With a degree in Textile Science, Michelle Pegg knows a thing or two about linens; she's putting her education to good use at UK hotel linen and towel supplier, Hilden. Follow Michelle on Twitter.
There’s nothing more frustrating than going to strip a room and encountering sheets and towels covered in stains. From makeup to bleaching acne creams, you’ve probably seen it all and discovered that, sadly, following the manufacturer’s washing instructions just won’t get some stains out.
Stains like these require a little more elbow grease, but that doesn’t mean you should get out the bleach and risk damaging your linens in the process. Here’s a simple two stage process that can be applied to both your bath and bed linen to remove the troublesome greasy stains that stem from sweat, creams and makeup.
Stage One – Create the perfect washing environment
When you’re a busy B&B owner or innkeeper, it can be tempting to hurriedly crank up the washing machine and move onto other pressing business. However, the preparation stage of a wash is actually the most important!
Don’t be tempted to hit your linens with a hot wash right away! It can actually cause some stains (especially protein based stains) to set. Instead, set a cold water cycle (and rinse) and add plenty of detergent for your first wash. Also, make sure that your load isn’t too bulky, as this allows the fabric to move freely so that soil particles can be broken up, and the maximum amount of staining can be removed.
Just remember not to overload the machine and keep this cycle going for at least five minutes for it to be effective.
Stage Two – Turn up the temperature
Once the first stage is complete, it’s time to raise the temperature a little.
Following a cool wash with one that uses the highest temperature suitable for the fabric type of your chosen linens will start to remove all of those grease and oil particles. But, it isn’t all about the water temperature – you should also use a good amount of high quality, sufficiently alkaline detergent like Tide Boost with Oxi (or other brands with Oxi action). Off the shelf detergents are surprisingly efficient, containing sufficient alkalinity and other complimentary components to remove common oily stains.
This detergent holds onto the grease and oils to be removed and not using enough means this excess dirt gets re-deposited across the whole of the fabric. This is especially true when the fabric contains polyester, as it attracts oil, giving the material an unattractive grey color.
Valuable extra tips
While removing oily stains like these is a simple process, there are additional steps you can take to make the process even more effective and fine-tuned towards different kinds of stains:
- During stage one of the washing cycle, it’s worth adding an enzyme detergent which breaks down protein. Try Tide Original or Gain Original brand detergents, although most domestic detergents do contain these enzymes. Just remember that enzymes are fussy about what they eat! While some prefer proteins (protease enzymes), others prefer carbohydrates (amylase enzymes), so look for two or more enzyme types to get the best all round stain results. If you’d prefer something a little more industrial though, suppliers such as Ecolab and Christeyns not only sell enzyme rich detergent solutions, but offer advice on the best products and processes to use.
- With harder to remove stains like dried tea, coffee, wine and fruit juices, you may be required to use some bleach. Avoid the chlorine stuff, though; this is what can really damage fabric at higher temperatures and cause it to tear. If chlorine bleach is a must, keep the temperature nice and cool, ideally no higher than 100 degrees, and don’t be tempted to throw “a little extra in for good measure” as this will also damage your fabric.
- A safer option is hydrogen peroxide bleach, like Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Bleach, which requires a temperature above 140 degrees to work and is great for the second hot wash stage.
- Even better is sodium percarbonate. While it’s harder to get a hold of, it comes in a convenient powder form and is much kinder to your linens. Find it in its pure form through an Internet search, or in products like Oxy-Boost.
In an industry where your relationship with guests is everything, leaving warning signs in guestrooms or giving verbal warnings about using certain cloths for makeup removal is only going to leave a bad first impression. There’s always going to be someone who falls asleep without removing their makeup or needs to use acne medications. Fine-tuning your washing process is the ideal way to keep your whites white and keep your guests happy with your service.
Find additional laundry advice for all of your linen blends at Hilden Linens.