Nights in White Linen

With about 250,000 hotel and motel beds, Las Vegas has a lot of dirty laundry.

And it’s vitally important to the city’s success as a tourist destination—not to mention the public health—that all those bedsheets, bathrobes and terrycloth towels get immaculately cleaned, every time.

Most big Vegas hotels contract out their linen-washing services—there simply isn’t enough room on-property for the industrial-size operation needed to clean up all the stuff that stays in Vegas.

Just as in the resorts themselves, there’s been some consolidation in the industry’s laundry services. In July, Brady Linen Services acquired Mission Industries’ resort laundry division, giving the company, whose Las Vegas roots date to 1947, about a 60 percent share of the market.

Brady Industries goes back to Feurman Brady, the grandfather of current CEO Travis Brady. Originally specializing in selling cleaning supplies to Las Vegas businesses, the company entered the resort laundry business itself in 2000. Keeping Vegas clean is big business. Brady estimates that, after payroll and possibly the power bill, the laundry tab might be a casino’s biggest expense.

Each hotel room generates between 10 and 20 pounds of laundry a day. Once the housekeeper tosses the linens down the laundry chute to the ground floor, linen-filled carts are loaded into trucks that speed off to one of the Valley’s six Brady facilities. Together, these plants process about a million pounds of laundry a day, 365 days a year.

After the trucks with that day’s load of washing arrive at the cleaning plant, the facility cleans one hotel’s laundry at a time. First, the unwashed mix is sorted; like linens are separated into oversize bags that, when they reach a specified weight, glide along the sanitizing assembly line and are dropped into gigantic washers whose high temperatures and mix of chemicals are extreme enough to remove even the most stubborn stains. The strength comes at a price: Even the durable sheets hotels invest have lifespans of only about 100 washes.

Like just about everything else in the Brady plant, these washers combine massive scale with fine-point precision. For each load, the washer automatically dispenses a special mix of cleaning agent from 200-gallon vats, measured down to an eighth of an ounce. Finally, the linens are dried, pressed, ironed, folded and loaded into trucks. Total turnaround time for even the biggest load: 24 hours.

By a conservative estimate, the average Las Vegas hotel goes through about 15 tons of housekeeping linens a day—and that’s just from the rooms. Add in culinary textiles—tablecloths, napkins—and pool towels, and that’s a mountain of laundry to be cleaned and returned to service each day.

There are also occasional surprises. Among the items that have tumbled out of soiled bedrolls are TV remotes, silverware, pajamas, security blankets and even teddy bears. (The all-time champ of left-behind personal effects is the bowling ball that once ended up at the plant.) But if you’ve left your beloved woobie balled up in the sheets, don’t despair. Brady is able to return all the stray items they collect back to the lost-and-found departments at their proper hotels.

Brady is quick to point out the strides in environmental sustainability the cleaning powerhouse has made in recent years. Traditionally, the average commercial laundry used about 2.5 gallons of water per pound of laundry; Brady’s current technologies allow it to get by with 0.7 gallons per pound. That’s both good stewardship and good business.

“The more we can reduce water and energy usage here, the greater benefit for our operations,” he says. “It’s a win-win.”

And if they’ve done their job correctly, the next visitor to luxuriate in a king-size bed will have no idea how much work goes into making those sheets look like they’ve never been slept on before.

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