Perfectly laundered bed linen is not a consideration for hotels, it is a public demand and a hygiene requirement. If there is one reason a guest will choose to immediately leave a hotel room (and probably never return) it is because of poorly laundered bed linen.
This article briefly looks at what is to be considered when buying bed linen for hotel use: what fabric lasts the longest and which washes most effectively.
All bed linen has a life span. This is best described as to how many washes the linen can withstand whilst still retaining its quality. The easiest way to ensure that linen lasts longer is to choose Egyptian cotton. The purchasing will cost more, but this is offset by two factors: the longevity and the initial quality that the customer experiences. So why is Egyptian cotton better?
In cotton size does matter and it all has to do with the length of the cotton fibres. The conditions in Egypt produce the longest fibres (more than 1.5 inches) and this means they are stronger and finer, giving the feeling of softness.
Thread count is an important part of that feeling of comfort and luxury. Most popular cottons have a count of approximately 150, with good quality sheets starting at around 180. 200 is the point at which a thread count reaches into the luxury range.
Yet it is not just about the number of threads per square inch. Egyptian cotton fibres being longer allows for finer, thinner threads which means there are more to the inch. But it also has to do with the 'ply' of the threads – like the number of layers in toilet paper – twisted together and how these are woven tightly to form the fabric. Quality Egyptian cotton has two ply which means smoother, finer thread.
Longer threads mean there are less of them and so there are less ends to fray. They are also thinner and so they are more tightly packed which makes the sheets stronger. Finally this combination of thin, long threads makes for a more stable, tight weave which is unlikely to bobble and it can absorb more dye to give longer lasting colours.
'Percale' is also a term worth looking out for, because this refers to the type of weave used. Percale gives a fabric strength and this means it will last longer in multiple washes. Percale is generally only found in high thread-count fabrics.
This chemical treatment process for cotton was invented by a Lancashire man, John Mercer – hence 'mercer'-ization. The modern development of this process has resulted in a treatment which allows for a softer and stronger fabric. Egyptian cotton that has been treated in this way is the most durable and it will be less likely to fade or lose its high-quality feel in repetitive washes.
Egyptian cotton can absorb more water in the wash. In fact, Egyptian cotton often gets better as it is washed again and again, bringing greater softness to the tightly woven fine threads. Economising on bed linen can mean that with repeated laundering the savings are lost in a one-use-one-wash setting like a hotel.
The Laundering Process
If you have spent extra to reap the benefits of Egyptian cotton then it is important that the choice of laundering respects this quality. If the wrong detergent is used or in incorrect amounts, then even the best cotton linen will grey, particularly in certain hard water environments.
When considering the choice of laundering services it is important that the provider be able to answer which system they are using and why – ask for references from other hotel clients and check these references to ensure that they are genuine.