Rental textiles need to be purchased with great care and skill as they will be subjected to multiple wash and use cycles and therefore need to be of sufficient quality to withstand such pressures during the projected lifetime.
Unfortunately, purchasers of rental textiles often struggle to differentiate between two low-cost products, one of which will give good value while the other is much inferior and could lead to customer complaints or fail much sooner than expected.
The main complaints from dissatisfied customers relate to colour changes, tears and holes and to poor finishing with random creasing so the linen gives guests a bad impression. With just a little care it is possible to foresee and avoid most of the main problems. The launderer does not need to be a textile technologist to do this.
Most rental textiles are now woven outside UK and the textile supplier often relies on a distant weaver that may produce textiles down to a cost that is seen as the most the market will pay. The average rental order is often for much lower quantities than those ordered by the big high street retailers for next season’s ranges.
Such factors may have led to significant differences between the spec originally agreed and fabric that arrives from the weaver and the CMT (cut, make and trim) factory.
Over the last two years all importers have addressed these issues and the number of batches that are seriously non-compliant with the specification has reduced markedly. However, it is important that rental companies specify clearly and unambiguously to make sure they get what they require.

Bed linen
The tactile feel and handle of a sheet or pillowcase are still the best guide to customer acceptability, especially if the discussion with the hotel customer is based on sheeting that has already been laundered five times to remove the textile finish and other dressings.
This is generally better than trying to meet an exact thread count request, especially if this is based on fashion rather than on technical knowledge.
Of more concern is the fabric mass, which is measured in grams per square metre (gsm), because this is a good guide to how much fibre is being purchased to keep the guest warm (or cool) and to the cloth’s durability in practice.
Most good rental sheeting products fall into the range 120 – 150gsm, but the key requirement is for a fabric that is strong enough to resist premature tearing and with good handle and drape.
If the fabric dressing used in cloth finishing has a large amount of starch, this can bulk up the initial weight although the dressing will wash out after a couple of washes. This can be checked very quickly by weighing one item, washing it a couple of times and then re-weighing it. If the difference is more than one or two per cent, then this could be the explanation.

Thread counts
If the customer wants 400 threads per square inch, then the maker is going to have to use very fine threads, which will make a high tear-strength difficult to achieve.
If the rental sheet is only 120 thread count, then it might feel noticeably coarser than many customers would want.
For "everyday" rental products
160 threads per square inch should give a result that is acceptable to the hotel guest while still having a reasonable rental life.
Good three star hotels might move up to 200 thread count for sheets and duvet covers and four- and five-star establishments may want 300 thread count.
Pillowcases are in contact with the sleeper’s head throughout the night, so most guests will appreciate the extra comfort provided by another 100 threads per square inch. This might result in 300 thread count for sheets and duvet covers and 400 for the pillowcases.

Fabric strength
British and International Standards have plenty of methods for testing fabrics but very few give recommended performance specifications for durability over multiple wash and use cycles.
There is one useful exception: "DD ENV 14237:2002 Textiles in the healthcare system" is a British Standards’ document that was published as a "Draft for Development" rather than as a full standard.
It suggests standard performance criteria for healthcare textiles for tenacity and shrinkage in laundering and many other useful parameters.
Several rental operators have realised this document’s value for the hospitality sector as well as for healthcare. By using 14237, they are getting consistently longer life cycles from their circulating stocks and much better net margins. The improvement comes over a two-year period, as existing stocks wear out and are replaced with textiles that last longer.
For example, 14237 calls for tenacity in the warp and in the weft directions of 400 Newton (400N). A 1kg force is equivalent to 9.87N, so 400N is equivalent to a breaking strength of 40.5kg on a 50mm strip of fabric. Fabric that starts out life as strong as this will give over 200 wash and use cycles if it is handled correctly in use and laundering.

