer-extractor.

Some dryers have sensors inbuilt into its microprocessors so that they can gauge the moisture in the load and cut the dryer off automatically the moment the laundry is dry. The length of the drying cycle is dependent on the absorbency of the fabric and the residual moisture. Modern dryers are equipped with high tech features such as signal lights, self-cleaning lint screens, reverse cylinder drums as well as energy-saving devices like extra insulation.

Linen Finishing Equipment’s

Finishing equipment’s are used for those articles that require a pressed finish there are many finishing equipment.

Flatwork Ironer / Roller Iron / Calendar

It is used for flatwork i.e. items like sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, serviettes, aprons, sarees, etc. The items are passed through heated rollers for ironing.


Press is used for fine ironing of flat Linen like Table covers, Pillow covers, Napkins, Kitchen linen, Staff uniforms. They are specially pressed to perform specific functions and operation can be on electricity or steam.

Puffer or Suzie

It is used for coats and items that do not crease heavily. The articles are put onto a dummy that is inflated with steam to remove creases and then with hot air to remove the moisture created by the steam.

Location and Planning of Inside Premises Laundry

While planning an inside premises laundry it must be located far from guestrooms so that guests are not disturbed. It is essential laundry to locate near the linen room for convenience and reducing transportation time.

Generally, the laundry is located in the basement of the hotel with proper ventilation because laundry equipment is very heavy and the area should have an outside wall since equipment need to be vented to the outside. With few reasons that walls of the room should be durable and moisture resistant; ceilings should be at least ten feet high, must resist moisture and absorb sound.

A cement floor with easily cleanable floor drains and no spots where water can pool is vital.

The basic design factors that need to be thought out when designing or redesigning an inside premises laundry include location, size, equipment layout, utilities and labour. The versatility of equipment is important, especially in a washer extractor. It should be able to dispense a variety of chemical formulas and have different cycles to deal with different laundry items and soiling conditions.

Machines may work on gas, electricity or steam and should be connected to a common master switch that can be switched off in case of emergencies. Fire-fighting equipment must be installed in this area.

Layout of Laundry

When planning the layout of a laundry, hotel should consider the work flow and wherever possible ensure that the plan does not effect the smooth flow of operations. To reduce turnaround time between loads, ease of loading and unloading, equipment’s must be arranged properly, taking into account ease of each operation.

While positioning laundry equipment’s, the following things must be kept in mind:

  1. Entrances and exits oh Hotel.
  2. There should be proper space between adjacent machines and adequate space between the back of the machine and the wall which is essential to facilitate servicing and repair.
  3. Proper power points for electrical supply and the required voltage (gas and steam may also be used).
  4. There should be proper water supply at the rate of about 10 gallons per Kg of linen approx.
  5. To removal of iron, manganese and sulphur to eliminate staining and enhance action of the detergents.
  6. Installation of proper drainage system.
  7. local code for restrictions /permit requirements.
  8. Perfect selection of equipment to suit the premises and projections.
  9. Area must accommodate the total number of staff working at the busiest times.

Laundry Agents

Only using water itself is not effective as a cleaning agent, due to a phenomenon known as ‘surface tension’. It although removes water soluble dirt, it has little effect on oils and grease. In addition to the detergent allows the water to penetrate, wetting the garment thoroughly so that soil is more accessible and its easy removal.


Classification of detergents:

  1. Synthetic/active detergent.
  2. Built-soap detergent.
  3. Enzyme-action detergent.

Suspending Agent

The function of the suspending agent is to hold the dirt in suspension and prevent it from re depositing onto the surface of the clothing. The suspending agent is carboxyl methyl cellulose.

Sequestering Agent

Sequestering agent act along with the suspending agents to hold dirt in suspension. They assist by holding a greater amount of dirt in suspension thereby reducing the likelihood of re deposition. It also has the additional ability to dissolve lime salts that are responsible for temporary hardness in water. Sodium polyphosphates are used as sequestering agents.


Alkalis like washing soda, Sodium phosphate, Sodium hydroxide, Sodium meta silicate etc.


Bleaches are used on white articles only. They are used to remove colouring matter by their oxidizing or reducing action. If not in liquid form, they should be dissolved in hot water and added. The bleaches commonly used in the laundry process are sodium per borate and sodium hypochlorite.


These are agents used to neutralize the residual chlorine in the bleach, particularly in the case of polyesters.

