RIPON, Wis. — Children may tell a tall tale about what happened when a playdate went bad, ending in tears and hurt feelings. Even spouses or partners may occasionally tell a little white fib when explaining why they got home so late the night before.

But numbers will never lie. And it’s the math that makes it obvious that doing laundry in-house vs. outsourcing is usually the least expensive—and often best—option for businesses such as hotels, nursing homes and other similar enterprises.

How do you determine which option is the least expensive? You look at the cost of utilities, labor and machines. Per pound, it’s generally two or three times more to send out laundry than to do it on site.

In fact, many hotels and other similar businesses will include an on-premises laundry in their building plans. Again, the No. 1 reason is cost. They can do laundry themselves cheaper than if they send it out to a commercial business.

That’s not to say that outsourcing isn’t a fit for some operations; it clearly does make sense for some businesses. However, sending goods out is expensive. Sometimes boutique hotels think they won’t need an on-site laundry. But as soon as they begin to spend money on outsourcing laundry, it is the first thing they will put in.

A LOOK INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Commercial laundries often will charge a business $10,000 to $50,000 a month for washing and drying their sheets, towels and other miscellaneous laundry. Considering that it is likely a $100,000 investment for a business to put in its own laundry equipment, you can see how quickly a business will actually save money by doing the job in-house.

And when you consider that most laundry equipment today will last 15 years, it’s an even better investment. All you need to do is maintain the equipment, which is about 5% of the package cost, or $5,000 a year on $100,000 worth of equipment.

It’s rare for a business to close down its laundry unless they have a huge equipment cost that they can’t afford at the moment. But as soon as they can afford it, many times they will buy new equipment and open back up the on-premises laundry.

Of all businesses, hospitals tend to outsource their laundry more frequently, mainly because wages in a hospital tend to be higher and they are often limited by square footage. Thus, the cost per pound is generally cheaper if they outsource.

WHY OUTSOURCE?

The other few businesses that don’t put in on-site laundries usually do it because they can earn more money by putting in additional rooms in the space that would normally be reserved for the laundry facility.

For instance, real estate is very expensive in the mountains of Colorado, and if a hotel can turn the space that would be a laundry into six rooms for which they can charge $500 each a night, it will make sense to outsource.

Additionally, a hotel might become so large that it doesn’t have the real estate to put in as large of a laundry as it actually needs. In that scenario, it may make sense for the hotel to outsource, too.

A good example of this is the giant properties of Las Vegas. The square footage necessary for a large-scale, dedicated laundry to serve a major Las Vegas strip property would not make sense, financially or logistically. This is where sending linens offsite is the best solution.

Naturally, there are some disadvantages to doing laundry on-site. You need to hire people to do the work, and it is monotonous. Industrial laundries on-site can be hot, and it isn’t an easy job. Loading and unloading the washers and dryers does take some physical strength.

Plus, there are headaches that go along with having an on-premises laundry. You have to worry about equipment breaking, employees not coming in on time or at all, or employees just doing a lousy job. With increased employee turnover, training staff can seem to always be ongoing. But it is key to maintaining exceptional finished quality.

But most business owners will find the benefits of having an on-premises laundry vastly outweigh those disadvantages.

QUALITY CONTROL

Not only will you generally save money, but you’ll also ensure quality by doing laundry on-site. To be profitable, commercial laundries burn and churn, and generally move too fast to ensure a constant high standard of quality. But if you do laundry in-house, you don’t have to worry about inventory, such as running out of towels or sheets. And you can slow down a bit and ensure a higher quality product.

For some businesses, quality is a key part of their branding. Facilities like Westin Hotels & Resorts or Ritz-Carlton Hotels, for instance, need to have on-premises laundries in order for them to receive accreditation. They know the higher quality that comes from on-site laundries is what their customers expect.

Quality is even more important during a pandemic, knowing you’re not introducing variables outside your walls.

Today’s commercial equipment makes it easier to save money and to be more efficient. Thanks to technology and equipment features, laundry equipment is more energy-efficient and allows you to monitor from your laptop which machines are running, the cost per pound or if there are any maintenance issues you need to know about.

Technology in the equipment also makes it impossible to over-dry items since the dryer will automatically shut off when the items are done. A dryer is pretty inexpensive when you consider it can last 15 years or longer. Overall, equipment has gotten more reliable and productive, giving businesses the ability to wash and dry faster than they ever did before.

If you’re looking to purchase new equipment for your on-site laundry, be sure to do your research. The quality of equipment from all vendors has improved tremendously; there are no bad machines, only better ones. Take the time to properly design and lay out your facility, which can also help to lower your costs.