Cut, make and trim (CMT)
There is no point in having the right rental fabric, if the cut, make and trim is then so poor that the pillowcases twist, the duvet covers bow and the sheets lose their rectangular shape. Pillowcases and duvet covers are the items where problems are most likely to occur.
From this point of view there are two checks that need to be made when a batch is delivered to avoid problems in ironing.
First, the cloth’s weave must be square. When the material comes off the loom, the warp threads (which run from end-to-end of the roll) are exactly at right angles to the weft threads (which run from side-to-side of the cloth) but after scouring, de-sizing and final dressing by the cloth finisher and setting the fabric in the stenter, the weave may have gone out of shape.
The fabric is carried through the stenter on moving parallel chains, with clips or pins to grip it along the edges. If the weft threads are exactly square when the fabric enters the stenter and the chains move at the exactly the same speed, the shape will not distort. If the cloth is not fed in squarely, or if the chains move at slightly different speeds, the weft threads will consistently be at an angle to the warp and the weave is said to be skewed.
A similar fault arises if the wind-up tension on the roll of fabric is incorrect so the weft threads can become curved and the fabric is said to be bowed. Pillowcases and duvet covers made from skewed or bowed fabric will twist in the multi-roll ironer and it will be impossible for the rental laundry to get a good crease-free finish.
Second, it is essential that when pillowcases and duvet covers are made up, the fabric is cut out in line with the warp and the weft threads, which is only possible if the fabric is made with negligible bow and skew.
A tear test will show whether the fabric contains bows or skews and has been cut out correctly.
To test a pillowcase, for example, take one case and tear it in two directions. The first tear should start near to one end, about 25mm (1inch) from the long seam and continue parallel to the seam for the length of the pillowcase. If the distance between seam and tear stays the same to the end, the cloth has been cut correctly lengthwise.Repeat this test across the width of the pillowcase.
Testing just one pillowcase will provide the information needed to decide whether to accept the whole batch.
Additionally, if a laundry finds that twisting and bowing during ironing seems to be a continuing problem then a tear test will show the probable cause.
If the two tears are at right angles and both run at the same angle to the seams, then the fabric was probably square when it left the cloth finishers and the errors have probably occurred in cutting out.
If one tear runs true but the other is at an angle then the fabric was probably skewed and the error was in cloth finishing. The latter also applies if one of the tear lines is found to be curved.

The checks for controlling the quality of towelling products are similar to those for bed linen but checking the weight is essential in this case.
The weight of cotton in a towel is fundamental to its quality and if this is not correct, it is unlikely that other features will be right.
It is not reasonable to expect the operator unpacking the boxes to recognise when there has been a mistake.
If a towel is under-weight, then it is quite likely that the ground weave will be coarser than wanted and the pile loops will pull out more easily. If the guest then rubs vigorously with the towel it could snag on a toenail, immediately pulling the loop into a string so that this brand new towel must be discarded.
In continental Europe, some purchasers specify a minimum force of 10N for producing a string from a toenail snag. In the UK, it has been found that a minimum force specification of 7N is adequate, although many users find that the problem can be tolerated down to 4N.
However, there are many towels that produce strings with a force of only 1 to 2N and these can cause disputes.
If the supplier has delivered towel quality to match the sample tendered with the quote and if the bulk delivery matches the sample, then it is difficult for the buyer to win this argument.
It is important to pre-wash towels before first use, because this removes the last of the yarn oils to give a soft fluffy handle and also tightens the weave so that the terry loops are gripped much more firmly.
The combination of oil removal and weave-tightening raises the pile loop retention tenacity so the towel is much less prone to stringing. The pre-wash should use a two-bath process with a main wash at 75C, with the normal detergent dosage.
If the towel is labelled for a lower maximum wash temperature such as 60C this should discussed with the supplier. A rental towel should be capable of implied thermal disinfection (and most are, whatever it may state on the label). This calls for a main wash stage running above 71C for at least three minutes plus mixing time.

TEAR TEST: The tear line down the length of this pillowcase shows why it twisted on the ironer so that the edge hem has moved considerably as shown