Optical Brightener / Whitener

This is an linen brightener, which is in fact a very fine blue coloured liquid dye, which gets bleached in the course of time. It has a fluorescent effect by reflecting the UV rays of the sun. The laundry blue in a powder form is undesirable since it tends to accumulate in the weave of the fabric and causes it to turn grey.


This is a stiffening agent used to impart a better crease and appearance to the fabric.

Fabric Conditioner

A fabric conditioner or softener is like a detergent but they do not perform the function of cleaning. A fabric conditioner is never used on loads where starch or sizing will be used.

Dry Cleaning

Dry Cleaning is a process by which textiles are cleaned using a solvent other than water. This solvent is an organic liquid that acts first to remove the layer of grease which bonds most grease particles to the surface and then to carry this dirt away. The solvents commonly used are:

  1. Per-chloro-ethylene.
  2. Tri-chloro-tri-fluoro-ethane

The solvent after dry cleaning is removed first by centrifugal action followed by evaporation. Darker coloured articles are dry-cleaned after the lighter coloured ones. Where Per-chloro- ethylene is not suitable, a system called Aquatex (from Iowa Techniques) is used. It involves the use of bio-degradable chemicals and water and a controlled stage-by-stage drying temperature that restores the article to its original condition.

Laundry Procedure for Different Fabrics

Laundering of Cotton

The process of laundering cotton fabrics is dependent on the texture of the fabrics, fastness of colour and they are sorted into various categories, such as:

  1. fine, delicate cotton (mulmul, muslin).
  2. white and light fast colours.
  3. dark, fast colours.
  4. non-fast colours.

Laundering of Silk

Never soak silk material as it weakens the fabric nor should they be subjected to high heat (wash temperature approx. 30º C).

Do not use harsh chemicals. The final rinse of silk articles should be carried out with a little vinegar in it in order to preserve lustre. Silk should never be sundried as this damages the fabric and causes yellowing. Ironing is on medium heat as silk scorches easily. Ironing is carried out on the reverse in order to preserve lustre and air all silk garments after ironing. Silk is usually dry- cleaned.

Laundering of Wool

Woollen items must be shaken out to remove the dust particles that are held in the loosely constructed weave. In laundering of wool, the following should be adopted :

  1. Avoid high and fluctuating temperatures.
  2. Don’t use strong laundry agents.
  3. Don’t hang the fabric when wet.
  4. Prolonged soaking as it makes the fabric weak.

Laundering of Synthetics

Soaking the garments before laundering is beneficial as it loosens the dirt. Application of friction should be avoided. Use of a scrubbing brush should be restricted to heavily soiled parts only.

The wash cycle should be short and carried out at a low temperature (30º C) Rinsing should be carried out in water at room temperature. Iron on low heat but quickly since a prolonged contact is likely to scorch the fabric.

Laundry Procedures

The following are the steps involved in laundry:

  • Sort the dirty clothes, into separate piles for whites, bright colors and darks. If whites are mixed with colors in the wash, the colors may bleed onto and ruin whites. Also separate clothes that tend to produce lint (towels, sweatshirts, chenille and flannel) from clothes that tend to attract lint (corduroy, velvets and permanent-press clothes).

  • Close zippers to prevent snagging, and empty pockets.

  • Pre-treat heavy stains with laundry detergent or stain remover, heeding instructions on the product label.

  • Measure out the right amount of laundry soap according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Pour the soap into your washer or its detergent dispenser. Add liquid fabric softener, according to product instructions.

  • Choose the water temperature for the wash cycle: hot, warm or cold; use cold rinse cycle for any load. Consult the labels on clothes, washing machine’s instruction manual or the detergent container for recommendations on washing temperature.

  • Start the washer, add and allow the detergent to dissolve in the water before adding clothes. Adjust the water level to the size of load.

  • If needed to add bleach, allow the machine to run for a few minutes to mix the detergent and water, and then add about a cup of bleach to the washer or the bleach dispenser.

  • Add the clothes, close the lid and let the machine run. Washing takes approximately 45 minutes.

  • Put the clothes (and an anti-static sheet, if desired) in the dryer after the wash is complete. Hang delicates (such as bras and certain sweaters) to air dry on a clothing rack or hanger.

  • Remove lint from the dryer’s lint tray.

  • Select the correct drying temperature for the laundry load: low for delicates, medium for most fabrics and high for cotton. When in doubt, low or medium is the safest bet.

  • Close and turn on the dryer. Expect the drying cycle to take an hour or more for a full load.

  • Once the clothes are completely dry, remove them from the dryer or drying rack and fold and store.

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