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An Effective Towel/Sheet Reuse Program for the B&B Innkeeper

March 30, 2006

by Kit Cassingham

Implementing a towel and sheet reuse program in your bed and breakfast is a great way to save natural resources, time, and the sheets and towels themselves. Water and energy conservation are the noticeably big pluses, but with the time and laundry supplies savings you see, you really gain. The final piece in the puzzle is seeing how much longer the sheets and towels last when they are laundered less frequently.

There are so many ways to save money in your bed and breakfast without hurting your customer service or hospitality. One goal of developing a hospitality business is to provide the maximum customer service and hospitality while not wasting money. Some money-saving approaches are also environmentally friendly. It's time to give thought to implementing one in specific:
a towel/sheet reuse program.

I've seen several approaches by lodging properties to towel/sheet reuse programs, and I've listed them it order of my least- to most-favorite:

  • none at all, unless controlled by a proactive guest
  • let guests put a card or tent on their bed if they want their sheets changed, and have them put their towels on the floor when they want their towels changed
  • tell guests you change sheets every three days (or whatever number you decide is appropriate)
  • have guests hang a card on the outside of their guestroom door when they want their sheets and towels changed

The reason I most like the last option ­ letting guests hang a card on the outside of their door ­- is multi-fold. People tend to follow the path of least resistance and effort; since it takes extra effort to make a request, your guests are less likely to make a request for changing sheets, resulting in the reduced laundry load you hope for. Housekeepers can more efficiently tackle their work by taking a quick inventory of how many door hangars there are, grab only as many sheets and towels as they will need each day, and get to it, rather than loading their cart before starting on their rooms and then unloading what they didn't use. This approach also invokes a subtle peer pressure; guests end up announcing to everyone else on the floor, or in the house, that they aren't conserving that day.

The option of deciding how often you are going to change sheets is also viable, though you may end up deciding to change sheets more often than many of your guests would request. Of course you would allow your guests to request a more frequent change, but the policy is clear for the guests and the housekeepers. This option might even be more efficient for housekeepers because their daily work list will be able to tell them which rooms need fresh sheets, letting them skip the step of tallying the door hangars.

Why is a towel/sheet reuse program a money saver? In addition to the obvious reasons of saving water, electricity, and cleaning supplies, it also saves wear and tear on the sheets and towels, as well as labor (less work in changing sheets and less laundry labor). My research has found a range of values for how much you will save when you implement a towel/sheet reuse program, $1-1.50/guestroom/day being the most common average savings reported. If you have a 7 guestroom inn you will save $2,555.00-3,832.50 annually ($1.00 x 7 x 365 and $1.50 x 7 x 365. Note: the average reflects the actual savings but spread out through each day of the year).

The savings that’s not reflected in these numbers is the increased longevity of your sheets and towels. The more you wash and dry sheets and towels, the faster they wear out. And the hotter the wash water and dryer are, the faster they wear out. Wash less frequently, and with cooler water and air (saving you even more money), and see your sheets and towels last for a much longer time.

How many sheets do you start with? Your start-up budget of course dictates some of that, but at the very least, you want to buy one and a half sets of sheets per bed, assuming your beds are the same size. This many sheets lets you get through most days without having to rush to get sheets laundered for housekeeping. The only time this few sheets would be a problem is when all guestrooms are checked out on the same day; then you will have to wash sheets to fill in the rooms you don't have clean ones for. Ideally, you'll have at least two sets of sheets per bed. If your beds are king-size and you buy 220 thread count sheets, you'll spend at least $100 per set. Let me stress though, that the higher the sheet quality, the longer they'll last, making them a better investment than inexpensive sheets.

If sheets last two years with the traditional approach to daily laundry, anticipate them lasting twice as long with an environmentally friendly approach to laundry. So rather than spending $700/year on average for sheets in a seven guestroom inn, you'll spend $350/year. Towels will give you a similar savings. Tallying your savings from your towel/sheet reuse program, you will save $3,250.00-4,532.50. You'll also save your own time from shopping for sheets and towels as often. Think of the things you can do with a little extra time and money!

Starting a new business is risky enough. Running an established business requires care and attention to cash flow. Be prudent and approach your B&B with cost savings in mind and reduce the risk of this venture.

Comments

As I'm considering opening a B & B in the future, I'm thrilled to have come across your website. Thanks for the "Innsights" and financial savings research!





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