You are here

Realities of Bringing Laundry Service Back In-house

Author says bringing laundry back in-house starts with the right distributor providing the right equipment

VERSAILLES, Ky. — You’ve probably heard the following before. 

Don’t swim right after you eat. Chameleons change color to match their surroundings. Wear a hat when it’s cold outside since 90% of your body heat escapes through your head. Coffee comes from beans. 

But none of those “facts” are, in fact, true. 

Waiting 30 minutes after eating before swimming does nothing more than help you avoid a minor cramp. It’s true chameleons do change colors, but it’s actually due to physiological and emotional changes. According to the British Medical Journal, just 7% of your body heat escapes through your head. And coffee actually comes from the pit inside the coffee fruit, so coffee seed is more accurate. 

Here’s another falsehood that too many people believe: It’s cheaper for hotels, nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities to outsource laundry, rather than do it themselves. 

In fact, it’s not only much less expensive to do laundry in-house than it is to send it out, but it also ensures better quality and avoids transportation delays. With the efficiencies of the new machines on the market, you can save 30% or more off your laundry costs. That’s because you’re not paying for another company’s profit.


While the actual savings will depend on what you’re sending out—sheets and towels are less expensive to launder than specialty linen, for instance—today’s equipment has the ability to monitor every function of the spectrum of doing laundry in-house. In fact, managing your machines will help you save money.

With the management tools and system monitoring available from today’s high-performance machines, you can get daily or weekly reports that measure usage, productivity, performance and more. Those reports show you how you can improve your usage and, thus, decrease your costs.

For example, the typical cost for doing in-house laundry is 20 to 24 cents a pound, including utilities, labor and other associated costs. But I have a nursing home facility that is running 14 cents a pound since its supervisor is effectively monitoring both of its shifts and managing the machines’ usage. While most businesses will use their laundry machines about 50% of the available time, that nursing home is running in the mid- to high-70% range. 


The second advantage of doing laundry in-house is that you don’t have to worry about transportation delays, whether caused by a traffic accident on the interstate or a storm that shuts down the entire state or region. It’s huge not having to worry if your delivery truck will make it every day.

Third, doing laundry in-house allows you to control quality. If you do laundry in-house, you have control over who inspects it, but when you send laundry out-of-house, someone else has control over that inspection. 

By doing laundry in-house, you also get to decide when to scrap your towels, sheets and other linens. It gives you complete control over your laundry and the appearance of what is seen in your rooms or on your beds.

You also need to consider if out-of-house laundries are in compliance with state regulations that ensure things are sanitized and cleaned properly. If you’re sending it to an outside laundry, you don’t know if there are problems with cross contamination or other issues. 

The state of Kentucky, for instance, requires the water used in washing machines to be 140 F, but some other states require 160 F. The states routinely come in and inspect laundries once or twice a year, and if your hot water is not reaching your set point, they will give you a week to fix the problem. If it’s not fixed within that week, they’ll shut your laundry down. 


Lastly, it’s not unheard of for big laundries to mix up your linen with someone else’s. And if you’re a five-star resort and get sent back two-star hotel linen, that could be a big problem.

For those deciding to do laundry in-house, it’s important to keep quality and cost in mind when deciding which equipment to purchase or lease. Cheaper equipment may work for the moment, but what happens when your company’s needs change? 

If you have equipment that is flexible and programmable, you can adapt your cycles to your current needs, as well as to your future needs. So, if a hotel changes to a sheer, delicate duvet cover, their machines need to be able to adjust cycles appropriately so it doesn’t damage the linens.

The equipment and the controls will also help you maintain the quality of your laundry. For instance, dry something in a dryer that only has a timer control, and most people will set the timer too long. The towels and the sheets get overdried and feel brittle. 

But if you dry those same items in a machine that measures the moisture level of the linens, it will shut off when it measures a preset moisture level. That will help extend the life of your goods and ensure you put out a better product for your customers to use.


Choosing the right equipment starts with choosing the right distributor to work with. Find a company that has a sales force that will come visit you, look at your needs, figure out what will work in your application, and ask the right questions to help guide you to the proper equipment.

A lot of companies will quote you the cheapest price. But they often don’t offer support or service, and if they do, it may take weeks to get a response. 

And while a cheaper machine may save you money upfront, higher performance equipment tends to process a load of laundry 7 to 8 cents per pound cheaper than lower-cost machines. That’s because the throughput is greater and they extract faster, which means it takes less time for your laundry to dry. That, in turn, cuts down on your labor costs, estimated to be two-thirds of the cost of doing laundry.

How long does it take to recover the cost of new equipment? The answer to that depends on your output. Here’s a quick story about the efficiencies of scale. 

A chain of six nursing homes in a 20-mile radius was averaging 20 to 24 cents per pound at their facilities, except for one. That nursing home was averaging 40 cents a pound. The time between unloading, reloading and restarting the machine was about 10 minutes for five of the nursing homes. But the sixth nursing home took a full hour or more. 

Once it became apparent why—they didn’t have enough linen and they were waiting for the dirty linen to come down so they could wash it and send it back up on the floors—we suggested they buy $10,000 in additional linens. 

Within 60 days, that nursing home was in the 24 cents a pound range. By saving about 15 cents a pound on average, they saved $75,000 for the year, which would easily pay for new laundry equipment.

When you compare a new, cheaper machine running at 27 to 28 cents a pound to a new, more expensive model running 20 cents a pound, it still makes financial sense to go with the higher performance version. The difference of 7 to 8 cents a pound will pay for the high-performance machine in a year’s time.

Leasing is a good option for companies that don’t want to pay for high-performance equipment up front. The leasing option allows a facility to put in new equipment without paying anything out of pocket. In fact, the money you save with the new, higher performance models will provide you monthly savings that will pay for the lease. 


Centralized vs. In-house Laundry (Part 1), Aug. 7, 2018

Centralized vs. In-house Laundry (Conclusion), Aug. 9, 2018

0906 07772 word cloud on tablet web

(Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].