A Step in the Right Direction
The spa experience transports guests from their everyday lives into a zone of relaxation and luxury. Robes and slippers help with the transition and serve to beckon guests into the world of spa, preparing them for treatments and transformation. As such, keeping your robes and slippers in tip-top shape should take precedence and be an important part of your spa’s operations. Upholding high standards of cleanliness for both sandals and robes further promotes health and wellness as top priorities at your spa.
Maintaining robes and slippers is also on the forefront of manufacturers’ minds. Michael McMillian, vice president at Chadsworth and Haig, relies on his previous experience in the laundry business to provide cleaning tips to his spa clients. He cannot stress enough the importance of following the garments’ care instructions. “One of our items says dry at 130 degrees, and we were contacted by a spa client who said the robe fell apart,” he says. “We found out the laundry was actually drying at 250 degrees. Once the correction was made, the robes looked beautiful.” Additionally, the website home page of Monarch Cypress, maker of robes, towels, and slippers, includes a prominent Laundry Instructions section with details on water temperature, wash cycle, and drying tips for each fabric in the line.
Customized robes require an individualized approach to care and cleaning, so leaning on the manufacturers that created them for guidance is a smart move, says Guniz Alkan, president and owner of A La Turca Textiles. “Different materials and blends may have different laundry instructions, and we pass these along to the spa,” she says. “There is no cookie-cutter approach.”
One aspect that is vital, however, is the selection of the appropriate detergent. “We clean the robes in house with a phosphate-free detergent,” says Karen Ray, spa director at Spa Solage (Calistoga, CA). McMillian cautions against using bleach. “Just because it’s white, you should not use chlorine bleach,” he says. “The chlorine molecule doesn’t get rinsed out of the fabric, and when it heats up in the dryer, it pops, creating pin holes.”
When it comes to devising a cleaning strategy, there is strength in numbers. Affiliated resorts and spas located in close proximity to each other can coordinate their own textile services as a blend of in-house and commercial laundry. “We have our own Disney Textile services, and they do a fantastic job,” says Ginger McLean, spa director at Senses–A Disney Spa (multiple locations, FL). “We worked with our Ecolab partners and developed an effective enzyme-based detergent that assists in maintaining color consistency and removing oils and stains, which is always a challenge in the spa industry.”
Avoid lumping linens together so towels, sheets, and robes all receive the same detergent and wash cycle. Oils and stains in towels and sheets require stronger detergents and different water temperatures to remove, says McMillian. However, robes, which are usually worn for a limited amount of time and by just-showered guests, benefit from a gentler detergent.
Sending robes out for dry cleaning is considered another viable option for many, although doing so incurs a higher cost. For example, robes at The Spa at Laguna Cliffs at Marriott Resort & Spa (Dana Point, CA) get the royal treatment, as spa director Jessica Timberlake has found success with dry cleaning. “We outsource all laundry and send our robes out to be dry cleaned,” she says. “I find this has greatly preserved the life of the robes compared with a traditional wash, dry, and steam. While our laundry cost may run a bit higher on a monthly basis due to this decision, we ultimately save in the long run on few replacements for worn out or damaged robes.” Not everyone is in agreement, though. “Washing is always better than dry cleaning,” says McMillian. “The solvent in dry cleaning breaks down fabrics so much faster than laundering.”
Whether robes are laundered in-house or commercially, it’s important to enlist your team for robe quality control. “We carefully inspect all robes to ensure there are no tears and holes and retire robes when they look faded or if they have tears that are not repairable,” says Ray.
Footwear also requires a specialized cleaning strategy. Many spas use a combination of spray disinfectant and a thorough washing with detergent to keep them guest-ready. Kara Conrad, director of sales at Oka B., suggests machine-washing sandals or hand sanitizing after each use and before storing in a clean, dry location. Oka B. offers a two-year guarantee on all styles, but many last up to five years with proper care. “We sanitize our slippers with Citrus II spray on a daily basis,” says Lori Shubert, spa director at Woodlands Spa at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort (Farmington, PA). “At least once a week, they are soaked and deep cleaned in hot water and detergent.” Various states offer regulations to help guide proper sanitation. For example, Ray follows the California state board regulations on maintaining spa sandals.
Long-lasting spa accoutrements are not only preserved with the proper laundering but also with well-planned storage and an ample inventory, often referred to as par. “The key to long-lasting robes is to have a sufficient par, so you’re not laundering them as often,” says Ray. “We store our supply of robes in our linen closet sorted by sizes, and we store clean sandals in protected drawers.”
Robes, especially those made with luxurious, soft fabrics are bulky and can be difficult to store. Some spas opt to hang them to avoid wrinkling and for ease of use. “We have our robes delivered on hangers on a rolling rack, and our sandals are stored in pairs and sizes in bins or lockers, based on availability at the location,” says McLean. Others have built-in storage space. “Our laundry department puts them in plastic bags, and we are able to shelve them,” says Shubert. “We have cabinets in our locker room areas for the slippers, and they are handed out when guests come in to change.”
Another issue you may have to contend with is theft. While there’s no way to guarantee guests won’t pack up their loaned robe and slippers after a visit, there are methods to minimize it while boosting profit margins. “This will be an issue until we can figure out ways of integrating anti-theft devices into robes in a cost-effective manner, but it shouldn’t be too long before this is accomplished,” says Alkan. Clever placards in and around locker rooms can remind clients to return robes and sandals at the end of their visit. “The best way to tackle this issue is making clients aware of the cost and making them a part of the solution,” says Alkan.
Turn your clients’ desire for spa-wear into a retail opportunity. To encourage guests to return their robes, McLean sells a retail version with more variations in size and style upgrades, such as pockets and a spa logo included. As a result, robes are one of her spa’s biggest retail sellers. McMillian concurs that there is money to be made—instead of lost—when clients fall in love with the robes and slippers at your spa. “Most spas retail our robes for a significant markup,” he says. “Some hotels sell more than 100 robes per month and see big profits.” Sandals and slippers are also popular retail items. “Our customers find clients love the fit and comfort of our shoes so much, they typically want to purchase a pair after their treatments,” says Conrad. “Offering the styles available for purchase usually deters the client from taking the professional pairs. Additionally, we provide special marketing tools and signage for spas to place in their treatment rooms or locker areas to direct clients to the retail boutique.”
If your spa has done its job right and thoroughly enrobed clients in the lap of luxury, you’ll find them eager to prolong this bliss, so make it an easy, guilt-free option to indulge in a robe from your retail boutique. Says Alkan, “Being enveloped in a soft robe reminds all of us of being in a safe cocoon, protected and relaxed.” Developing a strategy to preserve robes and slippers will ensure they too are protected and continue to provide guests a comforting welcome each time they visit.