AS A SPA MANAGER OR OWNER, YOU'VE probably spent much time and effort collecting the right pieces to make your spa successful. Selecting a talented, dedicated staff and choosing the right location, decor, color palette, robes, and towels are a big part of that effort. For some, designing a laundry area within their spa facility and choosing the right equipment for it is often treated as a lesser priority. Savvy spa owners, however, understand the importance of the laundry area, as its implementation can make or break a spa. Indeed, the look and feel of linens have a direct impact on clientele and can keep them coming back for more. Even the best spa experience can be diminished by towels that smell like bleach or are spotted with residual oil. By contrast, robes with a fresh scent and soft, fluffy feel can cap off a fabulously pampering visit and reinforce a spa's quality reputation. "Hotels and spas rank at the top for requiring the highest finished quality in their linens," says Dan Bowe, national sales manager of IPSO, a manufacturer of commercial laundry equipment. "Because their demands are so high, most fine hotels and spas choose on-premise laundry versus contracting out for the service. This gives the business greater control over quality."
Planning for Success
Like any endeavor, success starts with good planning. Kim Shady, vice president of distributor sales for UniMac brand laundry equipment, recommends a review of your towel sizes and weights, robes, and any other items to be washed regularly. "Start by identifying your needs in terms of items to be washed and how quickly loads need to be turned around," says Shady. Working with a full-service laundry equipment distributor can be particularly beneficial in assisting with this needs analysis and with developing each important step in creating an efficient on-premise laundry, he adds.
This early planning stage is an important time to determine where the laundry area will be situated. Oftentimes, spas will place the laundry area in the middle of the building, but this can create problems in the form of added equipment installation costs due to longer duct and venting runs. These longer runs can also contribute to less-efficient drying. Shady recommends locating the area on a back outside wall whenever possible to avoid such concerns.
Equipping Your Laundry
Because on-premise laundry sometimes ranks low on a spa's priority list, little time is often invested in equipment selection. For this reason, home-style dryers and top-load washers are frequently the machines of choice. "While home-style washers and dryers can do the job, spas end up replacing these units every few years," says Bill Bittner, national sales manager of Speed Queen laundry equipment. "When water and energy efficiency and time savings are factored in, commercial washer-extractors and drying tumblers become a more financially responsible choice."
Barry Christenson, national sales manager of Huebsch brand of laundry equipment, echoes Bittner's comments, adding that many home-style top-load washers use as much as 40 gallons of water per cycle. That figure can be cut in half with commercial equipment.
In considering washer-extractors, which are commercial-sized washing machines that remove as much water as possible from the load before drying, owners have two choices—hardmount and softmount units. Hardmount washers offer easy installation in ground-floor laundries, where concrete flooring is available. Softmounts are used in specialized applications on second floors, where there is no concrete flooring upon which to install. Because of their extra components, softmounts normally are priced higher than hardmount washer-extractors. A key feature of washer-extractors is the high G-force extraction cycle. These higher speeds spin more water out of the load. The benefit of this feature is significantly reduced drying times and, as a result, lower utility costs.
With quality a clear focus for spa owners, Shady recommends washer-extractors with microprocessor controls. These programmable controls enable managers to tailor their wash programs to each particular load. "Programmable controls will help owners produce the high-quality finished results they demand," says Shady. "Some microprocessor controls even offer a variety of water levels to help conserve water and cut costs."
Programmed cycles translate into consistent formulas and results, regardless of who is operating the machine. Some even offer a delayed start option, where the washer can be loaded before staff leaves for the night and programmed to start the next morning. This feature allows staff to load the dryer when they arrive in the morning.
When it comes to quality, Shady also recommends that owners understand the need for hot wash cycles to kill any bacteria and remove residual oil left in linens. "Spas often have difficulty washing oils out of towels and robes," he says. "To get these oils out requires water temperatures of 160 degrees or hotter. Many laundries don't plan for these temperatures." For a spa building its name on luxury, stains from leftover oils on linens could be a major blow to a high-quality reputation.
The high G-force extraction of today's washer-extractors will reduce drying times, but spa owners must focus on pairing efficient drying tumblers with their washers. "The key is a balance between tumble, heat, and airflow," says Dave Phillips, national sales manager of Cissell brand of laundry equipment. "Some manufacturers will tout BTU input, which is the input of a unit of energy, as the key component to fast drying. But without a balance of the three elements, this heavy energy input can be wasted resulting in higher utility costs." Again, programmable controls can be helpful for spas. In addition, spas with limited space may consider stack tumblers, which offer two dryers in the space of one.
Assessing the Situation
A thoughtful approach to the laundry question can be the difference between a spa presenting an upscale
experience to clients and one content to just do business. Likewise, home-style laundry equipment isn't a long-term solution for a successful spa. Nor will it offer the water, utility, and labor efficiencies and durability of commercial equipment. To ensure this quality, owners should work with an experienced laundry equipment distributor. They will be able to assist in assessing individual needs and presenting options. In addition, some can even offer advice on the laundry operation and wash formulas. —Randy F. Radtke
Randy F. Radtke is a public relations specialist at Alliance Laundry Systems. Before joining Alliance, he worked for 10 years in the newspaper industry, where he garnered awards for writing and photography. Email him at [email protected] for more information.