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Do chemicals decrease the life of linen?


3 veteran industry experts discuss the impact of chemicals on linen lifespan.


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June 15, 2023
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Do chemicals decrease the life of linen?

Chemicals are important for washing linen but do they decrease the life of linen? We ask 3 industry experts to shine a light on this important issue. Let’s take a look!

Ibrahim Moawad, Director of Housekeeping, Swissôtel Makkah

In hotels, some of the items are very essential to give proper service to guests, linen being one of them. Linen is very important as it's directly used by guests and it’s really affected by many factors. 

It is, therefore, important to choose the right chemistry for your hotel laundry operations. There are many factors to consider, such as the type of linen, the water quality, and the expected results.

Here are some tips for choosing the right chemistry for your hotel laundry operations to decrease the negative effect of decreasing linen lifetime:

  • Consider the type of linen you are washing. Some linens, such as cotton, are more delicate than others, such as polyester. You will need to choose a detergent that is designed for the type of linen you are washing.
  • Consider the water quality in your area. If you have hard water, you will need to use a detergent that is designed for hard water. Hard water can cause detergents to be less effective and can leave a residue on your linen.
  • Consider the expected results. Do you want your linen to be white, soft, and fresh? Or do you want it to be wrinkle-free? There are detergents that can help you achieve all of these results.

Once you have considered all of these factors, you can start to narrow down your choices. There are many different detergents on the market, so it is important to do your research and find one that is right for you.

Here are some of the most popular types of detergents for hotel laundry operations:

  • Liquid detergents are easy to use and can be poured directly into the washing machine. They are also relatively inexpensive.
  • Powder detergents are more concentrated than liquid detergents and can be used in a variety of water conditions. They are also less likely to leave a residue on your linen.
  • HE detergents are designed for high-efficiency washing machines. They are less sudsy than traditional detergents and can help to save water and energy.

No matter what type of detergent you choose, it is important to follow the instructions on the label. 

By following these tips, you can choose the right chemistry for your hotel laundry operations and keep your linen looking and smelling its best.

Alkaline detergents are a more effective way to remove stains from hotel linens. They are also more efficient, as they can remove a wider range of soils. This can help to reduce the amount of time and money that is spent on laundry, and it can also help to extend the life of the linens.

The lifespan of textiles can vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of fabric, the care instructions, and how often the fabric is washed.

Here are some general tips for extending the lifespan of your textiles:

  • Wash your textiles in cold water. Hot water can damage the fibers in your textiles and shorten their lifespan.
  • Use a mild detergent. Harsh detergents can also damage the fibers in your textiles.
  • Air-dry your textiles whenever possible. Drying your textiles in the dryer can cause them to shrink and fade. If you must dry your textiles in the dryer, use a low heat setting.
  • Avoid ironing your textiles unless absolutely necessary. Ironing can damage the fibers in your textiles and shorten their lifespan.

Here is a table that provides a general overview of the lifespan of different types of textiles, based on the number of wash cycles:


Number of Wash Cycles











It is important to note that these are just general guidelines. The actual lifespan of your textiles may vary depending on the care instructions and how often you wash them.

Narayanan Raghavan, Chief Sustainability Officer, Dr Linen Sustainable Ventures

The linen and laundry form critical components in the hotel operation and it is important to know what dosage of chemical is to be applied for what degree of soiling and the nature of the fabric to be washed. Many times, the laundry facilities will not have an automated dispensing system and the quality of wash is in question. The life of linen is entirely dependent on the quality of fresh water used and its hardness  properties of steam, dosage of the required chemicals and the time you process the linen in Washers, dryers, and Ironers. Any element of the above four in excess or short will certainly spoil the quality of wash and the longevity of the product. It is a myth that over usage or under usage of chemicals decreases the life of linen. 

The detergency doesn’t work effectively without proper mechanical action. Regardless of time, washing temperature and detergent composition and concentration, soil will not get removed from the fabric until mechanical action is applied in the presence of water, allowing loosened soil to be removed by dilution. Chemicals have a key role in the penetration of soil-water interface, allowing the mechanical action to free the loosened soil particles. The proper chemical system provides the removal processes required by the soils and stains in the load. 

Increased temperature promotes mobility of washing compounds and soil particles by lowering surface and interfacial tension and the viscosity of the water. Increased temperature also increases the activity of the chemicals involved in the process making them faster acting and more efficient. Most of the chemical reactions involved in laundering will double in reaction speed for each increase of 10 deg C. However, some chemicals and chemical systems have maximum operating temperatures and operating outside a chemical product prescribed range can produce quality problems, textile damage and or operator health concerns. 

In order to achieve a perfect equilibrium in the laundry process, all four elements which are primarily required namely Time, Mechanical action, Chemical action, and Temperature must contribute equally for efficient washing. In addition, increasing any one of the four factors can reduce detergency to a level that increasing another factor beyond the optimum range won’t produce the expected improvement.

As the longevity of the Linen / fabric is based on the chemicals to be used, it is very important for the user to use the right wash program which is critical to quality. The strength of bleach is important and is to be carefully controlled to achieve optimum stain removal with minimum damage to the textiles. The bleach residual must be removed or exhausted to avoid damage to certain fabrics. The presence of iron in the water and its deposition could result in the damage of the textiles. 

Processing the linen and fabrics for any application is so critical that the chemicals play an important role in the complete process which decides the characteristics of the textile parameters over its designed life cycle. 

Anil Shah, Senior Manager, Linencraft

Lifespan of linen has always remained subject of interest for end users as well as cleaning  facilities. 

Instead of solely considering the impact of chemicals on linen life, it provides a deeper understanding to examine the journey of linen during usage taking into account the par quantity  in circulation. 

Typical Linen usage cycle:  

As per the above flow chart, each set of linen goes through the usage cycle in order to be  prepared for the next use. The time it takes for a cycle, from being in use to being ready for use  again, largely depends on the available linen par quantity of linen in circulation. 

Each cycle has an impact on the lifespan of linen. The following steps of the cycle contribute to  stress and/or soiling of the linen items:  

  • Usage of linen resulting in its soiling and stains. (Varied extent and types of soil / stains) • Procedures of linen handling and transportation. 
  • Laundry processes, including washing, ironing / drying and handling. 

Usage of linen

Bedlinen and towels generally have a light to medium level of soil. Stains can range from normal  soil to cosmetics and stains from being misused (shoe stains) Table linen. On the other hand. Is  heavily soiled and may have various protein, fat, wine and beverage stains.  

Linen Handling  

The type of handling of linen depends on the available tools such as linen collection bags,  trolleys, carts and most importantly, the awareness and training of the handling staffThe impact  on linen can vary from industry best practices to misuse and damage caused by faulty tools or  negligence 

Washing / cleaning 

Any Washing process essentially follows the sinner cycle.  During washing, laundry detergents and chemicals are used in the water bath, aided by required  temperature and mechanical actions within a given time frame, which leads to removal of soil,  stains and the achievement of a hygienic state.

All specifics of a respective wash formulation depend on type of textile material & degree of  soiling and stains. During each wash cycle, textile is subjected to mechanical and chemical  stress. Besides producing clean linen, the result of washing also impacts the strength of the  linen. While this is unavoidable, the impact can be managed in the best possible way through  measurement. 

When items undergo repeated wash and use cycles over a longer time, their strength continues to reduce until they no longer possess strength to withstand further operational and cleaning  stress. This is when damage of linen items occurs, which is also referred to as wear and tear  damage. The average of such a number of useful usage cycles or washes before the item is  subjected to wear and tear damage is referred as a ‘lifespan’ in terms of number of washes,  according to industry standards. 

It is advisable to investigate the impact of each wash formulation on linen lifespan through  EMPA test wash monitors from the International Laboratory. The test is carried out on pre-calibrated wash monitor test pieces. The laboratory results reveal the percentage of strength  reduction compared to the original strength. If this value is above the threshold level, wash  formulation must be adjusted to achieve better results. 

Together with linen wash and use cycle, another crucial factor that has a significant impact on  linen lifespan is the quality of the linen itself. Each type of textile material such as cotton,  viscose, polyester or blends has a different tolerance to the washing conditions. Additionally  manufacturing specifications are extremely important for a given material. The original tensile  strength of the new fabric determines the length of linen’s lifespan, assuming other influences  remain the same. A higher tensile strength of the fabric is expected to result in a longer lifespan.  Conversely if the tensile strength of new linen is below the threshold level, unexpected damage  or tearing of the linen items may be experienced during use or cleaning process with shorter  overall lifespan 

To summarize, while maintaining linen in clean and hygienic conditions for every use, the combined effect of  handling, usage(soiling) and cleaning of linen impacts linen by reducing its useful lifespan; all  stages other linen wash and use cycle are interlinked and contribute to the reduction in lifespan.